Music And Motion

Electrical engineering majors Andrew Hamblin, Evan Leong and Theo Wiersema developed a gesture recognition glove for DJs. (Photo by Duane Zehr)

Matt Hawkins
August 8, 2016

Three Bradley electrical engineering seniors fused career interests with hobby passions and developed a novel item that could make dance parties more fun — an advanced gesture recognition glove for disc jockeys.

The glove enables DJs to control sound systems through basic motions and different colors of LED lights. It’s a recreational twist on gesture recognition technology — a technology that relies on sensors to follow commands based on recognized motions.

“Gesture recognition is exciting technology to work with,” said Andrew Hamblin, of Dunlap, Illinois. “It’s always fun to apply technology to music, and this is something I’d like to see more in music as it becomes more reliable. Dancing movements are so ingrained in people that it’s a natural step to blend them with technology.”

All three team members brought lifelong musical interests to the project. Hamblin is a blues guitarist with a background in audio engineering and DJ productions. Evan Leong, of Bridgeton, Missouri, doubles as a music major. Theo Wiersema, of Peoria, is a pianist.

The three spent their junior year looking for a way to merge music and electronics. By designing their own project, they faced added pressure to ensure its success.

“Because it was our project and not something assigned, we had extra motivation to make it work,” Wiersema said. “We had a lot of fun, but there was added risk because we didn’t have a fallback option like we were used to in class.”

When the glove debuted at Bradley’s annual scholarship expo, it could execute nine basic commands through combinations of three gestures and three light colors. Though an ideal DJ glove would have full functionality to replace a traditional DJ controller, it set a foundation for future innovation.

Students successfully navigated challenges with programming, circuits and data transfer rates between equipment. They noted the most visible challenge to users was the size of equipment, as lights and power sources had to be small enough to fit on the glove, yet powerful enough to function.

By working through the process, team members learned how to make technology appeal to a diverse audience.

“We know we’ll have many professional opportunities to make technology everybody can use,” Wiersema said. “By doing this project, we learned how to make a complicated engineering project accessible to everyone.”

Additionally, merging passions gave team members new insight into the intersection of music and technology. Leong said the applied engineering experience helped bridge engineering and music performance.

“People in audio engineering or performance may understand one side of the process but not the other,” he said. “With this experience, I can make the technical parts less complex and help people involved throughout the whole process.”