New Turntable Uses Toy Blocks to Build Beats

Per Holmquist Beat BloxCourtesy of Per Holmquist

Thanks to Swedish inventor Per Holmquist, you can now literally build a song using colorful toy blocks. This is all made possible with a unique new turntable he has dubbed “Beat Blox.”

A few jumps ahead of the giant floor piano at FAO Schwartz, the clever gadget uses tangible interface technology and motion sensors to turn child’s play into music. You can check out the video here – but with fair warning that you will be dying to play with it as soon as you see it.

From a style standpoint, the brightly-colored contraption looks like something out of Ikea, or a very hip toy store. From a technology standpoint, the interface is sort of a modern twist on old wind-up music boxes. The difference is that there are no tiny ballerinas pirouetting on top, and the blocks are not striking tuned pins as they go around. Holmquist employed cutting-edge technology to execute the intuitive design, which he describes as “an interactive music machine that offers free creative expression without requiring prior knowledge.”

The Beat Blox has a total of fifteen digital distance sensors, five of which are stored within its wooden arm. These sensors enable the machine to interpret where you place the blocks as you tinker with the toy. The location data is then relayed back through an Arduino-based system, which creates different beats and tones based on the combinations you create.

Some have called Beat Blox out for being too derivative of a previous invention created by Ryan Raffa back in 2011, called “RhythmSynthesis.” Raffa’s creation utilizes a wide variety of shapes and colors on a glowing platform, and appears to be much more intricate than the minimalistic Beat Blox. However, the tangible interface employed is more or less the same. You can see RhythmSynthesis in action here.

Although the two utilize the same technology, they are definitely different takes on the idea, just like two auto companies designing different sports cars. The important thing is that they both have the same goal, which is to make music more interactive and accessible to people. And that’s exciting stuff indeed.

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