New Modular USB MIDI Keyboard Controller – Keys

opho-keys-usb-midi

Opho – the developers behind the gTar iPhone guitar – have announced a modular USB MIDI controller, Keys.

Keys is a USB keyboard controller, designed to be modular, so it can be used as a beginning controller or scaled up for more advanced purposes.

Features:

  • Keys is fully USB-MIDI compliant. Use Keys with hundreds of music applications including Garageband, Ableton, ProTools, Logic and Cubase. Create music your way using your favorite tools.
  • Each of the 24 keys are equipped with LED lights that can each illuminate 192 different colors.
  • Weighted keys allow you to modify the sound output based on pressure and resistance for “piano like” expressions.
  • Keys is equipped with gesture recognition technology so you can control various parameters by just waving your hand above the keyboard.
  • You can magnetically link Keys devices together to create a larger keyboard or to other modules like Knobs and Pads to create custom music surfaces.

Here’s a video intro:

 Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 20 mm x 320 mm x 106 mm  (approx. 0.78″ x 12.59″ x 4.18″)
  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • Materials: Plastic reinforced with PCB (fiberglass) keys connected to a metal baseplate to add durability and rigidity
  • Octaves: 24 keys (2 octaves) (use gestures to transpose up or down)
  • Gesture sensors: Sensitive proximity sensors that are capable of recognizing gestures and can be used to modulate parameters like pitch, sustain, and mapped midi parameters
  • Processor: Texas Instruments 80Mhz ARM Cortext M4F
  • Output: Mini USB — charges Keys and can be used as a USB-MIDI connection
  • Power: Rechargeable LiPo Battery
  • Battery Life: Up to 8 hours
  • Device / OS Compatibility: USB-MIDI compatible with CoreMIDI on iOS, Mac, PC, and Android. Connect quickly and easily to your computer via Mini USB or to your iPhone using the optional dock.

Keys is being manufactured via a IndieGoGo project, and is available to project backers starting at US $88.

14 thoughts on “New Modular USB MIDI Keyboard Controller – Keys

  1. What a great idea, with several smart features to offer. It looks as utilitarian as my XKey, with some added pluses. Backing it with music training apps shows good foresight, too. If I have any “issues,” its only with the comparison to a piano, which is way off base. You can jump fairly easily from one synth or synth-toy to another, but to really make a piano speak requires time and commitment. Until you reach a certain level, its still a bit like hearing a starting student practice on a modest violin, sceech scrawk. I started out sweating over a real piano, so I have a different view than someone who started with “just” a computer and some controllers. Even the best Ivory grand takes time to master and it’ll never beat hearing wood and metal interact as you play. Its like comparing a graphic novel to its film version. The medium really does decide a lot, good and bad. The more angles from which you can view a thing, the broader you can get. My abstract 2 cents’ worth.

    While I see the keyboard as being a bit too stubby for me, its still a good working shape and the modularity is especially appealing. The open-endedness seems very well thought out. The colored LEDs seem mostly like a DJ showpiece feature, but the assignable gesture control is spot-on. Now if only companies like Korg would offer this kind of means with their serious M3 keyboard mechanism instead of all the clacky crap. 😛 I loosely expect for these to become rather popular. They bring a lot under one roof.

    1. Thanks for the kind words and also for the very thoughtful feedback. We’re new at Keyboards, and I tried to ensure we reduced the mention of Piano as much as possible in the marketing – but my words about it being a new take on Piano is true not just about Keys but any MIDI Keyboard. This is tech emulating the analog world of course, but the Piano is still the original inspiration. Probably a philosophical point, but at the core yes you’re right that this won’t help you master a Grand Piano (that’s a skill in itself, each interface will be unique)

      So I feel like I’m going to be answering the “clackity” issue question a lot, since in our video there’s a lot of that. We could have easily faked it, but we wanted to show how professional musicians immediately took to the instrument – since the keys are full sized keys and not mini-keys like many other keyboards of this form factor. The final design will not be so clackity, so please consider that these are prototypes in the videos and the final shipping product will be a lot more robust.

    1. Hey Puck,

      The device in the video is a pretty early functional prototype, the final version will be a much more robust Key mechanism that we just got initial tooling complete on! We’ll be doing some artist demos very soon, so stay tuned – we’ll try to show the closer to production versions which are a lot less rickety!

  2. The Keith McMillen K-Board seems like a better option for the price, just based on features and build quality (they soak it in water and run over it with trucks and it still works). The modularity is cool though, being able to add more of them. The sensors kind of remind of a roland d-beam haha.

    1. Hey Spencer,

      The KMI K-Board is a pretty amazing piece of technology, but it is also very different than Keys in some core ways. Most notably, the K-Board uses pressure sensitive pads with no travel while Keys are actual Keys. Not suggesting either one is better or worse, but they’re different – it’s up to your taste and preference.

      Also, one notable difference is that the K-Board has mini-sized Keys where Keys is comparable in scale to a traditional piano while still being a very compact controller than can fit in your backpack.

      Keys is pretty robust and portable, but I will admit I don’t think it’ll survive getting run over by a truck in it’s current version. We did play with some other materials, but had to go with an external plastic enclosure due to the nature of the multi-linking AMON technology which operates using optics through the plastic itself. Metal posed an issue we are working to fix in the future, but might be a while!

    1. Hey Wi,

      Thanks for the kind words about the AMON linking, that was a big effort on our part and we’re glad to see it’s getting attention since we haven’t really put too much focus on some of the other modules we’ve developed like Knobs and Pads for example (so stay tuned, although the knobs module is visible in that picture of the “in the studio” above)

      So to start, the clackety keys are the result of the Keys device in the videos we made is a pretty early stage functional prototype. The final version will be a lot more robust, and clack a while lot less. Stay tuned for some more videos we’re putting together with more up to date prototypes!

      The proximity sensors, while similar to, are not d-beams. We’ve heard this come up, but we developed them from the ground up. They do use similar IR proximity sensing at the core, but the speed at which they do so is very high and we have implemented some unique algorithms to determine whether a hand is being swiped across, or being held to do d-beam like proximity manipulation. One other, big difference, is that the output of these sensors is 100% configurable and each sensor is sent on it’s own control channel for some amazing use cases with MIDI mapping. Also, if multiple Keys are linked together each sensor sends on a different channel as well.

    1. Hey Mick!

      Sorry for that, but those are prototypes in the video and the final design will not be so “clackety”. Keys is a pure MIDI controller, so you can make it sound like anything you want – but these prototypes were really early functional prototypes. We launched this campaign to get support from the community to get these into production after all!

  3. I assume it supports poly pressure (and whatever other sensors it may have) like the QuNexus and the Xkey?

    The modular expansion feature is something that I’ve been wanting for a while with both the QuNexus and the Xkey, but it doesn’t work well if you have non-note buttons to the left or right of the note keys…

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