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Imogen Heap to perform at TEDGlobal with musical suit

Imogen Heap wearing the musical suit

Imogen Heap wearing the musical suit

Press release issued: 28 June 2012

A musical suit that allows wearers to manipulate music using just hand gestures will be shown off by their inventor, musician Imogen Heap at an annual technology, entertainment and design (TED) conference.

The performance will take place tomorrow [Friday 29 June], at TEDGlobal in Edinburgh, a conference renowned for showcasing cutting-edge technologies.

The suit, developed by Heap and the rest of the Glove Team including engineers and programmers from the University of Bristol, UWE Bristol and interactive design studio Codasign, gives Imogen far more control over the music she creates.

The musical suit, which covers the hands, arms and torso, form the interface to a live musical production system which is controlled entirely by her gestures and motion.  Sounds can be recorded, synthesised and manipulated live on stage by a performer using intuitive hand movements.

The suit has undergone some major enhancements since its debut appearance as gloves during a four-minute musical performance by the innovative and Grammy Award-winning musician at last year’s TEDGlobal conference.

Final year PhD student, Seb Madgwick, in the University of Bristol’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, has developed the sensors and electronics used in the suit.

Seb, talking about his work, said: “I originally developed the algorithm and sensors with my supervisor Andrew Harrison for medical research but have now seen them used in just about every application I could think of, from tracking animal migration to controlling flying robots; and of course the amazing music Imogen is writing with her suit.”

The sensors, accelerometers, and gyroscopes can detect the movements of the performer’s finger joints and the orientation of the hands in space, with microphones attaching to the wrist to capture sound. With the help of a laptop and advanced software, all sound is analysed for audio processing.

The core sensors on the suit use algorithms developed by Seb for his PhD project.

The network of sensors, microphones and LEDs have been embedded into the designed suit, which connects wirelessly to a nearby computer running dedicated software.

Around 850 people from 71 countries will attend the TEDGlobal 2012 conference.  Scientists, inventors, policy leaders, entrepreneurs and artists will offer more than 70 main-stage talks and performances – as well as 22 presentations from TED Fellows and another 30 or so shorter TED University talks. 

Under the TEDLive membership, the conference will be streamed live to paid members around the globe. TEDGlobal will also be webcast to more than 120 independently organised TEDx events worldwide.

Speakers will cover a wide spectrum of topics, including mental healthcare in developing countries, levitating objects, the merits of whistleblowing, flip teaching, and a new approach to wind energy. At the conference, a number of innovative technologies will also be unveiled for the first time.

Further information

About TED

TED is a non-profit organistion devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED conference invites the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes. Their talks are then made available, free, at

TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The annual TED Conference takes place each spring in Long Beach, California, along with the TEDActive simulcast in Palm Springs. The annual TEDGlobal conference is held each summer in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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