Technology, Accessibility & Creativity at Music Tech Fest – Skoog Gets Hands-On with the Latest Developments

Last weekend the Skoog Team were in Berlin at the 2016 Music Tech Fest (MTF) – a festival of music ideas. Founded in 2012, MTF has continued to be at the bleeding edge of creativity and technology. What was particularly interesting this year was the theme of ‘what’s next’ for the ideas that are born at the festival. 

The kids show off their creations at the hack event at Music Tech Fest.
The kids show off their creations at the hack event at Music Tech Fest.

With Viktoria Modesta, the world’s first bionic pop star, headlining the festival the relationship between technology, creativity and accessibility seemed to come to the fore in this years festival. Skoog featured as part of Sunday’s ‘Rituals’ sessions alongside projects like Polyjam and the Drake Music’s Inclusive Creativity partnership. Sunday’s fun and games also included a hack event for kids – it was great to see youngsters rolling their sleeves up and getting busy with wires, paint and crocodile clips to create their mixed media monster creations. 

Gawain Hewitt's presentation
Gawain Hewitt’s presentation

With Skoog 2.0 having launched globally with Apple in earlier in May as part of Apple’s Accessibility Accessories, and Drake Music’s ‘Kellycaster’ project securing funding for a concert-ready prototype, the landscape of accessible music technology is changing. With crowdfunding empowering the maker movement and connecting creative technologists with tech hungry consumers the future is looking very exciting indeed.

The theme of accessibility and inclusion was evident in the hackathon presentations that closed proceedings on Sunday. It was great to see the teams overtly talking about accessibility in their presentations as part of the norm as opposed to it being a special theme of the hack. As Gawain Hewitt of Drake Music pointed out during his presentation, accessibility is something everyone should consider when creating new technologies.

One of our highlights of the festival was meeting PERC and the team from Polyend. Perc is a really interesting product – a MIDI-controlled mechanical device that can play acoustic percussive instruments, or anything really! Almost immediately we had the same idea and squeezed a Skoog underneath one of the PERC’s they had set up to see what would happen. Could PERC play Skoog? See and hear the result for yourself below…

…Skoog – accessible to man and machine!

The experiment has some interesting ramifications for artists with disabilities who face challenges in performance. Systems like PERC that are controlled via a sequencer or MIDI set up can be used to physically interact or bridge the gap with other acoustic or electronic instruments enabling more performers to explore the world of live performance.  With the first batches of PERC shipping in September 2016, we will be watching this space with great interest – and looking forward to a more expansive Skoog PERC jam in the future!

So what’s next for MTF and the ideas conceived under it’s care? Well time will tell, but it certainly feels like there are going to be more performance projects and commercial products coming to light as a result of the MTF melting pot, and that is a very exciting place to be!