Light-led learning is a great way to nail full songs in double quick fashion. Joining follow-me LED system for piano and guitar is the Populele, which is a bit like a shrunken version of the Fretlight guitar system from 2012, where LEDs are embedded in the neck rather than in a light-packed sleeve that's wrapped around the fretting zone. The smart ukulele makers promise to have students up and running with their first song within 15 minutes of picking up the instrument for the first time.
Previously shown at both CES and NAMM back in January, the Populele project has now launched on Indiegogo to fund production. Like the FretX sleeve we got to experience at a Paris tech show in 2015, the smart uke connects via Bluetooth LE to a learning app running on an iOS/Android smart device. The app allows students to learn chords and play along to songs from a continuously updated vault. And there's a game mode for injecting some fun into uke basics, which should serve to improve timing and technique, too.
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There are 72 LEDs embedded in the plastic fingerboard, and these show users where to place fretting fingers – meaning that learners can keep their gaze on the fretboard action and not have to keep looking away to follow tab or music notation. The lights can also simply add some visual pop to a performance, either using sound response tech to react to play or by programming in a user-defined sequence. And sessions can be recorded through the app for later analysis or sharing on social media.
The 23-inch (58 cm) long Populele weighs in at just over a pound (500 g), which should make it manageable for even the youngest of child prodigies, and is constructed from maple, with a spruce soundboard and Aquila strings said to provide a warm, soft tone.
An 800 mAh Lithium battery is reported to give around 10 hours of illuminated play time for every 2.5 hours on charge. The instrument can still be played when the lights go out, but the Bluetooth connection and learning experience will have to wait for the battery to be topped up.
There's about a month left to run on the already-funded Indiegogo campaign, where pledges for the Populele U1 start at US$149, shaving $50 off the expected retail price. If all goes to plan, shipping in estimated to start in July.
The video below shows what's on offer.