Smart guitar previews connected hybrid future

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The Sensus smart guitar digitally enhances acoustic playing

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For the most part, going on a guitar safari today is much like it was 40 or 50 years ago. The same body shapes occupy prime retail space, the same brands seem to demand the most attention from shop floor noodlers and the same technology rules the roost. Dig a little deeper and you'll not only see modern tech creeping into familiar-looking instruments, but you may also spot axes that embrace the brave new digital world. The Sensus guitar is said to be "a unique mix of acoustic tradition and state of the art technology," with the folks behind it going so far as to claim that it's the world's first smart guitar.

"All comparable accessories available till today have been either computer/MIDI controllers, guitar lookalike electronic gadgets or 'all-in-one' accessory combos for electric or acoustic guitars," Matteo Monari of Mind Music Labs told us. "Sensus guitar is not a controller, nor an accessory, nor an electronic gadget … nor an electric or acoustic guitar: it is a new kind of guitar – a 'smart' guitar, which is both acoustic and electric, and electronic. Needs no computer, no amps, and allows you to play in a whole new way."

The guitar's name hints at some of the technology on offer. First, there's a motion sensor to change the sound based on the movement of the guitar or to dial in a new effect with a shake of the guitar. Below the picking area is a touch-sensitive slider for such things as pitch bends and slide simulations, with rounded pressure sensors underneath that can be used to tap out a digital rhythm or fire space-age sonics. Waving a hand in front of the proximity sensor on the upper horn can add some interesting spice to a solo, and a touch-enabled ribbon along the top of the neck offers fretting thumb expression.

The instrument's "360° wireless music system" doesn't have a speaker hidden away somewhere, but rather outputs the sound via wooden body itself thanks to Mind's patented technologies, a body that's fashioned from the same red spruce as Stradivari violins. That output is reckoned to be high fidelity, high enough to cater for studio level recording of hybrid acoustic/digital performances. Players can, if they wish, choose to output the dry (unprocessed) signal or the digitally-enhanced tones to an amp via the included instrument out jack.

It's not clear from the various descriptions of the instrument available precisely how the vibrations of the strings are registered by the Sensus so that digital effects and modulations can be applied, though a piezo pickup at the bridge or a microphone within seem likely candidates.

The guitar has a built-in sound bank, but is reported capable of producing any sound or modulation effect transmitted to it wirelessly (the current prototype shoots both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi). It can also pump out backing tracks streamed from a connected mobile device and has onboard looping and recording capabilities. Mind has confirmed that the electronics get power from batteries, but no specifics are available.

If that looks like something you want to get your hands on, you'll need to exercise some patience for the time being. The company told us that the Sensus is still in development and at this stage specs and capabilities are changing on a weekly bases, but is hopeful that a market-ready prototype will be ready by the end of the year.

For a closer look at what the Sensus smart guitar is capable of, check out the performance by Valerio Fuiano in the video below.

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