Touching the Audience: Musical Haptic Wearables for augmented and participatory live music performances



John Sullivan

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Luca Turchet, Travis West, Marcelo M. Wanderley

Publication or Conference Title:

Personal and Ubiquitous Computing


This paper introduces the musical haptic wearables for audiences (MHWAs), a class of wearable devices for musical applications targeting audiences of live music performances. MHWAs are characterized by embedded intelligence, wireless connectivity to local and remote networks, a system to deliver haptic stimuli, and tracking of gestures and/or physiological parameters. They aim to enrich musical experiences by leveraging the sense of touch as well as providing new capabilities for creative participation. The embedded intelligence enables the communication with other external devices, processes input data, and generates music-related haptic stimuli. We validate our vision with two concert-experiments. The first experiment involved a duo of electronic music performers and twenty audience members. Half of the audience used an armband-based prototype of MHWA delivering vibro-tactile feedback in response to performers’ actions on their digital musical instruments, and the other half was used as a control group. In the second experiment, a smart mandolin performer played live for twelve audience members wearing a gilet-based MHWA, which provided vibro-tactile sensations in response to the performed music. Overall, results from both experiments suggest that MHWAs have the potential to enrich the experience of listening to live music in terms of arousal, valence, enjoyment, and engagement. Nevertheless, results showed that the audio-haptic experience was not homogeneous across participants, who could be grouped as those appreciative of the vibrations and those less appreciative of them. The causes for a lack of appreciation of the haptic experience were mainly identified as the sensation of unpleasantness caused by the vibrations in certain parts of the body and the lack of the comprehension of the relation between what was felt and what was heard. Based on the reported results, we offer suggestions for practitioners interested in designing wearables for enriching the musical experience of audiences of live music via the sense of touch. Such suggestions point towards the need of mechanisms of personalization, systems able to minimize the latency between the sound and the vibrations, and a time of adaptation to the vibrations.

Publication Details:

Journal Paper

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