The Lumi, a new type of portable keyboard and all-in-one music-learning system, goes on sale Oct. 1 for the first time after four years of development and Kickstarter funding. A $299 (£299, or about AU$540) light-up mini keyboard pairs with an app and music library to help you follow along with songs, lessons and musical exercises.
The Lumi comes from London-based music technology company Roli. The company has also developed unique instruments such as the Seaboard, a reinvention of the typical keyboard, which is used by a number of musicians including Grimes and Hans Zimmer. It also has a modular Blocks music system, sold at Apple Stores.
But the Lumi is designed to be less intimidating for beginners. You load up the Lumi app on a phone or tablet, and sync it with the light-up keyboard. Some lessons look similar to gameplay from Rock Band or Guitar Hero, where a colorful note approaches on tablet screen, and lights on the keyboard cue you on which keys to press -- with video guidance along the way. The app offers a library of more than 400 songs, 100 lessons and 380 exercises.
From Oct. 1 until the end of the year, the Lumi is being offered as a bundle, so the $299 price includes a free case and discounted subscription to the complete Lumi app library. The first units are scheduled to ship in November.
After the first year, a subscription of $9.99 a month (or $79 a year) is needed to keep unlocking the full library of courses. The keyboard itself, called the Lumi Keys 1 model, includes roughly 40 songs, 60 lessons and 72 exercises, so it's still useable even if you don't pay for the subscription.
If you're more experienced, multiple Lumi keyboards can be attached to allow you to play more octaves. The keyboard is also compatible with advanced software, so it can grow to become a tool to produce music.
I took 10 years of piano lessons growing up, but I'm a bit rusty these days without practice. I'm fascinated to see how much this system can teach folks without a live instructor -- and whether it can help me strengthen my atrophied skills. I'll be sure to update with my impressions once I get a chance to play with it.
Correction, Sept. 28: A previous version of this story indicated that the Lumi was on sale now. The company moved the launch back to Oct. 1.