Seed funding an invention kit that lets you make music from anything.

We partnered with creative studio Dentaku to launch their first product, an accessible platform for musical inventors everywhere.

Dentaku was founded by sound artist Yuri Suzuki and interaction designer Mark McKeague.

Yuri and Mark were creating a simple tool to make prototyping the studio's new musical inventions easier.

We worked with them to transform the vision for Ototo into a product that sparks creativity in others.

Ototo was crowdfunded by 917 backers, raising a total of £73,589 on Kickstarter. Dentaku went on to ship 2500 kits worldwide in its first year.

Meet Ototo

Ototo (meaning 'younger brother' in Japanese) is a circuit board synthesiser kit that lets you make music from anything.

Ototo features:

  • 12 key capacitive touch keyboard (1 octave) with connectors
  • 4 sensor inputs and range of 7 sensors to control sound including light and breath
  • Onboard speaker and headphone output
  • Powered by 2 x AA batteries or micro USB
  • No coding required works straight out of the box
  • 50 sound presets, from synth sounds to drum kits and dog barks!
  • Connect to other devices using USB MIDI

Play Testing in Public

We believe in finding playful ways to test ideas in the open with potential users.  It can be the fastest way to get real insights about how your idea fits in people's lives. 

With Ototo we needed to understand how easy it was to pick up and play, and discover what it inspired people to make.

Yuri and Mark demo Ototo at AND Fair (Image Courtesy: AND Festival, Credit: Kat Kynes)

Yuri and Mark demo Ototo at AND Fair (Image Courtesy: AND Festival, Credit: Kat Kynes)

We took the Ototo prototype to Abandon Normal Devices' AND Fair in Liverpool. The public got hands on with some early instrument experiments: a pots and pans drum kit, a bass-playing houseplant and a cardboard guitar.

At the 2013 GameCity festival in Nottingham, we tested the product with kids, hackers and musicians in the first Ototo invention workshop.

Over two days people used Ototo to make everything from an organ to a saxophone; and watery drum machines to a musical windmill.

Testing prototypes early creates valuable insights that shape the product vision.

Play-testing in public reframes users as co-creators.  In the Ototo workshops, we discovered people wanted to be able to control MIDI instruments, leading to the final kit being MIDI capable. By playing with the prototype in unexpected ways we discovered new interactions that led to novel features, like the breath sensor.

Excerpt from Ototo's illustrated guide designed by Naomi Elliott

Excerpt from Ototo's illustrated guide designed by Naomi Elliott

A Humble Masterpiece

In November 2014, Ototo was acquired by MoMA as part of their ongoing commitment to documenting humble masterpieces in design.  Ototo was brought into the collection alongside Makey Makey, Arduino, DIY Gamer Kit and Yuri Suzuki's own Colour Chaser.  It now sits in MoMA's permanent collection alongside products like the Post It, Bic Biro and Chupa Chups.

"These objects reflect the deep and central role technology and interface design now play in education, production, and our everyday lives. In their own unique ways they allow audiences, artists, designers, and active maker-culture enthusiasts, pros, children, and amateurs, to engage with the processes and final products that are usually the preserve of electronic engineers."

- Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, MoMA

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