February 11, 2009

Vibrating Glove Helps Piano Players Tune Their Craft

Researchers at Georgia Tech are giving new meaning to the words "helping hand" as they work towards developing a glove that vibrates to let a pianist know which finger needs to be played at a certain time.  The goal of the new glove is to combine music with muscle memory to teach budding musicians their craft.

"You can literally feel the notes," Kevin Huang, a Georgia Tech graduate student who came up with the original idea for the glove, told the AP.

His early design is essentially a golf glove powered by a battery connected to five vibrating motors.   The glove uses a wireless link to a PC, and sends a small jolt through the motors to cue each suggested strike of a piano key.

Developers say the glove's software will ultimately be able to synchronize with iPods or other music players, allowing students to begin building muscle memory for playing new songs without even sitting at a piano.

Huang and his professors were heartened by a trial of the glove that showed it had helped some users learn basic songs more rapidly.  Ultimately, Huang hopes to use the technology to develop a wristband that could instruct users to play woodwind instruments as well.

But piano instructors shouldn't be concerned, since the glove won't eliminate the need for traditional teaching methods.

"It's not a replacement," said Huang.

"If somebody wanted to learn in a traditional way, they still can. This just augments it. It provides a new, alternative way to learn the piano for people who don't have time for the traditional, vigorous process."


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