Air Guitar Rocks Via 'Virtual Instrument' T-Shirt

Australian researchers have fitted a T-shirt with sensors which feed into custom software that turns "air guitar" motions into real musical sounds.

November 15, 2006

2 Min Read
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Air guitar has gone from fantasy to reality with the development of a virtual instrument shirt. A team of Australian researchers and engineers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CISRO) announced Monday that they have designed a "wearable instrument shirt," which turns "air guitar" motions into real, electric guitar sounds.

The black, long-sleeve, shirt contains a hidden sensor interface with custom software that interprets arm movements and gestures and relays information wirelessly to a computer that delivers audio samples. People wearing the shirt produce chords by moving one arm and strumming sounds by moving the other arm. The technology has also been tailored for "air tambourine" and "air guiro" (or percussion) sounds.

"It's an easy-to-use, virtual instrument that allows real-time music making -- even by players without significant musical or computing skills," Richard Helmer, the engineer who led researchers at CSIRO Textile sand Fibre Technology in Geelong, Australia, said in a prepared statement. "The technology -- which is adaptable to almost any kind of apparel -- takes clothing beyond its traditional role of protection and fashion into the realms of entertainment and a wide range of other applications including the development of clothes which will be able to monitor physiological changes."

Helmer said the development of the wearable instrument shirt (WIS) required intense collaboration among researchers with high-level skills in computing, chemistry, electronics, music composition and textile manufacturing.

Since researchers and designers at CSIRO could not be reached immediately for comment Tuesday, it was unclear whether the shirt can be washed and how likely it is that it will go to market.The shirt itself looks more traditional and plain than Alyce Santoro's sonic fabric, which is woven from audiocassette tape containing recorded material. Phis, used that cassette tape fabric with special tape-head gloves at a Las Vegas show in April 2004. The technology was also featured at Dorkbot in New York City last January.

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