Specdrums has been designed for folks who just can't contain their inner rhythm, which breaks out in the form of finger drumming on tabletops, thighs or any surface or object within reach. The smart ring wirelessly connects to a smartphone running a companion app and transforms taps into sounds. The system also recognizes different colors, putting a symphony of digital sound possibilities at a tapper's fingertips.
The tap-tastic smart ring is the brainchild of (then) Cornell students Matt Skeels and Steven Dourmashkin. Their "magic ring" concept was originally called Freedrums, and was designed to give drummers the freedom to play anywhere, any time. A few prototypes later, the project became Specdrums, a name coined to reflect the system's ability to transform colors into sounds.
Earlier this year, the startup sent out its first 100 portable drum machines to beta customers, and has now launched on Kickstarter to begin volume manufacturing.
"I was determined to create the most portable drumming machine, capable of turning my taps into real percussion sounds." said Specdrums founder Dourmashkin. "But what we've created is more than just a drumming tool – it's a new instrument that makes musical creation in general more accessible, welcoming, and fun."
The Specdrums ring is paired over Bluetooth to a smartphone running a companion iOS/Android app. RGB values are returned to the color sensor when the tap-activated LED shines a bright white light on the surface or object. These values are then matched to digital sounds in the app's library.
Those sounds could be keys on a piano, components of a drum kit or out-there synthesized noise. The idea is that users can play tunes, bang out rhythms or create synth symphonies by tapping a ring-packing finger onto colors in the world at large.
So, a player could, for example, use different colored clothing on various parts of the body – blue jeans, red t-shirt, green hat, pink socks and so on – to make tunes or beats. The system supports multiple simultaneous notes being sounded, so users can tap more than one smart ring at the same time to sound chords, and the ring's makers have also revealed that players can control the dynamics of output volume by altering the angle of tap attack, with sharper angles decreasing the volume.
Battery life is reported to be over 2 hours per charge over micro-USB, with a recharge taking just 30 minutes. A custom board rocking the LED and color sensor is contained within one-size-fits-all silicone housing.
A 12 key color chart will be supplied with the Specdrums package to get ring musicians started, but players can use any colored physical object as a sound trigger. Color/sound schemes can be saved for quick recall and short tune creations or rhythms can be looped within the app, with these Sloops available for sharing with friends on social media.
All sounds are output via the paired smartphone, either through its built-in speakers, headphones or external powered speakers. Moving beyond the companion app opens up MIDI possibilities for the Specdrums, which can then integrate with advanced music production software such as GarageBand or Ableton Live to take creativity to a whole new level. The makers have opened up the app and computer software libraries, too, giving developers more usage flexibility.
Kickstarter pledge levels currently start at US$34 for a single ring, rising to $39 once the early birds have gone. Players are likely to want to have more than one Specdrums ring tapping away, and up to 10 can be used simultaneously – though such a package bumps the pledge up to $349, which is quite expensive. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in January 2018. The pitch video below gives more on the project.