Device of the week(Senses): MiMu Gloves

I first encountered this device while helping myself to the amazing work over at Kobakant’s How to get what you want site, a blog dedicated to open-source information on e-textiles.

The idea of a glove that captures gestures from your hands for creative output sounds fascinating at best, but after many years and research dollars, the commercial product, available at a grand total of SGD$4912, seems somewhat contrived, and to me, confusing to what it actually brings to the table.

First, let’s watch a video about what it can do:

Okay, that sounds kinda great. You can manipulate sound, play instruments and add effects in real-time. Yes, it does look snazzy and exudes a cool factor for the performer to use these trendy high-tech gloves for live performance.

But beyond that, I am not sure if I am missing the point of these gloves; if the gloves have to be manipulated in a specific way for the intended sounds to be created, then wouldn’t the ‘performative’ aspect of the performance be thus restricted to how the gloves can be used?

On one hand, the performer is freed from the keyboard, control surface or whatever else, yet the gloves rely on bending your fingers, twisting your wrist etc. for operation. From the examples shown, there doesn’t seem to be any significant difference to any aspect of the sound ‘produced’, which relies on the subtle finger bends or wrist twists.

The software, which is a separate purchase, seems to be trying to fulfil too many roles at once. Boosting support for Leapmotion, microbit(not sure why this is so other than this is a BBC product), iPhone and OSC, MiMu Glover interfaces with several devices and can act as a standalone performing application, with basic music mixing functionality that can be easily found in big names like Ableton.

From the video, it seems that a lot of calibration has to be done before any real music can be made. Each finger has to be assigned an instrument, and what the gestures do, and perhaps what range is desired for these parameters, so on and forth. Here, it starts to feel pretty similar to how a ‘traditional’ performer would approach his/her craft, setting up loops/patches and assigning it to keys and whatnot.

Perhaps I am too skeptical of technology for technology sake, but I cannot see the point of having something novelly hard to control, replace something that is straightforward, perhaps much more reliable, and not necessarily less sexy to look at.

One irony I detect when looking at the software was also that with the leap motion, one can basically have something that resembles the functionality of the gloves, albeit with some physical limitations. But at a modest price tag of a couple of hundred dollars(leapmotion) vs thousands, I don’t think it’s hard to make an informed choice.


In closing, somehow I have a feeling that the whole premise of the gloves’ extraordinariness is predicated on the fact that moving your hands to ‘control’ music while performing is considered ‘redefining’ how live performance is delivered(their words, not mine).