Australia (November 14, 2006)–Australia has given many things to the entertainment world: AC/DC, the Mad Max movies, a couple of guys with the word “Crocodile” in their names, and of course, the great Yahoo Serious scare of 1988. But perhaps its greatest achievement–or at least the most recent one–is the playable air guitar t-shirt.
Dr. Helmer demonstrates the air guitar shirt. Photo courtesy of CSIRO.Developed by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), the shirt is essentially a proof of concept to illustrate the possibilities of designing and manufacturing electronic and “intelligent” textiles that would allow people to control computers in untraditional ways. Clothing-based human interfaces with computers could doubtlessly aid the disabled, the military and emergency workers, to name only a few possibilities. To illustrate the idea of textile-based interfaces, then, research engineer Dr. Richard Helmer and his team created “an objectless musical instrument”–a shirt that allows users to actually play air guitar.
“Freedom of movement is a great feature of these textile-based interfaces,’ he says on the CSIRO website. “Our air guitar consists of a wearable sensor interface embedded in a conventional ‘shirt’, with custom software to map gestures with audio samples. It’s an easy-to-use, virtual instrument that allows real-time music making, even by players without significant musical or computing skills. It allows you to jump around and the sound generated is just like an original mp3.”
While the resulting product is amusing, the project in fact furthered CSIRO’s knowledge of the science of designing and making fabrics; the use of conductive fibers to create embedded sensors; and the exploration of different approaches for using conductive textile structures and software to develop custom computer interfaces.
For more on the science of the shirt–and a video of Dr. Helmer actually playing it–visit: