via Paul van Sommeren

Mi.Mu Gloves

The Mimu gloves are a musical input device. Through various continuous hand gestures the artist can control various musical effects, like high- or low-pass filters, panning, reverb, etc. Gestures can also be linked discrete controls, such as starting, stopping or dropping a recorded loop. On paper, it is a wearable MIDI controller, which instead of knobs and buttons uses bodily movement.

In practice, however, it enables something that's greater than the sum of its parts. It allows the artist, who might be singing a vocal part at the same time, to have detailed and accessible control over their sound. Instead of fiddling with an industrial controller filled with knobs and buttons, the Mimu gloves enable meaningful and expressive movement. This engages both the artist and the audience: the artist is not locked to a control board, but uses expressive movement across the stage, and can even incorporate the glove movements into their choreography.

A fantastic example of embodied interaction. The demonstration is particularly impressive — Imogen Heap performs a whole song with little more than these gloves. It shows the true potential of these gloves' (and this type of input device's) capability and potential beyond a just a gimmick. Unsurprisingly, the benefits of embodied interaction become apparent: Imogen Heap discusses how the movement becomes second nature, ingrained in muscle memory, and she recalls how she didn't have the gloves on but attempted performing the gestures anyway. A hallmark of good (embodied) interaction design — it thoroughly leverages the physical and motor skills of the user, rather than just relying on cognitive skills.1

The product description mentions discovering new forms of expression — it's interesting to think about what these gloves enable, that traditional control panels don't. Moving around the stage and connecting expressive movement to sound is an example. Another example is the bimanual (two-handed) input that doesn't require actively looking at the device. Unlike control panels with rows of identical knobs, these gloves make it overwhelmingly accessible to simultaneously perform different actions with different hands — without relying on your eyes and brain to figure out which is which.

All of this of course has implications for usability — it surely seems quite hard to learn to use this device. It has many possibilities for action, but how are these indicated? There are no labels or instructions floating in the air, and the gloves afford nearly all the actions one could do with their hands? How is a first-time user supposed to figure it all out? Similarly, it surely requires a solid dexterity and precision. Sliding a slider or turning a button exactly halfway is easy, but how do you replicate such precision in mid-air? We argue that this is where the beauty of the embodied interaction design shines. The Mimu gloves are a musical instrument, and "no musician learnt to play the violin because it was easy."1 No, we want to use, nay, play with, this product because it shapes new possibilities, because it is satisfying and fun, and because it is a beautiful way to interact with technology.

A final thought to close on: could this example demonstrate the value of embodied, in-air interaction techniques for, say augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR)?

Made by
  • Daniel Roeven
    Daniel Roeven
  • Daniel Roeven
    Sjoerd Hendriks
  • Daniel Roeven
    Frederik Göbel