This vibrating shirt can help the hard-of-hearing literally feel the music

There was a human glitter ball, an eight-armed barman and a dirt-loving grandmother – but the most exciting thing about the Desperados Epic House Party in London was a haptic shirt that somehow made it possible for deaf and hard-of-hearing people to feel the music & # 39; ;.

The plan was to create a party experience that is inclusive for everyone and creates a space that everyone can enjoy.

Diederik Vos, global brand director of Desperados, explained the concept, "The Desperados Epic House Party has taken the ideas of party guests around the world to create the ultimate welcome experience."

"One of the epic party ideas came from Pigeon twinsHermon and Heroda, who dreamed of being able to experience music in a way they could not before, "he told us.

How could the brand help the lifestyle and culture bloggers of Being Her experience music in a new way? The answer lies in haptic technology: in other words, technology that creates a sense of touch by applying effects such as vibration, motion or force to the user.

In this case, Desperados teamed up with the wearable technology brand CuteCircuit, which developed a haptic shirt called SoundShirt that literally let the twins feel the music through sensations that move through the material.

(Credit: CuteCircuit)

How does it work?

According to Francesca Rosella, the founder of CuteCircuit, the innovative shirts have teamed with the DJ's music at the Epic House Party, so Hermon and Heroda "can feel the music physically and enjoy dancing with their friends".

About the process, she explained, "We got the audio feed directly from the Desperados DJ console and used the CuteCircuit Q software to analyze the music and turn it into tactile sensations. These touches were then sent in real time wirelessly to the SoundShirts the twins wore during the party. "

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They work with built-in microactuators that can generate forces with different amplitudes and patterns in response to the music played by the DJ. This music is divided into different frequencies, including bass, mid-low, mid-high and treble, each with a different feel.

Rosella says that this means that "every nuance of the music is felt on another part of the body", which makes it easier for Hermon and Heroda to dance to the beat of the bar.

The SoundShirt is not the first wearable haptic garment that CuteCircuit has created. It started with a new version of CuteCircuit's HugShirt – listed in Time Magazine's Best Inventions of 2006 – that lets you send a hug to a loved one, no matter how far away.

Rosella says, "Over the years, many deaf people have asked us if they could use the HugShirt to feel healthy, and in 2016 we created a SoundShirt for the Junge Symphoniker Orchestra in Hamburg."

"There, hearing-impaired audiences have been testing it over the past three years, giving us amazing feedback on how to perfect the product," she says.

From the feedback of the audience, CuteCircuit finally developed the SoundShirt 2.0 as well as a new software that analyzes both pop music and classical music – and was first used at the Desperados Epic House Party.

Hermon and Heroda wear the sound shirts.

Hermon and Heroda wear the sound shirts.

(Image credits: Desperados)

How did it feel to dance under 3,000 other partygoers? "Amazing," say Hermon and Heroda, who told us that wearing the SoundShirts was as moving as it was fun.

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"We actually felt a bit emotional … It was great to physically feel the music at the Desperados party and dance with everyone else in the crowd. Music can lift you when you're sad, or a sad song can make you think. It was an emotional experience for us to feel the music.

By wearing the haptic shirts, the twins also felt more involved in the celebrations, especially since they were able to "dance in real time to the music and accompany everyone on the dance floor".

"We felt so welcome and involved," they explained how embedded LEDs on the shirts also lit up in the tempo of the music and helped them feel a part of the party.

This vibrating shirt can help the hard-of-hearing literally feel the music 1

(Image credits: Desperados)

Technology for everyone

Being able to dance with friends is usually a matter of course for people without hearing loss. For Hermon and Heroda, however, this was "something very special" – and it's time for technology companies to tackle accessibility for the hearing-impaired.

"There are so many ways in which technology can involve deaf people and make our lives more inclusive and feel part of society," they told us.

"So many people with disabilities are isolated from society because they can not communicate because of the obstacles associated with simple tasks (such as shopping in the shops)."

Although more and more businesses and services are present online, deaf people are often taken out of circulation and unable to communicate over the telephone. The twins say that video calls should "be included in all types of apps so that deaf people can communicate with companies like your bank, utility, or council," and that haptic devices like the SoundShirt "should be more widespread."

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Technology and fashion come together

Will the SoundShirt hit the market and meet the demand of Hermon and Heroda for barrier-free technology? Rosella says the current version of the shirt will be "used by orchestras and entertainment venues, while the consumer version will be available early next year with a mobile version of the Q Sound app."

Not only people with hearing loss can benefit from these innovative shirts. Rosella explains that the haptic shirts could find an important use in "extended and virtual reality experiences like remote concerts and video games".

"The beauty of such a product is that it enhances the experience across the board for all people and for all types of media," she says. "The sense of touch gives you the true feeling of immersing yourself in an experience, and this is the key point of CuteCircuit's haptic wearable technology."

Not only that, these shorts should look as good as they feel: "When you use smart fabrics instead of wires, you feel as comfortable as a garment should feel and look good – technology and fashion get together."

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