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Imogen Heap Wi-Fi gloves get connectivity boost from Bristol undergrad

Student Simon Rankine ruggedised the Wi-Fi link

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Scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of West England claim they have improved the performance of a pair of Wi-Fi gloves used by popstar Imogen Heap.

In Heap's experimental live music performances, the gloves need to be able to cope with interference that arises when there are hundreds of Wi-Fi enabled mobile phones in the audience.  

With the help of US networking firm Broadcom, the research team modified a Wi-Fi access point to allow the use of high-gain directional antennas and ultimately reduce interference.

Andrew Nix, professor of wireless communication systems and head of the department of electrical and electronic engineering at the University of Bristol, told Techworld: “This project really caught our imagination."

Much of the project work was carried out last summer by Simon Rankine, an electronics and communications engineering undergraduate student.

Nix said: "With help from Broadcom, Simon was able to modify a standard access point to ruggedise the link to and from Imogen’s Wi-Fi gloves. It’s fantastic to see one of our undergraduate students contributing so strongly to our research output.

"We performed a number of interference tests and confirmed the uplink from the gloves to the access point maintained a successful stream even in the presence of numerous devices attempting to interfere."

The paper documenting the research, entitled “Making the Most of Wi-Fi: Optimisations for Robust Wireless Live Music Performance”, was presented at the 14th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression [NIME 2014] in London this week.

Meanwhile, the enhanced musical gloves were used during a live performance by Imogen Heap on Tuesday night at a concert to open the conference.

The researchers now want to rigorously evaluate the complete system (network infrastructure and antenna) in the context of ‘real-world’ performance scenarios.

In particular, the research team are interested in examining the use of a Wi-Fi interface device called x-OSC as an enabling technology for collaborative live performance using a wireless sensor network.

Image credit: Imogen Heap 


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