Tech that Fits Like a Glove — local students light up the rave scene
by Paige Welsh
New Light Gloves Let Artists Program Their Own
Two high-school students, Zohar Wouk and Abe Karplus, couldn’t be bothered to find summer jobs. Instead, they started a company and made their own. Together, they co-founded the company Futuristic Lights (previously Infinity Gloves) and hope to develop a new generation of light gloves.
“I’m more the marketing slash selling guy and he’s more the actually getting the thing to work guy,” explains Zohar gesturing to Abe.
Artists, called “light-glovers,” make hypnotic light shows in the dark by the gracefully arcing and twirling of the colored LED lights in the gloves’ finger tips. The pulsing florescent colors of light gloves have swept the rave and EDM (electronic dance music) scene. Zohar and Abe believe they can better tailor light gloves to artists’ needs through customizable color patterns and a rechargeable battery.
Like buying ink for printers, the cost of replacing the parts on light gloves is ongoing. Current light gloves demand constant battery replacement. Each finger-tip has a light and a battery that will begin to fade after just seven hours. An artist performing at a dusk until dawn event may easily go through twenty batteries, about $20 worth, in one night.
The new light gloves will have one large rechargeable battery that attaches at the wrist. Wires extend up to the lights at the finger-tips. A complete prototype is still under progress, but trials have demonstrated that their battery can fuel a few LED lights for days, outlasting all-night performers. They’ve even resolved the dimming. “We’ve done a constant current driver, which means as long as the battery can provide any power it will provide full power to the LEDs,” says Abe.
Current light gloves have one repeating pattern of light, or mode, preprogrammed into each LED lights’s chip. A new mode may cost around $60. Zohar and Abe are developing a blue-tooth phone app that will let artists program their own modes. The interface is a simple timeline for each finger. Artists may slide bars on the timeline, which represent color duration and sequence, with millisecond precision and choose any color on a gradient rainbow. A mode can be up to ten minutes long.
“These other companies restrict you to these modes you have to abide by. We’re giving the artist full control over their show,” says Zohar.
A Tangle over Wires
Zohar does most of the marketing through word of mouth, Facebook, and events like TechRaising. The company already has over 6500 followers on its Facebook page. The page is covered with likes and auspicious comments like “Take my money!” However, some light-glovers are skeptical because of the gloves’ wires and the bulky battery and chip, which are a bit smaller than a credit card.
“There are currently light gloves made with wires and they tend to be the cheapest least well-made gloves. They usually break after a night or two of use. They don’t realize we’ve added a lot of features that should make these wires last a long time,” says Abe.
The wires on the new light gloves plug into to the chip the way ear-buds plug into audio jacks in an MP3 player. If tugged too hard, they pop out instead of snapping. The wires are long enough that even an artist with large hands will not pop a wire mid-performance. If a wire does break though, it can be individually and inexpensively replaced. The large battery pack will be attached to the wrist, like a snug watch, so there will be no flopping or weight while the hands and fingers are at work.
The Founders Going Forward
Zohar and Abe are not prepared to give a definitive release date or price because they are still working through manufacturing costs and technicalities with the app. A set of gloves will probably cost $160-240, quite a bit more than current premium gloves, which cost about $60. However, the two founders are counting on their product’s quality and versatility to make their gloves less costly in the long run.
In the mean-time, Zohar and Abe will continue to work and study at home. The office in Abe’s home is strewn with wires, lights, and chips from testing and prototypes. The project spills into the rest of the house. “We don’t have any soldering equipment here. That’s in the living room,” says Abe with a laugh.
Infinity Gloves is also integrated into Zohar and Abe’s education. Homeschooling allows them the schedule flexibility to pursue their company. They even get academic credit. Both will graduate from high school this year. Abe will be attending UC Santa Barbara to study computer science. Zohar will stay in Santa Cruz to manage the company.
As for any future summer jobs, the entrepreneurial Zohar has his own plans:
“I don’t really see myself working for someone. There’s this quote from someone, ‘If you work for someone, you’re making someone else’s dreams come true. If you work for yourself, you’re working to make your own dreams come true.’”
Paige Welsh is a marine biology major and literature minor at UC Santa Cruz. She is a starting journalist that can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara Isenberg publishes Santa Cruz Tech Beat for the benefit of the extended business and technology community. When she is not volunteering her time for the tech scene, Sara makes her living by managing software projects, web strategy planning, and providing development team services (including account management, vendor management, strategic partner management, beta project management, referrals to qualified technical team members, and more). Please visit her website: Sara Isenberg Web Consulting & Project Management, or contact Sara by email if you have any project management, account management, or Development Team leadership or service needs.