Yamaha concepts bring tactile engagement to smartphone music
As you probably know, Yamaha makes motorbikes and scooters, bikes and ebikes, audio gear and musical instruments, and more besides. The Corporation also has an in-house think tank where design ideas from across the company can be shared, and the latest concept out of the Yamaha Design Lab is aimed at making smartphone-based music listening a little more interesting.
The basic idea behind the Stepping Out of the Slate proposal is to bring back the satisfying interactions with actual audio hardware that's been lost to the convenience of serving up streamed music via a few taps on a smartphone screen. The designers don't share how the various concepts actually work, but each device is accompanied by a video showing them in action.
The first prototype of the project is called the TurnT, and is essentially a faux turntable for the smartphone age. For some music lovers, setting the platter spinning, lifting up the stylus and gently placing it on vinyl to pick up the grooves before outputting the sounds through a speaker system connected to a hi-fi amplifier is very much a part of the musical experience.
For myself, I appreciate the fact that I need to get up every 20 minutes or so to flip the album over and enjoy more tunes (it reminds me to take regular breaks). Or carefully lifting and repositioning the tonearm to skip a track. Or even having to rummage through my vinyl collection to find something that suits my mood. The TurnT brings some of that to smartphone streaming.
After installing a companion mobile app, the listener places the smartphone atop the TurnT – which looks like a mini turntable deck. Then the dinky little tonearm is moved over to the spinning vinyl record onscreen and the screen-friendly "stylus" lowered to begin playback through a Bluetooth-paired speaker to the front of the unit. The tonearm can be raised and moved to skip tracks, and users can swipe through a library to change the album.
The next groovy idea from Yamaha designers is the Winder, a modern take on an olde worlde music box. Again working with a special app running on a paired smartphone, the song only starts to play after the key to the top of the hexagonal wooden block is turned to wind up a clockwork mechanism and released so that the spring unwinds.
For the MusicLight to work, listeners will need to pop a tea light in the device's frame. The music lined up in the app will only start playing when the candle is lit, with Yamaha saying that the flickering of the flame subtly affects playback and when the flame is extinguished the sound fades away.
The final concept is a four-piece ensemble that's got rhythm. Each cute little RhythmBot produces its own acoustic sound – the Cajon beats out a low-end tone, the Casta ups the pitch, Cym offers sharp accents and the Bell sparkles – and can be triggered using a smartphone's microphone. Together, they can play rhythms cooked into the smartphone or provide backline percussion to a musician's solo performance.
Though all of the prototypes are reported to be fully functional, Yamaha hasn't indicated any plans to make such devices available for sale. As such, they serve as engaging and fun novelties that provide food for thought.