Wearable Technology and Performance

In what ways can the haptic possibilities of smartphones be channeled into dance? How can custom-designed wearables enhance or change the nature of a performance?

Aaron Trocola and Kate Sicchio
Aaron Trocola and Kate Sicchio

This team set out to answer these questions, and this resulted in a chest-mounted performance wearable which allows a dancer’s body to control sound.

During this process the team found themseleves confronting divergent models of creative practice. In one model it is important to think carefully and lock in a design early on. This helps because of the constraint of time required for manufacturing. In this case the team were 3D-printing a large wearable chest-mount.

In another model, creative practice is open-ended, exploratory, intuitive, and open to change. This approach is generally favored in order to produce a less contrived result, and is fundamentally different in nature from designing up-front.

Technical Challenges

In the final performance piece, a smartphone on the chest-mounted wearable sent accelerometer data via TouchOSC. The data was interpreted in Isadora, via WAV file playback with filters.

Body orientation was used to trigger sound, and the accelerometer to modulate pitch. However, the dancer felt that the performance only enabled her to dance the technology, and did not add to her performance vocabulary. This poses interesting questions about how that vocabulary can be addressed given specific constraints.

As discussed above, 3D-printing a large werable in a short project is a significant constraint. The team started out with a programmer, who left the team. This added more pressure as there were technical challenges to overcome.