26.11.18

New wearable technology allows deaf users to 'hear' music via the brain

Not Impossible Labs has debuted 'Music: Not Impossible (M:NI), an applied Vibrotextile technology that translates sound onto the skin through vibration, allowing users to feel the nuances of a music-listening experience. M:NI uses a combination of wearables, hardware, software and wireless tools.

The battery-powered wireless wearables include two wristbands, two ankle bands, and a harness; each element receives complex polyphonic musical expressions across the skin. Wearers may adjust the intensity of vibrations, which are visually represented via colorful LED lights. An M:NI activation can scale the technology to any size arena or audience and the signal may be broadcast across significant distances without interference.

Not Impossible Labs has partnered with Avnet, which has the technology development ecosystem and expertise to guide and support the development of Music: Not Impossible. Avnet's design and product experts have been working with Not Impossible Labs by helping with new prototyping, sourcing materials, recommending new sensors and components, and establishing a network for production and distribution.

Music: Not Impossible debuted during a live concert on September 21 for approximately 200 concertgoers in a private show at the Church of Rock and Roll during the Life is Beautiful festival held in Las Vegas. The audience for this beta test was composed of both deaf and hearing music lovers in an effort to promote auditory inclusion and human connection.

"This event has truly humbled and inspired me as well as everyone at Avnet who played a part in making the impossible possible through their creativity, grit and technology expertise," said Bill Amelio, chief executive officer, Avnet. "We're proud to be a technology solutions partner for Mick Ebeling and his team. It's through our experience and end-to-end ecosystem that we're able to help companies like Not Impossible Labs bring important innovations to market easier, faster and more cost-efficiently, guiding the product development and go-to-market process. This concert event was about more than just showcasing a new technology; it was about augmenting the experience itself through transformative technical innovation that expands access and inclusion."

During live-music concerts, each element of the Music: Not Impossible wearable may represent a different musical instrument. As a song progresses, and focus shifts, a Vibrotactile DJ or "VTDJ" may choose to emphasize separate elements of the music across specific parts of the body. As with a traditional DJ, those presenting the music live may choose to emphasize different elements of the same song, creating an entirely new 'vibro-arrangement' for the audience to experience. MN:I essentially constitutes a new type of musical instrument, focused on "conducting" a musical experience specifically for the body, including the ability to improvise and mix in real-time during a performance.

"As with movies or gaming, vibrotactile design will likely become its own sophisticated area of focus," predicts Daniel Belquer, Not Impossible's director of technology. "The skin being the largest organ in the body, it has been overlooked as a medium for artistic expression so far, but not anymore. We've created a highly customizable platform to deliver sensory stimulation that has the potential to unleash a whole new natural canvas only limited by our imagination."

For those experiencing Music: Not Impossible via pre-recorded music, files with instruments originally recorded on separate tracks will create the optimal experience. The vibrations can be designed specifically to create movements and sensations in infinitely creative ways.