June 11 (UPI) — A pair of Canadian music researchers developed a wearable electronic device for pregnant women that they dubbed the “world’s first prenatal musical instrument.”
Aura Pon, who received her PhD in music technology this month from the University of Calgary, and colleague Johnty Wang, who is working on a PhD in music technology at McGill University, unveiled the Womba, a device that is strapped across a pregnant woman’s stomach to translate her fetus’ kicks and other movements into music.
Pon said she first conceived of the Womba when she was pregnant with her first child in 2013.
“I thought it would be kind of fun to have him make sound,” Pon told CTV News. “I’m always interested in different ways you can interact with sound and music.”
The first version of the instrument was very basic, Pon said.
“The first version of the Womba was, essentially, just sensors taped to my belly which were set up to trigger sounds on a church organ,” she told the University of Calgary’s UToday.
“The location of certain kicks would set off certain chords,” Pon said. “As far as being a bonding tool, I’ll tell you that it was pretty amazing to be able to hear my baby making these sounds. It was magical.”
She said the latest version of the Womba is far more advanced, giving parents the option of hearing their child’s movements transformed into the sounds of multiple different instruments.
“We didn’t want it to be a matter of ‘the Womba sounds like this.’ We wanted to give the parent some options,” Pon said.
Pon said she and Wang are still refining the device and hope to find a way for babies to continue to use the Womba as a musical plaything after being born.