Wearables and Music Technology

Multidisciplinary artist / entrepreneur Matan Berkowitz has been busy experimenting with new ways to make music.

His GlassBeats application converted head movements into musical parameters, turning the Google Glass into a midi controller and winning first place at the Google Glass Hackathon in Tel Aviv. The EEG Musical Interface he developed with Prof. Nathan Intrator (Brown and Tel Aviv University) allowed a paraplegic man to quite literally use his mind as an instrument, translating brainwaves into melodies. Their prototype won the ALS Prize for Life at TOM 2014.

His latest invention - the BioSynth - coupled the EEG interface with a heartbeat sensor to turn both the brain and the heart into instruments, creating an organic musical dialog. Biosynth's prototype, designed as a headband and a glove, won the Musical Wearables Prize at Music Tech Fest in London, awarded by RS Components. 

He is currently designing the audio aspect of a new Movement & Cognition Research Lab at Israel's most advanced hospital, producing a Hackathon about music technology for people with disabilities and passionately developing a new set of tools to create, preform and understand music.

Matan is also the co-founder of Shift Innovation, an Israel-based company founded to harness the power of technology for positive impact. Shift works with clients such as municipalities, hospitals and startups as a creative / consulting firm while developing its own in-house projects, specialising in community management tools and decentralised web.

Smithers Apex: Please  provide a few words on the state of the industry as you see it (or as it pertains to your presentation/session).

Berkowitz: My presentation will revolve around 3 main topics - Wearables, Music Technology and Special Needs. When it comes to the current state of the industry it seems like the connection points between the three are still in the process of being explored and discovered. This often results in products and inventions aimed primarily at one of the three target audiences: cool consumer gadgets, pro audio gear and specialised, expensive, even experimental solutions for people with disabilities.

Smithers Apex: Who do you feel would benefit most in this particular discussion?

Berkowitz: Trying to refine the axis these seemingly different disciplines share is meant to benefit all three of them. Those who are working in any one of these areas can learn and grow greatly from incorporating the technologies, ideas and potential revenue streams of the other two. If I had to choose one, I'd say the special needs community will benefit most - for as its name applies, it has the most acute, tangible need(s) waiting to be answered.

Smithers Apex: What concerns you most- whether it be an industry dynamic you need to overcome or a major opportunity you think you can capitalize on?

Berkowitz: What concerns me most personally is how to maximise impact. What started as a hobby, making prototypes and winning a few awards, has become both a passion and a field of personal study for me. I'm now producing a first-of-its-kind hackathon devoted entirely to this nexus (technology, music and special needs) where dedicated groups of makers & hackers will develop solutions for 5 disabled musicians. I've also been consulting start-ups in this field and working with a major hospital on a larger scale, research oriented project in the same vein. Wherever the greatest potential for impact lies, that's where I'm heading.