On a recent trip to Seoul, CH had the chance to check out the degree show at Hongik University, a school that has one of the strongest fine arts and design programs in South Korea. One of the projects that attracted a fair amount of attention was Rubato, an interactive Bluetooth speaker designed by graduating student Kibbum Park. Park named it after the Italian musical term "Tempo rubato," which directly translates to "stolen time." When rubato is indicated in a score, performers break the established tempo to express a spontaneous emotion. Similarly, Park's speaker offers a certain musical freedom by allowing listeners to change not only the volume but also the rhythm and even the pitch of the music playing—not by pressing buttons, but by mimicking the movements of a conductor's baton.
The controller, which lives on the speaker deck and is detachable, serves as this baton. Holding down a button and swinging the controller left to right will increase volume; raising or lowering the controller changes the pitch. Change the song's BPM by performing repeated motions, such as tapping the wand on your thigh at the speed you desire—check out the video to see it all in action. The listener no longer sits passively but can use their full body to play conductor (or DJ) and influence the music.
While Rubato isn't available for purchase yet, it's exciting to see more active and natural interaction in speaker technology, as well as other personal electronic devices. With Bluetooth speakers becoming the standard, there is so much to explore in the ways we connect and interact with our devices from afar. Rubato as a smartphone app could provide a lot of possibilities.
Images courtesy of Kibbum Park