Connected Objects Music

The Kombos modular MIDI keyboard puts a full keyboard in your backpack

Aspiring producers, DJs, and musicians are between a rock and a hard place: either buy a full-size keyboard and have logistical issues, or get a smaller one and be stuck with not enough keys. In 2016, the team behind the Kombos modular keyboard thought it was about time to do something about it.

With its wireless, modular design, the Kombos USB-MIDI/MIDI keyboard can either be set to a 25-, 37-, 49-, or 61-key configurations depending on what’s needed at the moment. And since its pin system lets it disconnect easily, it can fit into a book bag, letting maestros jam out pretty much anywhere. It’s Bluetooth enabled, as well, so it connects to pretty much any device and functions with everything from the lowest cost music creation app to the very high-end stuff like Ableton Live and Logic.

Connected Objects

Askey helps you remember if you locked the door

While a number of of sophisticated smart locks that one can control from around the world have made their debut, many folks just want a little help remembering whether they locked the door.

patent-claimedAskey is a device that easily attaches to a key and tracks when the key has been used via a motion sensor that accurately registers the key’s movement. The accessory is activated and starts to record the key’s movement when the user moves the key from its resting position. It comes in a choice of five colors and works in conjunction with a mobile device app, available now for Android only, but a port for iOS is coming also.

Askey uses Bluetooth 4.0 LE and ships in March at future pricing of about $60. But Kickstarter backers can get one at the early bird price of about $36. Its makers hope to raise $51,493 by May 30.


Kphob tracks door locking on the cheap with a turn of the key

It’s a common problem. After leaving the house, it’s often hard to remember if the door was locked and it’s just too time-consuming a lot of the time to return home and check.

patent-claimedKphob is a key fob that records whenever the user locks a door with an attached key. It uses several sensors, including a magnetometer and accelerometer, to track every motion of the key. The device also tracks the time and date of each entry and exit. It features a small display that shows the date and time.

Kphob ships in December. Future pricing is expected to be about $18. Early bird Kickstarter backers can get one first with a pledge starting at about $21. Its makers hope to raise $18,242 by May 5.

Alas, the fob only works only with physical keys, so consumers who have only a remote-controlled lock need not apply. Users must physically rotate the key inside the keyhole for at least one full rotation/revolution. But its makers are working on the algorithm to make it possible for 180-degree rotation detection.


Smart Home

With a smart lock, Monkey lets one key replace all others

The biggest issue with the sea of smart locks on the market is their design. As they can only really be used by homeowners, a large population of apartment dwellers miss out on the convenience having a smart lock provides because they still need a physical key for the front door of the building.

Locumi Labs thought it was time for a solution, creating the Monkey keyless entry system. Instead of being a typical smart lock, the monkey takes the form of an extremely compact, Wi-Fi enabled chip that is easily installed in the intercom in an apartment or home. From that point, a companion iOS or Android app is able to open the building’s main entrance using an app command, time-restricted access, or smartphone proximity for hands-free access.


SOMATO makes keyboard keys rise up, demand to be felt by budding typists

Many educators agree that the influx of new technology in school over the past 10 to 15 years has led to a decrease in the quality of handwriting.

To the team behind SOMATO, this is troubling because it’s indicative of a loss of tactile character recognition — essentially, how cognitively involved people are in the act of typing. To address the declining connection between our physical and mental processes when composing words, keycaps with raised bump structures were developed to be used on any physical QWERTY keyboard.

Connected Objects Music

Xkey Air lets you stylishly make MIDI music on the go

The original Xkey keyboard by The CME Group is a MIDI-compliant keyboard that boasts a slim profile and strong aluminum finish, with its only issue being its reliance on a USB connection. Although its design has received positive reviews from both amateur and pro musicians alike, the questions remained: when would a wireless version be created?

For those who were waiting, the wait is now over: the Xkey Air is the Bluetooth LE-compatible version of the Xkey. The Xkey Air retains all the features that made the original so appreciated, and as such users can still expect either 25 or 37 real-sized keys that are velocity sensitive along with a suite of programmable buttons that control characteristics such as octave, modulation, pitch, and sustain. Wireless instruments have always had to contend with problems of latency and battery life and the Xkey Air does its best to address these through just a 7 ms latency and an advertised minimum of 10 hours of battery life.


