A deaf festival goer ‘felt like Superman’ after he was able to "feel the music" thanks to ground-breaking technology which could bring sound to life for thousands of others.
Kyle Springate, 31, was the first to wear a cutting-edge haptic suit at the Mighty Hoopla festival in London’s Brockwell Park.
The suits allow users to feel the music through multi-sensory feedback, delivered through vibrations across 24 touchpoints on the wrists, ankles and torso.
Using Vodafone 5G machine learning technology, the suit is able to capture and transmit the atmosphere of the crowd as well as the music, giving deaf fans the ability to feel closer to the performance and audience around them.
They were developed by the telecommunications company to provide an immersive sensory experience inspired by the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Kyle, who is profoundly deaf, said: “I didn’t know what to expect. When the crowd is that loud it can be hard to hear the music, but it was great to be in touch with the bass and the drums and everything else.
“It was just a small vest with cuffs. I had the bass and the drumming on the back with the vocals under my chest, and cuffs on my hands and feet.
“It was incredible. Every time the bass was going, I could feel it going up my spine, and when the crowd was going wild.
“I feel like I need more - more bass, more volume. Once the fine-tuning is done, I think this will be great.”
Describing the experience compared to how it would feel without the suit, Kyle, from Hackney, said: “I think the main difference is being able to feel the music and really help me keep up with where we were with each part of the song.
“Normally with a crowd that big and loud, the sound gets drowned out, so it really kept you in tune. But I felt like Superman and that I was ready to take over the world.
“It was a really surreal experience. You could feel the claps at the end of the set.”
Kyle, who is the only deaf person in his family, had to learn to lipread at a young age to understand what was going on around him.
And the normal festival experience can sometimes be difficult for people who are hard of hearing, as artists can hold the microphone close to their face which can make it difficult to lipread.
Kyle added: “I think it’s really important for companies like Vodafone to continue to innovate and help develop this type of technology.
“There’s a lot of people who have been isolated and the world changes with technology.
“I know Spotify has their app lyrics now, so with certain songs, you can see the words in real time. I can listen to new music and know how the song is going.
“The world is changing, and technology is changing all the time, so it’s only right they include as many people as they can.”
Kyle, who is originally from South Africa, also fought to get sign language recognized as an official language back at home.
Maria Koutsoudakis, from Vodafone, said: “The crowd and atmosphere are such huge parts of any live music performance, especially during a festival, and is what really sets it apart from other experiences. You just can’t get that ‘festival feeling’ sat at home with the radio on.
“So, we’re absolutely delighted to be able to use our tech to bring this feeling to deaf and hard of hearing fans, to try and bring them closer to a performance than they’ve ever felt before.
“Music is for everyone, and as a brand we’re committed to making the festival experience as open and accessible as it can be, so everyone can just go out and enjoy themselves.
“At the moment we’re still in the trial stage, but we’re really excited about the possibilities for the future.
“In the short term, we’d love to be able to roll these out across more festivals and performances and help make them ubiquitous in live music.
“But there’s even more we can do beyond that, from game-changing VR experiences, to letting fans feel the crowd from home.”
Jessie Ware, who performed at the Mighty Hoopla, said: “When I first heard about this tech I was blown away, and to see the reactions of the fans who have tried them already has been incredible.
"It's amazing to be able to change the way my deaf and hard of hearing fans can experience my shows. I'm really excited by their potential and would love to see these suits available at as many of my performances as possible in the future."
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