The gesture-controlled device for vocalists is on Kickstarter now.
The past few years have seen a boom in innovative MIDI controllers for making music, from modular, customisable systems to expressive “five-dimensional” keyboards that can register different directions of pressure. For the most part these devices have been developed for the control of software synthesisers, but OWOW’s new Wiggle Kit is a tiny effects unit for vocalists controlled by hand movements that allows singers to warp their voice while in the studio or performing live.
The Wiggle Kit, which launched on Kickstarter earlier this month, consists of two components: the device itself, which looks a little like an Apple TV remote, and the companion app (currently on iOS only, though an Android app is planned if the target is reached), which allows you to add effects such as reverb, delay, vocoder and Auto-Tune style harmonics. You can use a traditional microphone or even the one built into your phone, and parameters are controlled by three main gestures: moving your arm horizontally, vertically and by twisting your wrist.
It isn’t isn’t the first gesture-controlled MIDI device to be released by OWOW. In 2015, the Dutch startup released an early version of the Wiggle aimed at instrumentalists alongside other tiny controllers, including the Theremin-inspired Wob, and Drum, which responds to air drumming movements. As soon as Belgian band Sleepers Reign got their hands on it, lead singer Lukas Hermans taped it to his microphone and tweaked his setup to use it to add effects to his vocals.
“We were so blown away by how natural and impressive it looked that we started finetuning the Wiggle specifically for vocalists, OWOW’s Pieter-Jan Pieters says. “We soon realized singers and vocalists are left behind when it comes to innovation within musical instruments and gear and decided to go for it.
However, Hermans’ use of the Wiggle wasn’t an out-of-the-box solution, so OWOW had to streamline it for vocalists. “The [issue] was that a lot of singers had never worked with music software and depended on their producer, so when they wanted to practice by themselves they could not use the Wiggle kit. That’s where the idea of the app came along. We made it as easy as possible for them to experiment on their own with the built-in effects.”
The Wiggle Kit starts at €79, for which you get the Wiggle device, iOS app, 20 vocal effects, a 150cm USB cable and microphone strap. The battery will last for four hours, and OWOW claims it has a range of up to 40 meters, as long as nothing is obstructing the signal (which it probably shouldn’t if you’re performing on stage). As the Wiggle Kit is based on OWOW’s existing controllers, there haven’t been many technical hurdles to overcome.
“Parts of the technology inside we reuse for new devices since this has been perfected over the course of creating the family, like stability, range, battery life,” Pieters says. “We see it as a family of instruments that have the same look and feel, but are all different in the way the buttons are placed in such a way they are perfect for the job they need to do.”
Although the hardware is very similar to OWOW’s earlier devices, the software has been completely rewritten for use by vocalists. “Singers are more expressive and have big movements, so they need an instrument that adapts to their way of movement,” Pieters believes. “Also, the ability to connect with its own app is a big leap forward in ease of use and access to lots of effects on the fly for people that don’t have music software.”
In use, the Wiggle Kit looks a little like a Nintendo Wii’s motion controls, but Pieters sees that as part of a wider trend of using movement to make music. “[The] Wii was not intended to be a music controller, yet people hacked it, and made it do some cool tricks,” he says. “It looked a little goofy back then, but it only shows that people are moving towards this trend of using gestures to control digital music and effects.”
The Wiggle Kit can be backed on Kickstarter now and has until December 8 to reach its target of £13,329. If the campaign is successful, OWOW expects to ship the first units before Christmas 2017.
Scott Wilson is FACT’s Make Music editor. Find him on Twitter.