Watcher watch watches what warrants watching

Consumers are still trying to figure out exactly what the relationship will be between the smartphone and the smartwatch. However, one popular task that smartwatches can help us with is sensing more about our environment.

In the case of Watcher, that might include things that are in danger of possibly leaving one’s environment. The smartwatch has a number of features common to smartwaatches — an e-paper display like the first Pebble, notifications from a smartphone, and basic step counting. However,  Watcher can also track up to five objects in its proximity via a low-power RF system. These might include a wallet, kids, pets or keys.

A thermometer add-on is also available for, say, monitoring a baby’s temperature. Watcher also can track how long it’s been next to another Watcher for something it calls “sweet time.” It’s a feature similar to the main reason for another recent Kickstarter watch, Serendip.

Connected Objects Music Tech Accessories

Keys MIDI keyboard gestures create new wave with a hand wave

MIDI controllers are already hugely popular with music making aficionados, from lone bedroom creators to DJs dropping beats in front of enthusiastic crowds around the world. Typically, music makers are extremely creative types who are always open to  different ways of interacting with their homegrown sounds.

Keys, a product from Team Opho, provides a new way of doing just that. Keys is a modular, LED-equipped MIDI keyboard designed for both novices and pros alike. Along with being compatible with widely used music software suites like Logic, ProTools, and Ableton, Keys can also be hooked up to computers and smartphones. The weighted keys on the keyboard offer users a comfy and responsive touch.

Additionally, Keys incorporates gesture controls and an embedded proximity sensor which enables users to control a number of different parameters like octave and pitch while giving them the ability to sustain them with different movements. If that’s not enough, Keys are modular and can be linked together immediately. In other words, without any wires or configuration, 24 keys can become 48 or 72 keys instantly. Keys can be had for just $92, and Team Opho, which previously created the gTar,  is looking for $50,000 in funding to get it off the ground.

Unlike other illuminated keyboard controllers, Keys needs to be charged. Its slick quick-attach networking happens without Bluetooth, so backers will need a Keys dock for its magic to take place (semi-)wirelessly. Still, the product’s gestural control, modularity and feedback truly makes it a stand out. Advanced musicians and deejays will appreciate that it’s compatible with many products already popular today even as the company preps its own apps. Those interested in this sort of experimental product can look to Skoog for another colorful take on the MIDI interface.


The Backerjack Podcast, Episode 9: the lock, the keys, and captures in sticky situations

Steve and Ross start out Episode 9 of the Backerjack Podcast with a quick update on last week’s discussion of the record-breaking Pebble Time campaign before moving on to discussing three impressive projects:

  • Sesame lock, an easy-to-install way to retrofit an existing deadbolt lock and replace your keys with your iPhone
  • Opho Keys, a MIDI keyboard with LED-illuminated keys, gesture control, and even the ability to magnetically attach to other Keys. The keyboard will have support on over 150 apps at launch
  • Podo, a colorful and Bluetooth-connected way to replace the dreaded selfie stick

Kubonets creates magnetic organization space for keys, lots of other little things

Car keys, sunglasses, and mobile phones are just a few of the little things in life that always seem to disappear. Being consistent with where they are stored can be helpful for keeping track of where they are. Kubonets offers a magnetic mount as one solution to keeping items at arm’s reach and at one’s fingertips.

The magnets are set in wood blocks for easy mounting. Backers can choose from mahogany, padauk, and walnut settings, and the wooden mounts can be attached to a wall, refrigerator, tool shed, or wherever else some organization is needed. The product is easily mounted with either an adhesive tape or glue. It appears that each mount comes with adhesive tape, though this is not specifically stated.

Kubonets may be most useful in the kitchen with metal cooking utensils or in a tool shed.  The individual blocks are a little small, however. Kubonets’ creators may want to consider adding larger units to their product line. Backers may also be interested in Elevation Rack and Bench. This campaign seeks to raise $500 on Kickstarter. Backers get one set of nine Kubonets for $30 with an expected delivery of February 2015.