Scientists have invented gloves that sing when you move your hands – and they sound uncannily like Darth Vader.
The musical mittens generate a computerised voice that replicates the sound of real vocal chords with every gesture.
Yet – because the movements inside our larynxes are much more refined – the noise produced sounds remarkably like the Star Wars villain Darth Vader.
The inventors at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver are confident the system could one day be simplified to help people with speech problems communicate.
But right now, it is enormously complicated and takes about 100 hours to play the extensive range of sounds that it is capable of.
Sidney Fels, who led their development, told New Scientist: ‘It’s very hard, it’s like trying to do your email while talking on the phone.’
The main challenge for users is learning that the right and left gloves each perform different duties.
The right-hand mitten symbolises the opening and closing of the vocal tract. It contains motion sensors that detect the opening and closing of the wearer’s hand.
Vowels are produced with an open vocal tract, while a closed tract produces consonant sounds such as ‘sh’ and ‘zz.’
The left hand glove is equipped with buttons that activate stop consonants like ‘p’ and ‘b.’
Voice pitch can be controlled with a set of 3-D position sensors on the right hand.
As the hand moves, the gloves locate whether they are above or below their starting position, and so pitch changes.
Volume levels are controlled using a foot pedal.
The gloves were first developed as a voice synthesizer.
But the ability to sing with them has now been developed after singers were trained to perform a ‘duet’ using the gloves while they sang.
Scientists have been developing artificial speech for decades.
But it is only recently that engineers have tried to simulate what our vocal chords actually do.
Last year Professor Hideyuki Sawada, from Japan’s Kagawa University in Japan, built a robotic replica of a mouth and voice box designed to sing like us.
Designed to mimic biology, the surprisingly lifelike analogue to the human vocal system, it is able to listen to its own ‘voice’ via microphone, then adjust its pitch and tone in an effort to more closely replicate actual human speech.
This means it learns from its mistakes, and is constantly trying to sound better. …