There's something pretty satisfying about nailing those floating, colorful notes in Guitar Hero, a feeling that a company named Incident took advantage of with a more lifelike guitar in 2012 to pretty good effect. The firm has rebranded itself as Opho and is now singing a slightly different tune, launching an LED-lit keyboard based on the same, super-addictive learning principle.
Opho has clearly taken a minimalist, simplistic approach in designing Keys, so much so that it might easily be mistaken for a toy. But the plastic keyboard packs enough functionality that it could conceivably appeal to keyboard players of all kinds, ranging from newcomers to touring musicians.
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Spanning 24 keys across two octaves, Keys is predominantly built from plastic, but with a metal baseplate. Connecting the keyboard with an iPhone through a purpose-built docking station enables beginners to learn songs, chord charts and theory through Opho's tutorial apps. This sees the LED keys light up to indicate when different notes should be played.
Should novices progress from Mary Had a Little Lamb to something a little more complex, then the developers say Keys still has plenty to offer. The instrument can be connected to a computer via micro USB where it is compatible with any MIDI-supported application. This opens up possibilities for more serious musicians to find value in the device as a inexpensive tool to further refine their sound.
Keys is also modular, meaning that it can be snapped together magnetically with other Keys to form larger keyboards. Another point of difference is the proximity sensors, which add another layer of functionality by allowing users to control the sounds with gestures. This might involve lowering and raising a hand to alter the tone, or waving to change the octave.
Opho's isn't the first attempt at computer-aided learning of the keyboard. PianoMaestro takes a similar approach, but uses lights at the back of the keys as indicators, rather than illuminating the entire keys. Those looking for a more hands-on teaching style might be better suited to Concert Hands, which guides a users fingers along the keyboard to the correct keys by way of sliding mechanism.
Keys is currently the subject of an Indiegogo campaign, where Opho is looking to raise US$50,000. It is offering early birds their own instrument for pledges of US$88 with hopes of shipping in the coming US summer, if all goes to plan.
You can check out the pitch video below.