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A Wearable Haptic Interface for Breath Guidance in Vocal Training

Role: Research Lead

Duration: 2019.10 - 2021.05

Team Member:

Ziyue Piao (Case Study Collaborator)

Key Words and Phrases:

Haptic devices

Computer-assisted instruction

Sound and music computing

My Role: 

I propose this research inspired by my previous research in flute fingering position guidance with the haptic interface. I designed the haptic interface and lead the case study. 


This research is my capstone project for IMA. We published a paper on the international conference NIME 2021. It is continued research based on the previous haptic fingering guiding research. I would want to explore more on breathing guidance.

The breathing control of the wind instrument is considered abstract and hard to master. The purpose of using the haptic method is to make breathing control concrete, and therefore, train the players’ muscle memories, building a conditioned reflex between the haptic feeling and breathing control. Furthermore, the breathing guidance is not only useful for learners of vocal training, flute, or wind instruments, but it also has a wider range of uses in the medical area. In fact, many pieces of research have been conducted in order to find methods for breathing measurements or guidance, except that they focus on visual and audio guidance more. 


The system provides haptic guidance for breathing by separately offering inhalation and exhalation signals.

Control Mechanism:

We first read the midi file in which the breathing timing is manually labeled. Then the computer transmits the inhalation and exhalation duration information to the device at specific inhalation and exhalation timings.


Demonstration of Control Mechanism


Hardware Details:

Exhalation is guided by tightening the elastic belt, tied 2-3 inches below the learner's waist. The spinal exoskeleton guides users' inhalation by pushing the user's back.

Demonstration of Elastic Belt.png

Demonstration of Elastic Belt

Demonstration of the exoskeleton design's state transformation for inhalation.png

Demonstration of Exoskeleton


The device integrates the two systems into a handmade strap vest to achieve full breath guidance. The below figure shows the device's appearance. The hints for inhalation and exhalation are provided by the coordination of exoskeleton design and the timing belt design. The exoskeleton bends backward (state 2) and the elastic belt loosens to indicate the inhalation process. The elastic belt tightens, and the exoskeleton moves back to straight (state 1) is the indication of the exhalation process.

The interaction of the haptic system and vocalization.png

Demonstration of the Device


Conclusion & Future Work

In conclusion, we developed a wearable haptic guidance device that could haptically guide the inhalation and exhalation process in vocal training. Based on the case studies, participants showed their high acceptance of using the haptic interface in vocal learning. We also observed that the wearable device had considerable effects on diaphragmatic breathing guidance. Users are able to follow the haptic signals and adjust their breath quickly. For inexperienced learners, we found that they got help in breathing guidance and rhythm guidance; for the experienced learners, the device was more useful in guiding diaphragmatic breathing. Lastly, we see that the potential to apply this interface in other areas, such as wind instruments learning, fitness training, and meditation. 

The current device has several limitations that could be improved in the future. First, we will continue making modifications to the structure to make the device more wearable and to make the signals stronger. Second, we plan to integrate a feedback system by sensing learners' body positions and breathing states. Finally, we would like to incorporate visual guidances with the current haptic device to help learners better understand their vocal performance.

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