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Midem paid for part of Chris O’Brien’s travel to Cannes for the Midem Music Industry Festival, where he is participating as a startup competition judge. Our coverage remains objective.
The Internet of Things continues to be one of tech’s most closely watched phenomena. Everyone wants to stick a sensor into everything to control it and gather data.
Some of these can seem a little obscure, like smart objects to improve manufacturing logistics. But music is one area where we can all relate — and potentially benefit.
A wide range of companies are now trying to build gadgets that enhance our listening experience by understanding our behaviors and interests. There are some designers who are also trying to augment the physical experience of music and trying to reinvent the way we participate in music creation.
During the recent Midem conference, I was a judge for the startup competition for hardware and connected objects. (Watch all 2 hours here!) But in addition to the 10 startups that presented during that competition, there was a Discovery Area at Midem where several other gadgets and companies not in the official contested were exhibiting.
On the whole, these devices represent, at the moment, mostly potential. But as a huge music fan, that potential is intriguing. And I’m optimistic that at least a few might also generate more business and revenue opportunities that funnel cash into the pockets of artists.
On that note, here are 10 projects or gadgets worth trying if you can get your hands on them:
The pyramid-shaped Prizm claims to be “the first learning music player.” The connected speaker can be linked to just about any streaming music service. But the twist is that it will monitor the moods of people in the room and, over time, learn how they are reacting to the music and then adjust the choices automatically. If an AI music speaker can really pull this off, I can see it becoming indispensable in many homes.
2. Lucie Labs
Lucie Labs (France)
The most obvious feature of the Lucie Labs wristband may be its least interesting. You wear these at a concert and they pulse with the music and your movement. More intriguing is that they are streaming information back to a central command that lets producers understand better how the crowd is reacting (or not reacting) to the music. It raises an interesting question: Could Big Data help revolutionize the live concert? If Taylor Swift realizes she’s boring you to death, could she switch to some Beatles covers instead?
The Basslet by Rescued Ideas (Germany)
Also a wristband (and not the last!). But in this case, you attach one to each wrist and it causes your entire skeleton to vibrate with the music — you hear and feel the music like you were at a live concert. This is a pretty straightforward concept that was obviously impressing a lot of people at Midem. Our panel of five judges picked this one as the winner of the startup competition.
This software leverages a bank of GoPro cameras to stream a 360-degree view of a live concert (or any event) that can be watched on Oculus Rift, or really any VR goggles. Music rights issues are trickier here than some of the technical elements. But again, it’s easy to imagine a lot of interest in VR live streams of certain concerts. I could even imagine paying a subscription for a service like that.
Here’s a little sample stream from a boat made using VideoStitch:
While this company may not be out to change the world, its product is guaranteed to make you smile. Phonotonic puts sensors in these little balls that you can shake or toss to both generate music, adjust the mix, or … whatever. The goal is to make music and not just accompany it. (And at some point, I’m betting it’s going to lead to some very odd YouTube videos.) Now, you can go to the rave and you can also be the rave.
FretX by Labana (France)
This is a little piece of fabric with circuits printed on the back and LED lights on the front. It slides onto the fretboard of a guitar, and then you pick a song to play using an app on your smartphone. Rather than having to squint at tabs on your computer, you can just look down at the guitar and the lights tell you where to place your fingers.
The company makes wireless earbuds that also contain microphones for recording sound. The idea is that by capturing sound in two places, as your ears do naturally, the result is a richer 3D audio.
OK, last wristband for today, kids. Trak looks like a typical fitness band, but when you tap it, it identifies and records a bit of a song you’re hearing (on the radio or maybe a concert) and adds it to a playlist at home. It can connect people at the same event and also enable you to follow the DJs and artists that you hear. You can connect all of your music services to Trak. It’s due to launch this autumn, with companion iOS and Android apps (both phone and watch).
9. Mash Machine
Mash Machine by Mo’Joes (Estonia)
This is a portable DJ system that you can rent for parties. The table reads QR codes on the bottom of the tiles. There are four categories: melody, bass, rhythm, and vocals. You add tiles and move them around, and the table generates the music.
10. Sing-Song table and Flex Sleeves
Berklee College of Music (USA)
(Okay, cheating a tad here, since there are really two here. But both come from a research department at the famed music school.)
The Sing-Song table is a ping-pong table that has sensors connected underneath. As the game progresses, the tapping of the ball adjusts the music to match the pace of play. Okay, so the market here is quite limited. Still, it shows how just about anything can become an instrument.
The Flex Sleeves project has a bit more market potential. A performer puts on the two armbands, and they can use them to control the mix of music and do things like Auto-Tune their voice. The bands also affect the visual display on the screen.
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