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Virtual Tabla

A.K.A. Virtual Percussion Gloves

Wearable Music Tech 2013 | 7 months
Self Project

Funded by: Centre for Innovation (Cϕ), IIT Madras

Award: Second Place, German Academic Exchange (DAAD) Science Slams - 2014, New Delhi

Skills: Arduino, Python, PCB Design (Eagle)

The Virtual Percussion Gloves simulate hand-played membranophones. The gloves enable the player to play the percussion instrument of their choice in the air or on any surface. This project was developed out of personal curiosity and to help those who want to play hand-played indian classical percussion instruments but have a hard time overcoming the initial steep learning curve.

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Most Indian percussion instruments like Tabla not very portable. Though small in size they weigh around 15-22 kg depending on the type of wood and metal used for their construction. Since most Indian drums are harmonic, the performers need to carry multiple kits of various pitches while travelling. Also, the initial learning curve is steep compared to western percussion instruments in general. Being a Tabla student myself, the urge to share the joy of playing the instrument pushed me into pursuing this idea.

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User Research

A visit to the local government-run music college to interview the teachers and students about the problems they face while travelling for concerts, teaching new students among many others provided key insights.

"A technology based solution to increase and maintain the enthusiasm of beginners could help more people pursue music. A tool that could aid in practice when the teacher is not around is very much needed."

                                                                                                             - S, Tabla student

"I stay in a student house. I can't practice according to my convenience as it would disturb others. Having a tool with which I can hear my playing over earphones would be of great help. Having features like recording on the go would be a huge plus."

                                                                                                            - R, Cajón player



The setup consists of

  • a pair of gloves with flex sensors to determine movement of fingers and wrist

  • an arduino unit to read and process the input signals from flex sensors

  • a bluetooth unit to wireless communicate with the computer to play sounds

  • a power module to power the flex sensors (arduino and power module are placed back to back)

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This project exposed me to challenges outside my comfort zone. Trying to make the various systems work together while not compromising on the functionality was the challenge I loved solving. Demonstrating it to kids at an open house made me realize the project's potential in teaching music.

Through this project, I was introduced to User-centered design. This project instilled in me a passion for live performance technology. I organised the 'Virtual Band' and showcased it during Envisage, India's largest student-run Techno-cultural show at Indian Institute of Technology Madras.

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