Thursday, March 02, 2006

Let the dumb sing!

I recently wrote mechanical engineer Motohide "Moto" Hatanaka, inventor of the Bento Box handheld electronic musical instrument (html form, or pdf with pictures), to inquire about the device's development. Unfortunately, it is dead, though Moto's company, Takram Design Engineering, produces a related product that allows for rapid input of japanese characters.

I write:

Thanks for the reply, Moto. I am interested in handheld electronic instruments, in short, because I wish one existed that I could play with. I am talented with an ear for music and a great memory for harmony, but I am physically clumsy and have never succeeded in mastering an instrument sufficient to allow me to make my musical thoughts a reality. Electronic instruments promise to allow a more direct transfer of musical thought to audible sound, because they may focus on ease of input without dwelling on physical acoustical design.

As I see it, the problem of allowing input into such a device that would be both a) intuitive, b) easy, c) accurate, and d) fast is a very challenging one, which may not be possible to solve according to the standards I would hold such devices to. But if it could be solved, I think the solvers (and, more accurately, the corporation who would buy their design) could make a huge number of musically-inclined people happy, and make a bundle of money in the process. I have searched frequently over the past few years for work being done on such a device, but I have seen little in the direction of innovative prototypes; bento box was one significant exception, and I have been meaning to write you for at least a year.