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Brief Published: 11 Jan 2019

CES 2019: Specdrums Turn Colours into Music


Connected toy manufacturer Sphero has launched Specdrums, a digital instrument that creates music out of colours, at CES 2019.

Specdrums consists of a Bluetooth-enabled ring that uses light sensors to sample colours from a play pad or the surrounding environment, and an associated app – Specdrums Mix – which turns the colours into sounds from a curated selection of packs. More advanced users can add a second ring and use a more versatile Specdrums Music app with additional instruments, loops and sounds. The rings can also be used as MIDI controllers for third-party apps such as GarageBand and Ableton Live through Bluetooth MIDI.

First announced on Kickstarter in 2017 – and profiled in our CMF Industry View 2018 – Specdrums have been acquired by Sphero for launch this month. The product’s marriage of coding, music and play represents a new direction for the US company, best known to date for its robot toys.

Specdrums builds “a parallel framework between coding and music composition” said Paul Berberian, chief executive of Sphero, in a statement. “By seeing the world around them as a canvas, kids are able to use Specdrums to create their own songs using coding.”

The Specdrums ring is packaged with a colour pad
Specdrums can sample any colour and turn it into music

The next generation of digital natives are exploring an experimental and inclusive approach to design and interaction – a trend explored in our A/W 19/20 Design Direction Burst. As seen in our new report The Gen Alpha Moment, parents are also taking a keen interest in physical toys that bridge the gap between the digital and real worlds, bringing coding into the playroom. 

While Specdrums are initially targeted at kids, they can be expanded into a sophisticated digital musical instrument – one that builds on a growing consumer interest in products that explore synaesthesia and crossmodal perception. To see how brands can make use of multisensory experiences, read The Sensory Opportunity Spotlight Trend. 

Stylus will be covering all the latest developments from CES 2019 on The Brief – watch out for our full report on January 23. For more insights, see our CES 2019 Trends Preview.