Musican and theater artist Daniel Belquer spent over a year developing a haptic suit for deaf or hard of hearing people to experience music. The end result: a series of straps that can be worn to experience different types of sensations (from raindrops to a tickle to a thump) in a way that complements music being played. Working with engineers at electronic components company Avnet, Belquer and his team at the "Music: Not Impossible" initiative (of nonprofit Not Impossible Labs) developed a haptic suit with 24 vibrating plates, or actuators. Vibrations are mixed by a haptic DJ who controls the location, frequency, and intensity of feeling across suits in a similar way that a DJ creatively mixes music. On July 1, 2023, New York City's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts hosted a "Silent Disco" celebrating the suit's potential. 75 haptic suits were lined up on racks, accessible to anyone (hearing or deaf) who wanted to try it. Lily Lipman, who has auditory processing disorder, told NPR News, "It's cool, because I'm never quite sure if I'm hearing what other people are hearing, so it's amazing to get those subtleties in my body." Kevin Gotkin, curator of Lincoln Center's disability artistry events, noted the importance of acknowledging and integrating the experiences of differently-abled people: "Someone can come to a place where disability is expected, and disability is loved -- and yeah, disability is the center of the party."

Read Full Story