Music

Cajon playing beat-bot bashes out rhythms for solo performers

Cajon playing beat-bot bashes ...
Hideaki Iio and team have launched the Cabot project on Kickstarter
Hideaki Iio and team have launched the Cabot project on Kickstarter
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The Cabot robotic Cajon beat maker was recently demonstrated at SXSW in Austin, Texas
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The Cabot robotic Cajon beat maker was recently demonstrated at SXSW in Austin, Texas
The Cabot hardware is attached to the front of a Cajon
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The Cabot hardware is attached to the front of a Cajon
Hideaki Iio and team have launched the Cabot project on Kickstarter
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Hideaki Iio and team have launched the Cabot project on Kickstarter
Players can change beat patterns mid-song using the Cabot's included footswitch
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Players can change beat patterns mid-song using the Cabot's included footswitch
The Cabot beat machine is aimed at solo performers, but could enhance duets too
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The Cabot beat machine is aimed at solo performers, but could enhance duets too
You don't need to be an acoustic guitarist to use the Cabot rhythm machine
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You don't need to be an acoustic guitarist to use the Cabot rhythm machine

A few years back we tried out a "drummer in a stomp" system called the BeatBuddy, designed to offer real-sounding, foot-controllable percussion accompaniment for solo performers and bedroom jammers alike. A robotic Cajon player called the Cabot follows along the same lines, but is aimed at acoustic players.

The Cabot is the brainchild of guitarist Hideaki Iio, who wanted genuine acoustic beats for his acoustic playing. The three-armed robot beat maker is attached to a Cajon – a box drum that normally sees a player sitting on top and tapping out a beat on the front surface with hands and feet – and controlled using a companion smartphone app. It's not aimed at retiring human percussionists, but rather to give solo artists a way to rhythmically enhance their performance.

Users can opt to get the rhythm rocking straight away by firing up one of the included pattern presets, or can create their own beats. Patterns generated by other players can also be downloaded and kicked off. The Cabot with then tap out the selected beat on the front surface of the host Cajon using its three pad-tipped arms (in a similar fashion to the mesmerizing Perc system from Polyend).

Players can change beat patterns mid-song using the Cabot's included footswitch
Players can change beat patterns mid-song using the Cabot's included footswitch

Different patterns can be called up mid-song by stomping on the included footswitch, and the system can be synced to a PC or laptop running music creation software via MIDI. The robot Cajon player also sports LED lights out front for some extra visual appeal, though these can't be made to dance to the beat at the moment.

Hardware prototyping began in 2016, and work on the companion app followed a year later. The project team is currently working with a lab at Kyoto University in Japan to develop audio processing smarts for the system, possibly looking to tap into artificial intelligence to allow the Cabot to offer musicians original accompaniment that reacts to what's being played. And the project has just launched on Kickstarter to bring the Cabot into production.

Pledges start at ¥71,280 (about US$650) for a Cabot and footswitch, or ¥92,571 for a Cabot, footswitch and handmade Cajon. If all goes to plan, shipping will start in March 2019. The pitch video below has more on the project.

Sources: Utsuwa Inc, Kickstarter

Cabot - a smart percussion robot for solo musicians

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