If you've ever seen a great musician play an analogue instrument live, you've probably noticed that there are a lot of small, quick hand movements that create those musical flourishes. These intricate movements are what help make the music feel more alive.
That doesn't always translate to digitally-produced music, which can often feel like it was generically spit out of a machine. Enhancia is looking to change that, and it's turning to wearables to make it happen. Its Neova ring, available on Kickstarter starting at $257, enables you to use gestures to impart those human touches into music you create.
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The ring houses nine sensors that capture a set of five gestures: vibrato, bend, tilt, wave and roll. As you're playing a keyboard or another digital instrument, you simply gesture to change your music in real time. Using the vibrato motion while on keyboard, for instance, will change the pitch of your note just like it would on a traditional piano.
The ring is connected to a hub via a proprietary wireless format, and that basically acts as a MIDI controller for the synthesiser on your computer. Enhancia has also created software called Plume that comes with preset sounds that will enhance your tunes. You'll be able to customise which gestures make which sounds.
Enhancia is also looking to add more gestures in the future, cofounder and CEO Damien Le Boulaire tells Wareable. The company's goal is to bring the human quality of traditional instruments to digital ones, and that means it needs to make it as simple and easy as possible for musicians to experience the music they're making digitally.
"It's easier with a [traditional] cello, there are a lot of tiny parameters that people don't see, don't feel that makes the difference," he says. "When you have a computer and you play the cello, it's just flat and there is no emotion in that music. It's more about electronic dancing music but not that human feeling."
Rather than create new digital instruments, Le Boulaire says the company wanted to create enhancements for existing instruments, as musicians form relationships with their instruments of choice. It then had to figure out how to create gestures that felt natural while playing certain instruments, so that musicians could feel and play their music without thinking about it.
After testing with users, the company quickly found out that some gestures were good for certain instruments and not for others. Tilt, for instance, is a great gesture for keyboard players but makes much less sense for percussive instruments and sounds. That's why Enhancia is looking to create more gestures in the future, which it will release as software updates to the existing ring.
Would you back a musical wearable that won the approval of Stevie Wonder? Because the Neova has. The famous pianist, in addition to other musicians, have tried and liked the ring.
In fact, Enhancia has seen plenty of crowdfunding success so far. It's smashed its $61,116 goal, netting $87,297 and counting. That's with more than 20 days left to run on the campaign too. Le Boulaire tells Wareable the company is partnering up with fellow French companies to produce the Neova, including manufactures that have worked with other successful Kickstarter campaigns.
It's also done several public demos of the technology at shows like CES and NAMM, which means that it actually works. The big question for Enhancia is whether it can match the demand that's being generated for the Neova.
If you're a musician who's into digitally producing music and you want to add a more human touch to your sounds, Enhancia's ring sounds like one wearable you may well want to get your hands on.