Reimagining the piano: ROLI and the Seaboard

Date: 11 Nov 2014
Time: 18:30

Location: ROLI Ltd
2 Glebe Road
London E8 4BD

Lecture by Ben Supper, ROLI Ltd.

ROLI created the Seaboard as an evolution of the piano. The Seaboard sets out to endow the traditional piano keyboard with far greater powers of musical expression, without alienating existing musicians.

What is involved in producing such a musical instrument? In developing the Seaboard, ROLI has had to overcome several classes of problems. There are organisational difficulties: to build and mature a design and manufacturing company from scratch, and to reconcile the ambition of a nascent company with the realities of its capability. Alongside this are several classes of technical problems: to develop and refine new technologies; to find new materials and to learn to manufacture with them, and to bend the aged MIDI specification to handle more expressive information. There are social aspects to this task, too: ROLI has formed partnerships with synthesiser manufacturers, working groups, and industry pioneers to shape the Seaboard and provide it with an infrastructure of support.

This lecture picks out a few of these challenges, providing a perspective on how a new company sets out to innovate within the music industry.

Ben Supper has lectured to the AES in various guises: as a PhD student at the University of Surrey, as a panellist discoursing on digital signal processing, and a few times as the inventor of Focusrite’s VRM system. As Head of Research at ROLI since 2013, his mission is to provide other engineers with a rewarding and stable career, and the industry in general with a more interesting future.