These days, turning yourself into a one-man band is as easy as slipping on a piece of clothing with a built-in sound board, like Machina's MIDI Controller jacket or the Electronic Drum Machine shirt. DrumPants on the other hand uses sensor strips and electronics that attach to the inside of clothing, so you can walk down the street in your own clothes and play a beat just by rhythmically tapping your own body.
DrumPants is the brainchild of Tyler Freeman, who originally created the undercover instrument as a way to prank his friends. It's a similar device to a prototype we saw a few years ago, but much more compact and consumer-friendly.
The basic DrumPants kit consists of two sensor strips and two foot pedal sensors that connect to a control box, all of which are small enough to conceal beneath most types of clothing. Each strip contains two velocity sensors and has thin Velcro patches so users can wear them as a band or run them along a part of their body.
This gives wearers control over six individual sensors at once, but the system can support up to 12 with the addition of extra strips. Once a strip is in place, it just needs to be tapped to produce a sound, which can be heard by connecting either a pair of headphones or an external speaker to the control box.
Musicians can cycle through over 100 different built-in sounds using a knob on the control box, including drums, synthesizers, pianos, and guitars. Users can set which sensor plays a certain sound using an included app, which can be accessed through most internet browsers.
A basic control box connects to a computer via USB, while a Pro model supports Bluetooth Low-Energy connections, so it can connect to tablets and smartphones as well. The app can also adjust the tone and pitch of each sound effect and allows users to upload their own customized effects. The DrumPants kit is also designed to work with any app that accepts MIDI or OSC signals, so users can record, loop, and edit their musical creations however they like.
While the DrumPants were designed mainly with music in mind, the wearable sensors do offer some additional uses beyond tapping out a tune. Each sensor can be reprogrammed to trigger actions within a wide variety of apps, so the wearer can, for example, answer their phone, play a streaming video, cycle through a slideshow, or control a game. The software can also connect with certain Arduino boards, in case an industrious programmer wants to use the sensor strips to control another gadget entirely.
The DrumPants developers recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to finalize the software and bring their undercover sound system into mass production. Anyone who wants to pre-order a kit for themselves can contribute US$99 for a basic set and $139 for the Bluetooth-enabled Pro version. If the crowd-funding campaign is successful, the first batch of DrumPants kits are expected to ship in May 2014.
Check out the company's Kickstarter video below to see how DrumPants can make music on the go and confuse any bystanders in the process.