This open-source, Arduino-compatible wearable controller lets you make music and play games from your body.
Admit it, you’re the best darn drummer that your morning carpool has ever seen. The only problem is that, as you thump your thigh to the beat of your favorite song, the world can’t enjoy the awesomeness that resonates from your leg. Well, thanks to the latest Indiegogo campaign from Bay Area-based startup Tappur, now they can.
DrumPants 2.0 is exactly what you think it is: a wearable musical kit that magically turns your clothing into a full band with over 100 built-in sounds. If this seems familiar, that’s because you may have come across the team back in 2013 when they successfully introduced their first prototype on Kickstarter. Initially conceived by Tappur co-founder Tyler Freeman as a prank to play on his drummer friends, the concept eventually transcended well beyond a simple stunt and into a master’s project, an educational tool used to teach teenagers about programming and music production, and finally what it has become today: an industrial, production-ready wearable music kit.
DrumPants is comprised of two wearable sensor strips and a control box, that when attached to any item of clothing, enable a wearer to play a beat by simply tapping their body. The pair of sensors can easily be removed as well, making it the ultimate portable instrument. Its control box — which is based on an Atmel | SMART ARM Cortex-M3 MCU — is equipped with an ultra-low latency Bluetooth 4.0 chip, an embedded sound engine for a 1/8″ headphone jack, 128 instrument sample banks and a micro-USB for connecting to a laptop or PC. Meanwhile, its sensors can be placed anywhere on the body, whether that’s a snare drum on an upper thigh or a cymbal on a knee. Want a kick drum or a looping pedal, too? Wearers can bring that functionality right inside their shoe through a set of footpads.
After the successful completion of its crowdfunding campaign, the latest iteration of DrumPants features dramatically improved software and firmware upgrades, along with support of Apple’s Bluetooth over MIDI protocol. What’s more, the team says it will be unveiling their hardware designs to the open-source community, as well as Arduino libraries and sketches for making high-performance wireless instruments.
“We will also release the firmwares needed to run the hardware: an Arduino Due library+sketch for converting sensor data into individual hits and MIDI messages, the UI (LED control and knob/buttons), and EEPROM memory/storage management. It will also include a patch to the Arduino project source code for a class-compliant USB MIDI implementation on the Arduino Due ARM processor (SAM3X8E),” the team writes.
Every musician — whether recreationally jamming out in the car or professionally putting together some tunes in the studio — can use DrumPants’ wearable controllers to play 150-plus sounds, and record, loop and edit their melodies with more than 300 music apps in the Apple store, not to mention any MIDI/OSC apps. This lets users rock out with all four limbs and create music in ways not possible with an MPC or tabletop MIDI controller. There’s also a built-in metronome for those looking to hone that rock steady tempo while on the go — whether that’s on the bus, on a coffee break, or at home waiting for a YouTube video to buffer.
Users can either play the DrumPants with headphones, or an external speaker for those confident enough to share with others. Though DrumPants were originally designed with the music industry in mind, the sensors actually provide a number of additional uses. As billions upon billions of connected objects emerge, this system will prove to be a prime example of a creative, alternative way to control those smart devices. In fact, the kit can be programmed to perform additional actions with a tap, whether that’s silencing a phone, browsing a website, switching slides during a PowerPoint presentation, interacting with virtual reality games, or assisting those with disabilities to command in-home appliances. No buttons or new gestures required.
“It’s 2015. Wireless instruments are the future of performance and electronic musicianship. A completely portable one will help you make music easily. Now, you can invent a beat or melody, and tap it out on your body—just like you already do,” its creators add. “We hope it will provide an educational base for many Bluetooth musical instruments to come: as a solid codebase to make your own DIY instruments, and as a reference for other musical instrument manufacturers to implement MIDI over Bluetooth LE.”
Geared towards the Maker crowd, DrumPants is Arduino-compatible and allows tinkerers to devise their own sensors and upload their sketches for maximum hackability. This opens up a plethora of possibilities, ranging from using it as the brain for a piezo drum trigger or plugging in any kind of resistive sensor to send MIDI CC data with bend sensors, photoresistive light detectors and ribbon sliders.
Want a set of DrumPants of your own? Head over to its Indiegogo page, where Tappur is currently seeking $35,000. Shipment is expected to begin in September 2015.
Not just for the music crowd, here’s a look at some other cool things these wearable sensors can do.