Roland look for the ‘future of piano’ with unique designs in award competition

Roland held a digital piano design awards to get some of the world’s unheard minds to create unique new designs that could inspire future Roland pianos.

Roland are synonymous with some of the most high quality pianos and keyboards in the world, but their ‘Roland Digital Piano Design Awards’ sought to show off the creative minds outside of their talented in-house teams.

The theme for the designs was ‘Unleash’, setting out to find a digital piano concept that breaks with tradition and creates a new style and sensibility for the instrument. Now the results are in Roland said, on their official awards page:

For almost 300 years, the piano has enriched our lives with its expressive sounds and played a central role in our musical culture. Roland has been at the forefront of piano innovation since the release of our first all-electronic piano in 1973. In the summer of 2015, raising the bar once again, our next-generation high-end Roland digital pianos debuted with modern digital features housed inside luxurious cabinets. With the Roland Digital Piano Design Awards, we took another leap forward in digital piano design and technology, breaking free from traditional forms and sounds. In collaboration with the planet’s most forward-thinking designers and artists, we set out to push the boundaries and explore the future of digital pianos. The results are in…

The grand prize went to Jong Chan Kim for his ‘Facet Grand Piano’

The Facet Grand Piano is designed with two keyboards in mind: “unique” and “elegance”. All of the speakers are placed within the base sound chamber not only to boost the sound quality, but also to introduce a new design that challenges current perceptions. The solid base produces accurate and excellent sound quality that will be sure to astound audiences, while the absence of a soundboard completes the instrument’s modern expression.

The lid’s function is also critical, serving as the canvas for audio reproduction, with sound waves bouncing off it towards the audience. Unlike other digital pianos, it has a full touchscreen for interfacing with other digital enhancements. The Facet is a true vision of the future, breaking with traditional styles and methods of piano construction.

electric digital piano awards competitionSouth Korean born and raised Jong Chan Kim said on his design: “First of all I did not expect to win the Grand Prize, and I really appreciate Roland for giving me this great design prize. In my initial design concepts, I focused on how to translate an iconic grand piano’s design to a piano of the future. I was thinking through many different perspectives of the piano.

“Then I decided that putting a speaker at the bottom of the piano would allow me to maintain the design essence of the piano while also enabling me to give it a futuristic look. I give thanks to my mentor, Tim Tan, who gave me good advice, and to everyone who decided to choose me for the Grand Prize.”

Roland also commented on Kim’s design, saying: “The basic structure of this piano cabinet is truly striking, seemingly “floating” on the base unit, which is equipped with the sound system. The sound is generated from the base unit through the outer frame and reflects on the piano’s top board. This audio process is a unique concept that takes full advantage of a digital piano’s potential and enhances it.

This design offers a fresh, innovative appearance while keeping the logical structure of the piano. Its attractive form, realised through polyhedron styling, is visually stunning and well deserving of the Grand Prize. The design idea leaves room for further development with the projection of lighting and visual elements on the top board in addition to the sound.”

The Excellence Award went to Nicola Russo for his futuristic ‘SONUS’

piano Roland competition awards

Sound waves, harmonic fusion, infinity – the Roland SONUS makes visible what sound waves generate, from vibrations to shape; a piano design as elegant, fluent, continuous, and eternal as the infinite movement of the music. The keyboard appears from under the glossy surface of the black or white top, while the integrated piano seat flows from this dynamic shape naturally. The Roland SONUS reflects a constant state of motion, embodying the infinite waves of music.

Designer, Italian Nicola Russo said: “I want to thank Roland for this amazing opportunity. I read that four-and-a-half out of every five graphic designers work while listening to music, so both music and design share a lot in common, especially in terms of creativity. Both seek to establish some kind of connection, imparting a carefully crafted message into everyone’s psyches where, hopefully, it will resonate for hours, days, and months to come. It’s a magical balance.”


You can see all the other finalists under “Incentive Awards” from Roland’s official page for the Digital Piano Design Awards.

Apple Developing Siri Powered Speaker To Rival Amazon Echo

It was only a matter of time before Apple got into the home speaker business, using Siri’s artificial intelligence to challenge Amazon speakers’ Alexa.

Tech giant Apple have tackled most markets: they’re forerunners in home computing, market leaders in smartphones, MP3 player trailblazers with iPods, and more. Better late than never it’s been revealed that Apple are working on a home Wi-Fi speaker powered by Siri, to compete with Amazon’s Echo powered by Alexa.

According to reports the speaker will open up Siri to third-party app developers for a flexible and customised AI. Although details are scarce the speaker will primarily feature what you’ve come to expect from these home AI speakers: voice control, music streaming, web search for questions, personal assistant functions, and more.

Home speakers appear to be becoming the new fad as just last week Google announced ‘Google Home‘ which is, yes, the same thing but Google’s. Although Google’s reveal got us excited with it’s promised improvements upon various aspects of the Amazon Echo, it unfortunately doesn’t serve as the setting for a sci-fi action movie quite like Siri versus Alexa does.

Amazon Echo home speaker AI assistant Apple Siri home

Will Apple’s globally recognised brand name be enough to make the Siri speaker a hit? Only time will tell, but you can be sure to find out here when any more details are released.

Become An Alien With These Wireless Headphones ‘Pods’

A new startup – Human Inc. have revealed their breakthrough product and it’s a pod for your ears that they hope will revolutionise wireless headphones.

The project, simply called Sound, is being backed by $5 million in funding last month and looks (and acts) like an egg-shaped sock for your ear. Human Inc. claim that Sound “is the closest thing to personal surround sound one could experience”.

Sound features ambient noise control so you can decide how much of the outside world you want to hear, or how little. Now it starts to get interesting – Human Inc. claim that these devices can amplify into a loud-speaker that they say will surpass the volume and audio quality of most smartphones.

