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Interview with Tania Fauvel from Kurv, the Stringless Digital Guitar

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Peter Bailey

Freelance Wordpress Developer in London (peabay.xyz) @peabay
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What is Kurv Guitar?

Kurv is a ‘stringless’ digital guitar that allows anyone to learn and play songs using touch, motion and gestures.

We were inspired by the guitar, but wanted to create an experience without the pain of having to contort your fingers to play chords.

The Kurv combines several technologies: motion sensors (accelerometers, magnetometers, gyroscopes), pressure sensitive touch pads, machine learning and music synthesis software.

The sensors give readings on where your hands are in 3D space and the touchpad allows you to use your fingers to play the chords or notes. Machine learning allows the system to learn your gestures e.g. a sideways slide of your hand to shift octaves, flicking your wrist to change from chords to notes. The music synthesis software produces guitar sounds which are indistinguishable from analogue guitars. The device uses 3D pressure sensitive touch Pads. What are those; similar to ROLI keys? We think the underlying technology is similar, but, there are some differences. We required a quick to response (when you move your fingers quickly like on a guitar) so the technology is fine tuned to deliver that.

Kurv Guitar Lifestyle Park Bench

How did the team find each other?

Suran was in Palo Alto about 2 years ago working on body-measurement using a variety of sensors. There he met people who were with the ‘quantified self’ movement who were using different types of sensors to track your body. As someone who gave up playing the guitar at the age of 10, after a few weeks of trying (he found bar chords impossible to play on an acoustic guitar with steel strings), Suran had always thought that there must be a simpler way….He then reached out to John Kennedy (previous Chairman of Universal Music) whom he had known for about 15 years to become a co-founder of the company, and also remembered that he had given a talk at the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths University in London, which has outstanding expertise in computational music. Dr Mick Grierson and Dr Chris Kiefer at Goldsmiths had just completed a project using mobile devices for real-time music synthesis and work on the Kurv started…

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What kind of tech was used in the early prototypes?

Our early prototype was a Glove. But, we soon realised gloves are not comfortable and generally people can’t wait to take them off. Tania Fauvel, the designer of the Kurv interface, then developed a form factor that clips into the palm of your hands. Its so light you literally forget you’re wearing it and is well fitted so you can even type on a keyboard while wearing it.

Tell us a bit about what the SDK will let developers do

We developed the Guitar as ‘a reference instrument’, and don’t plan to develop new instruments ourselves, but, to allow our community to use their creativity to develop new experiences. The SDK will allow developers to build new musical instruments (e.g. violins, drums), new interfaces (e.g. controlling stage lighting) and also to control games (e.g. as a VR controller).

Kurv Guitar App UI User Interface Compose

What part of the project did you file a patent for?

We have filed both utility and design patents covering the function and form of the Kurv.

Are you working with anyone to help with the project (Hardware Club, an adviser)?

We talked to many people who had developed hardware devices in the US, Europe and in Asia. We also convinced engineers who had experience in designing cars and precision hardware devices to join our team.

What could version two look like? Other instruments?

Our next releases will have a focus on VR – its something that we are very excited about and have just started developing some early prototypes.

Posted 06th Jan 2016
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