The new Yamaha Vocaloid Keyboard transforms the Vocaloid software into a ready-to-play device. 16-keys represent consonants and vowels, while at the same time selecting a tone on the keyboard. An LED display prints out each letter as its plays, ensuring that you aren’t making any playing errors. Experienced musicians who have used the device found that they were able to produce nursery rhymes after three hours of practice, but sadly the company isn’t planning to press it into production. Instead, as the chip inside is “removable,” it might contemplate licensing it to another interested party.
The keyboard is made possible by the relative simplicity of Japanese phonology, with only fifty or so possible syllables in the language altogether. Syllables are selected by simultaneously pressing a Roman alphabet key with a D-pad-shape modifier for one of the five Japanese vowels — so, for example the “K” key with an “A” directional press would result in a “KA” consonant. This is all done with the left hand, with the right hand controlling each syllable’s pitch via a standard keyboard layout, and there’s an LED display to confirm character input. The interface seems simple and logical for Japanese speakers, though it will take some practice to get right.
The keyboard is still in development with no solid plans for a commercial release, and the prototype still looks pretty rough from a design standpoint. The company says it’s more likely that it would provide the sound chip inside for other companies to use in their own hardware. However, if the product ever sees the light of day, it could well be the next step along the way to Vocaloid domination.
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