Attending live music events is more than just an auditory experience—and now, thanks to innovative technology, individuals who are D(d)eaf or hard of hearing can feel the music in a whole new way with haptic suits. Haptic suits were developed by Daniel Belquer, chief vibrational officer of music for Not Impossible Labs, an organization dedicated to use of technology to address many social issues. A haptic suit consists of 24 vibrating plates: 20 on a vest, and one for each limb. A haptic DJ controls the vibrational patterns, which can range from thumping bass to gentle rain-like patterns across all of the plates. The vibrational patterns are not a direct representation of the music, rather, they complement the soundscape. At a recent Disability Pride Month event at the Lincoln Center, attendees both with hearing impairment and without, donned these suits to enhance their live music experience.
While the haptic suits may be new, the community of D(d)eaf and music lovers with hearing loss have actually been on the concert scene for quite some time. A notable group are the “Deafheads” who followed the Grateful Dead in the 1980s. Concert attendees would stand barefoot, near speakers pointed to the ground to feel the vibrations and hold balloons to capture the songs that filled the air.
Technology has progressed so much since those early days; enablingaccess to experiences for everyone regardless of abilities. It is a fantastic testament to the inclusivity of the live music scene. For more information on this technology, Not Impossible Labs, or a little history on the subject, check out the links in the references below.
National Public Radio—Illinois. (2023) Vibrating haptic suits give deaf people a new way to feel live music. (accessed July 28, 2023).
5 Points Music Sanctuary. (n.d.) 5 points music sanctuary and the power of sound. (accessed July 28, 2023).
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