Roland presents an ultra-futuristic digital grand piano concept at CES
Concept pianos aren't exactly thick on the ground, but if this beauty is any indication we'd be happy to see more of them. Roland has spent decades making professional-grade digital musical instruments, and put a call out to designers to envision an ambitious digital grand piano. Here it is.
The GPX-F1 is the work of Korea's Jong Chan Kim, who studied Industrial Design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and who won Roland's Digital Piano Design Award back in 2015 with this piece, which he called "Facet."
Picking up the project in 2019, Roland's piano design team took Kim's striking design and started figuring out how to make it actually work as a viable digital grand piano for live performance.
Starting out with a set of weighted keys and the latest PureAcoustic Piano Modelling system, the Roland team decided to build a flat-panel speaker array into the frame and base of the machine to recreate some of the sonic majesty of a grand piano's resonant sound board.
That's for the audience's benefit; the pianist gets their own sonic environment thanks to near field speakers that enhance things like overtones and string-hammer sounds to bring the experience as close as possible to sitting down at a Steinway.
The music stand is fully digital, storing scores so there's no chance they'll blow away when you really get to work on some fast Chopin. The system's Android-powered, so theoretically you could be checking your Facebook while going through the motions of your easier performance pieces, and it comes pre-loaded with Zenbeats composition software and a neat little visualizer that reacts to your playing in real time.
It's not going to be a product; Roland has no plans for production. But it's undoubtedly a heck of thing to look at, we can see it making its way into a Hollywood futurist film with ease, and perhaps it could help set the stage for something like it down the track. In the meanwhile, Roland's own GP609 digital grand, with its much more traditional looks, may have to suffice.
The designer gives an overview of the piano and its creation in the video below.