The ‘Sound’ works using touch commands that let you take a call, adjust volume, navigate tracks, power on and off, and more functions. Co-founder and CEO, Ben Willis says: “Human (Inc.) is creating a new era of technology, and our first program focuses on what we believe is the most emotive of the human senses. The Sound program will fundamentally transform the way the world experiences both audio and interpersonal communication.”wireless headphones Sound pods weird audio

That’s yet to be seen, though it’s design is definitely unique. The Sound features touch control as well to take calls, adjust volume, navigate tracks, power on and off, and more. As fitting all the components of a good speaker into wireless headphones has been a big issue it’s interesting to see Human Inc.’s supposedly revolutionary design that seems barely bigger than your ear.

Other features are supposedly instantaneous wireless connections and consistent sync between both ears, and the ability for multiple listeners using Sound to connect to the same source – like a silent disco but with a few of your friends whilst you look like aliens.

Willis said: “This is something we wanted to do for a long time. It’s a take on sound and headphones that will completely disrupt and replace much of what the industry is currently using.”

Jaybird Freedom Earphones Re-Enliven The Bluetooth Earphone Market

Freedom earphones hope to make bluetooth earphones mainstream, and they’re close to the right formula.

There’s no single reason why bluetooth ear and headphones haven’t caught on but connection issues, lesser sound quality, and higher cost cover just some of them. Freedom earphones, from renowned HQ audio manufacturer Jaybird, may be the turning point.

Coming in at just under $200 ($199.95 to be exact) Freedom defies expectations but going with metal buds. Bluetooth headphones normally use plastic as metal can inhibit the bluetooth signal, something Jaybird have worked around using high-quality injection molded metal parts “creating stunning fashionable accents with a premium iconic feel – without affecting signal performance”. They also claim the metal casing removes distortion for a sound never before heard from Bluetooth earphones.

bluetooth headphones

Another issue with bluetooth headphones has always been battery charge, and at 4 hours Freedom doesn’t blow competitors out of the water. Freedom earphones do change it up with a charging clip that gives them an extra 4 hours charge – it’s not the most convenient way to extend battery life but the clip is lightweight and small.

The built-in remote works the same as you’re used to by now – with 3 buttons for volume up, down, and play as well as other functions for other uses, like phone calls. The Jaybird MySound App connect to Freedom and allows you to control, customise, and save eq settings for the buds. Once you save your presets they’ll come with you no matter what device you’re playing from.

wireless bluetooth headphones

Freedom earphones, as with many bluetooth earphones, are focussed towards use for exercise (no wire tangling) but at an affordable price for good quality bluetooth earphones they aren’t exclusive. That does mean it comes with some extra benefits, however: sweat proof earbuds, patented secure-fit for ultra comfort, and 20% smaller design than Jaybird’s predecessors.

With it’s unique design choices allowing for unparalleled quality in bluetooth earphones, and it’s small charging pack Freedom offer something new, though perhaps not revolutionary.

You can find out more or buy a pair for yourself from here: www.jaybirdsport.com/freedom-bluetooth-headphones.

Google Home: Google’s Answer To The Amazon Echo Home Speaker and AI Assistant

Google Home is the new speaker and assistant from tech leaders Google and that only rivals but surpasses Amazon’s Echo.

Led by Google’s vice president of product management Mario Queiroz, the man behind the massively successful Google Chromecasts. The basic design will be familiar with in-built AI, music streaming functions, and the ability to control certain household appliances – but with Google’s finesse it manages to improve on every area of the Amazon Echo.

For the voice activated AI Google have gone for an updated version of the Google Now voice search, to create Google Assistant. Google Assistant’s biggest difference is it’s depth in that it can answer questions and take part in conversations (though how coherent a conversation with AI would be, even in 2016, is questionable). CEO Sundar Pichai said: “Think of the assistant, we think of it as a conversational assistant, we want users to have an ongoing two-way dialog.”

Google Home music streaming cast

Using Google Home’s voice control you can ask it to play music, perform functions with smart home devices, set calendar reminders and events, search Google and much more. Google’s assistant has lots of functions spanning services and platforms, Pichai added: “Think of the assistant as an ambient experience that extends across devices – Computing evolving beyond phones.”

Google have listed some of the partners that will have functionality with Google Home, including: Uber, Spotify, Pandora, WhatsApp, Grubhub, Saavn, ticketmaster and more; with plenty more to be revealed and introduced no doubt. The Google Home can access services like music streaming from the cloud but also works with Google Cast.

Google Cast functionality isn’t surprising but incredibly convenient. You can tell the Google Home to stream a video on YouTube from your Chromecast, or connect your laptop and play music out of Google Home’s speaker. And so we move onto the speaker itself, does it improve on Amazon’s mediocre sound quality?

Simply – yes. As Google Home is always plugged in it has more power than it’s portable competitors. Lead developer Mario Queiroz said that the power allows it to “really fill the room” with “strong bass and clear highs”. As it connects up to Chromecast’s it works as multi-speaker system as well or for multi-room music listening.

Google Home AI assistant music

Quieroz spoke on the advancements with their AI, comparing it to the Echo saying it’s good but “then you start getting deeper and it doesn’t work very well, then you’re sort of disappointed. And I think that happens with Alexa sometimes.” Thanks to Google’s powerful search systems and it’s Knowledge Graph it’s AI can use context to make conversation easier. For example if you want to ask about a musician it can give you some information, from there you can ask vague questions that Google Assistant can work out in the context like “what was their first album?” or “who did they tour with last year”.

Google Home is set to launch later this year for a currently undefined price. If you want to sign up for updates you can at: home.google.com.