Wearables Take to the Stage

We’ve seen many cool wearables focused on health and fitness that have been popular for a while, yet it’s clear that the trend is dying down as people realize that, while measuring is one thing, changing behavior is a way more difficult task.

As health and fitness wearables fade into the background, the next big opportunity lies in music. It’s time rock and roll became high-tech. There will be a lot of wearables focused on musicians in particular – imagine the body transformed into a multi-use musical instrument – and we can already see how wearables are transforming show business.

There have been a few music festivals and concerts where performers are using wearables to command greater control over the huge variety of technology they need to synchronize with. Performances already have huge teams of technicians to handle fireworks, lights, sounds, stage doors, props, pulleys, videos, but giving further control to the artist allows for a more seamless and genuine experience.

Take Ariana Grande, for instance. While she populates her shows with all the usual tricks – backdrop videos, fireworks, elaborate mechanisms – what receives the most excitement are the moments where she connects with her audience. She features a running theme where she and the audience wear cat-ear headbands. However, her fans wear a special version featuring a radio receiver. After activating their headbands through a smartphone app, the cat-ears light up with bright LEDs synchronized with the rest of the audience and in sync with the music.

Meanwhile, Imogen Heap is developing a set of Mi.Mu Gloves to modulate different sounds as well as her voice in conjunction with hand and finger movements. As her music features voice effects, synthesizers, and voice-modulating, it becomes increasingly convenient to have a wearable device that lets her control the music as she performs, and without having to worry about enabling improvisations or live-editing the heavier mods on her voice.

Dance crews like Illuminate use glow-in-the-dark, synchronized, LED-covered suits to create illusions and a new approach to choreography. Tap dancers can now be equipped with tap shoes synchronized with digital drum kits and bass beats. There are many other ways in which wearables are changing the ways we perform music, and what we can achieve with performance. Imagine, for example, if wearables could be applied to all the mechanisms and functions of a magic show. Escape mechanisms and disappearing acts could work in parallel with sensors, camera tracking, and embedded devices. Performers could control stage doors, lights, sounds, and mechanisms with subtly embedded devices within clothes, earrings, or even the skin.

Musicians and entertainers often like to think of themselves as radical thinkers and trendsetters. Nonetheless, history tells us otherwise when it comes to incorporating new technology into their art; it is often the gamers and geeks that are the early adopters, whereas musicians and entertainers simply follow in their footsteps.

It is time for entertainers to show how they can hack these gadgets and create wearables that are experimental in nature, and yet artistic in mobilizing the crowd. It’s only a matter of time until the next big names are replacing their jewelry with wearables.

Jaraad Mootee is a technology trends analyst at Idea Couture. He is based in Toronto, Canada. 

the author

Jaraad Mootee

Jaraad is a technology analyst at Idea Couture.