Dave Sharples and David Glanzman had a pretty lofty idea. They wanted to create an entirely new instrument. Not just another keyboard based synthesizer or grid of buttons. They wanted to make an interface that felt entirely different. The two pulled it off pretty well with the Joytone. At very first glance, it may just seem like a honeycomb shaped grid of buttons, but if you look a little bit closer you’ll see that there is a joystick within each of those hexagonal compartments.
The Joytone has 57 “keys”, each with its own RGB LED inside. Unfortunately, at the time of the first showing, there was an issue getting the RGB part of it all to work correctly so the videos only show the default blue color that the joysticks use when powered. As you can see in the picture above, the added effect of the RGB is quite pleasing, so Dave plans on implementing that a little further down the road.
All of those keys are run through a Raspberry Pi which handles the audio libraries. Even that part of it wasn’t without issue:
We also hadn’t finished writing the code to make it polyphonic, so we were playing in monophonic mode (one note at a time) during the demo. It’s actually a miracle this worked at all, considering we’d been awake for about 48 hours.
Despite these setbacks, the admittedly limited version visible in the video is still very impressive. Hopefully Dave will share his future updates with us as he unlocks these added capabilities. If you’d like to see more pictures of the build, or follow along with the rest of the Joytone updates, you can find that on his blog.