Over a year ago, Daniel Belquer, a musician and theater artist, was asked to join a team whose objective was to improve the live music experience for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Witnessing these concertgoers’ inventive workarounds, such as feeling vibrations through balloons or flipping speakers to face the floor, Belquer recognized a chance to create something even more amazing using technological improvements. As a result, Not Impossible Labs launched Music: Not Impossible, a visionary venture dedicated to addressing social concerns using cutting-edge technology.
The road to good vibrations
Though Belquer envisioned a week-long development phase, the project required nearly a year of tireless effort to find a solution that would truly revolutionize the live music experience for the deaf and hard of hearing. The crew started by strapping vibrating cell phone motors to their bodies, but the uniform vibrations fell short of their expectations.
Collaboration with Avnet engineers resulted in the birth of a lightweight haptic suit with 24 actuators, or vibrating plates. The suit has 20 actuators on a vest that fits securely around the torso like a hiking backpack, as well as actuators strapped to each wrist and ankle.
A glimpse inside the world of vibrational harmony
The transforming power of haptic suits was demonstrated during a recent event dubbed “Silent Disco: An Evening of Access Magic” at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. As part of the Summer for the City festival, 75 suits were made available to everyone, regardless of hearing ability, as part of the celebration of Disability Pride Month.
Attendees waited in line around the huge disco ball situated above the renowned fountain at Lincoln Center. Paddy Hanlon, a haptic DJ, expertly combined the vibrations, creating a symphony of sensations that synced with the music. The haptic DJ, like a music DJ, created an elaborate tapestry of vibrations, regulating their position, frequency, and strength.
Access redefined: A celebration of inclusivity
While the haptic suits were the main attraction, “Access Magic” took a more comprehensive approach to accessibility. American Sign Language interpreters, captioned music displayed on a screen, and audio descriptions for the visually handicapped were all part of the festivities. In this silent disco, attendees may adjust the level using headphones, providing a unique audio experience. For those who felt overstimulated, a designated chill-out area equipped with noise-canceling headphones, earplugs, and fidgets gave reprieve.
The Lincoln Center’s head of accessibility, Miranda Hoffner, underlined that “Access Magic” is an inclusive reinvention of arts accessible, assuring equitable choices for all attendees.
Lily Lipman, who suffers from auditory processing disorder, was animated as she detailed her experience with the haptic suit. “It’s cool because I’m never quite sure if I’m hearing what other people are hearing, so it’s amazing to get those subtleties in my body.”
Kevin Gotkin, one of the evening’s DJs and the organizer of disability artistic events at Lincoln Center, emphasized the significance of artists like Lipman being recognized. The event established an environment in which disability was expected, appreciated, and celebrated rather than simply tolerated.
Music: Not Impossible’s ground-breaking haptic suits are revolutionizing the live music experience, bringing together people with varying hearing capacities in a harmonious celebration of joy and inclusivity.
The effort enhances the human experience by fusing technology with artistic vision, allowing those who are deaf or hard of hearing to immerse themselves in the beauty of live music. “Access Magic” at Lincoln Center is a paradigm shift that demonstrates how accessibility should be an intrinsic component of the arts.
Music: Not Impossible inspires a future where music unites us all, transcending barriers and promoting a society where everyone can experience the transformational power of melody and rhythm by embracing the richness of human diversity and placing disability at the center of the celebration.