French startup Joué has revealed a new digital interface which appears to offer the kind of expressive playing found in Roli's Seaboard Rise or the Linnstrument, but can also be used as a MIDI controller, beat-maker, Artiphon-like digital instrument, DJ mixing console and more – just by swapping out colorful modules. Currently at the pre-production prototype stage, the eponymous instrument/controller is due to head to Kickstarter next month to raise production funds.
Looking quite similar to last year's successfully crowdfunded, but yet to ship to backers, Sensel Morph, the main platform of the Joué is made of wood and metal with a velocity sensing pressure sensor up top.
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Flexible, almost toy-like modules – from piano keys to a virtual guitar fretboard to drum pads – are placed on the black upper surface as desired. The 270 x 90 mm (10.6 x 3.5 in) active area is divided into three sections. Each of these has its own NFC reader, and modules span single, double or triple slots.
The 360 x 137.1 x 15.6 mm (14.17 x 5.39 x 0.6 in), 830 g (1.8 lb) Joué is connected via USB to a smart device or computer and sends MIDI data to music production software like Ableton Live or GarageBand, opening up similar expressive play capabilities as apps running on a touchscreen tablet, but effectively raises onscreen buttons, keys and controls up into the real world for an analog instrument feel.
Exactly what each module does is set up using a companion editor, after which the system auto detects the modules for live swapping performance possibilities. The Bordeaux-based developers reckon that players should then be able to use natural gestures to tap out a rhythm, slide and bend distorted digital guitar sounds, bend and pitch dive notes and chords, dial in some swaying finger vibrato and more.
The Joué team has refined a few prototypes over the past year or so, tweaking versions in response to feedback from musicians, and is preparing to launch the project on Kickstarter next month to bring the system into production. Have a look at the quick intro video below for a taste of what's to come.
Update Nov 1: The Joué project has now launched on Kickstarter. Pledges for a device and eight control modules start at €260 (about US$280), with shipping estimated to start in August 2017 if all goes to plan.