A DEAF festival-goer “felt like Superman” after being able to “feel the music” thanks to groundbreaking technology that was able to bring the sound to life for thousands of others.
Hackney’s Kyle Springate was the first to wear a cutting-edge haptic suit at the Mighty Hoopla Festival in London’s Brockwell Park.
The suits allow users to feel the music through multi-sensory feedback delivered through vibrations across 24 touch points on the wrists, ankles and torso.
Using Vodafone’s 5G machine learning technology, the suit is able to capture and transmit the atmosphere of the crowd as well as the music, allowing deaf fans to feel closer to the performance and the audience around them.
They were developed by the telecom company to provide an immersive sensory experience inspired by the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Kyle, who is profoundly deaf, said: “I didn’t know what to expect. When the crowd is so loud it can be difficult to hear the music but it was great to be in touch with the bass and drums and everything else.
“It was just a little vest with cuffs. I had the bass and drums on my back, the vocals under my chest, and cuffs on my hands and feet.
“It was amazing. Every time the bass played I could feel it climbing up my spine and when the crowd went wild.
“I feel like I need more – more bass, more volume. Once the fine tuning is done I think this will be great.”
Describing the experience as compared to how it would feel without the suit, Kyle said, “I think the main difference is that I can feel the music and it really helps me keep up with every part of the song.
“Usually with a crowd this big and loud the sound is drowned out so it really keeps you in the mood. But I felt like Superman and that I was ready to take on the world.
“It was a really surreal experience. You could feel the clapping at the end of the set.”
The only deaf person in his family, Kyle had to learn to lip read from a young age to understand what was going on around him.
And the regular festival experience can sometimes be difficult for the hard of hearing, as performers can hold the microphone close to their face, which can make lip reading difficult.
Kyle added, “I think it’s really important for companies like Vodafone to continue to innovate and help develop this type of technology.
“There are many people who have been isolated and the world is changing with technology.
“I know Spotify has their app lyrics now, so on certain songs you can see the words in real time. I can listen to new music and know how the song is going.
“The world is changing and technology is always changing, so it’s only right to involve as many people as possible.”
The 31-year-old, originally from South Africa, also fought in his homeland for sign language to be recognized as an official language.
Vodafone’s Maria Koutsoudakis said: “The audience and atmosphere are such a big part of any live music performance, especially during a festival, and that really sets it apart from other experiences – you just can’t get that ‘festival feeling’. sat at home with the radio on.
“So we’re really excited to be able to use our technology to bring that feeling to deaf and hard of hearing fans, to try to bring them closer to a performance than they’ve ever felt before.”
“Music is for everyone and as a brand we are committed to making the festival experience as open and accessible as possible so that everyone can just get out there and enjoy themselves.
“At the moment we are still in the testing phase, but we are very excited about the possibilities for the future.
“In the short term, we’d like to be able to introduce these to more festivals and performances and help make them ubiquitous in live music.”
“But beyond that, there’s more we can do, from groundbreaking VR experiences to fans feeling audiences from the comfort of their own homes.”
Jessie Ware, who appeared at Mighty Hoopla, said: “When I first heard about this technology I was blown away and to see the reaction from fans who have already tried it has been incredible.
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“It’s amazing to be able to change the way my deaf and hard of hearing fans experience my shows.
“I’m really excited about their potential and would love to see these suits in as many of my performances as possible in the future.”
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/8913465/deaf-festivalgoer-high-tech-suit-hear-music-vibrations/ The deaf festival visitor wears a high-tech suit that uses vibrations to “hear” music