Vibrotextile Surround-Body Experience Bypasses Eardrums Enabling Users to 'Hear' Music via the Brain

September 27 2018, 00:50
Not Impossible Labs, a California-based company, made a presentation of its "Music: Not Impossible (M:NI)" applied Vibrotextile technology that translates sound onto the skin through vibration, allowing users to feel the nuances of a music-listening experience. Initially inspired by deaf music fans, M:NI's use during a concert produces a dramatic effect for all participants, regardless of their hearing, delivering a shared 'surround body' experience. 
Singer songwriter Mandy Harvey, who happens to be deaf, is fitted with a Music: Not Impossible harness.

Not Impossible Labs is a technology incubator and content studio dedicated to engineer low-cost solutions for issues of inability and inaccessibility. The company believes its M:NI technology creates an experience and opportunity for creative expression that constitutes a new art form for all.

"The reality is that you don't hear with your ears; you hear with your brain. We've developed a way to get music to the brain by bypassing the ears, and focusing on the skin," says Mick Ebeling, Not Impossible Labs' founder & CEO. "When we beta tested this with the deaf community, they said, 'This is blowing our minds. We don't want to give this back!' Music: Not Impossible is a new gateway for how we'll sense music in the future. This is just as much a breakthrough in technology and music as it is for promoting human connection through shared experience."

Not Impossible Labs has partnered with electronics company Avnet, which has the technology development ecosystem and expertise to guide and support the development of Music: Not Impossible. Avnet's design and product experts have been working with Not Impossible Labs by helping with new prototyping, sourcing materials, recommending new sensors and components, and establishing a network for production and distribution.
A member of the Music: Not Impossible team suits up at the fitting station on the Life Is Beautiful festival grounds

Music: Not Impossible Live, In Concert  
Music: Not Impossible debuted the technology during a live concert on September 21 for approximately 200 concertgoers in a private show powered by Zappos Adaptive, an online shopping experience from (a subsidiary of curating inclusive products, at the Church of Rock and Roll during the Life is Beautiful festival held in downtown Las Vegas. The audience for this beta test was composed of both deaf and hearing music lovers in an effort to promote auditory inclusion and human connection.

Music: Not Impossible is a combination of wearables, hardware, software and wireless tools. The battery-powered wireless wearables include two wristbands, two ankle bands, and a harness; each element receives complex polyphonic musical expressions across the skin. Wearers may adjust the intensity of vibrations, which are visually represented via colorful LED lights. An M:NI activation can scale the technology to any size arena or audience and the signal may be broadcast across significant distances without interference.
Deaf and hearing concertgoers enjoy a shared rock concert experience thanks to Music: Not Impossible wearable technology.

"This event has truly humbled and inspired me as well as everyone at Avnet who played a part in making the impossible possible through their creativity, grit and technology expertise," says Bill Amelio, chief executive officer, Avnet. "We're proud to be a technology solutions partner for Mick Ebeling and his team. It's through our experience and end-to-end ecosystem that we're able to help companies like Not Impossible Labs bring important innovations to market easier, faster and more cost-efficiently, guiding the product development and go-to-market process. This concert event was about more than just showcasing a new technology; it was about augmenting the experience itself through transformative technical innovation that expands access and inclusion."

During live-music concerts, each element of the Music: Not Impossible wearable may represent a different musical instrument. As a song progresses, and focus shifts, a Vibrotactile DJ or "VTDJ" may choose to emphasize separate elements of the music across specific parts of the body. As with a traditional DJ, those presenting the music live may choose to emphasize different elements of the same song, creating an entirely new 'vibro-arrangement' for the audience to experience. MN:I essentially constitutes a new type of musical instrument, focused on "conducting" a musical experience specifically for the body, including the ability to improvise and mix in real-time during a performance.

"As with movies or gaming, vibrotactile design will likely become its own sophisticated area of focus," predicts Daniel Belquer, Not Impossible's director of technology. "The skin being the largest organ in the body, it has been overlooked as a medium for artistic expression so far, but not anymore. We've created a highly customizable platform to deliver sensory stimulation that has the potential to unleash a whole new natural canvas only limited by our imagination."

For those experiencing Music: Not Impossible via pre-recorded music, files with instruments originally recorded on separate tracks will create the optimal experience. The vibrations can be designed specifically to create movements and sensations in infinitely creative ways. |
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