Sometimes when I’m scrolling through my timeline, it feels like I’m the only person who didn’t pick up a new hobby during quarantine. I’m not too proud to admit that, while others were busy learning to paint or knit or rollerskate, I was content scrolling through TikTok and sinking dozens of hours into Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. But now with the end of the year creeping ever closer, it’s got me nervously eyeing my dusty list of New Year’s resolutions, and this light-up learning keyboard makes one of them — picking up piano (and actually sticking with it this time) — look slightly less daunting.
It’s called the Lumi, and it goes on sale today for the first time after a four-year development cycle and a wildly successful Kickstarter that was fully funded in just 90 minutes (it went on to raise more than $US2 ($3) million). The portable mini keyboard, which is available for pre-order at $US299 ($424), pairs with an app and music library so users can follow along, tapping keys in time with on-screen cues a la Rock Band or Guitar Hero.
The developers behind it, the London-based music tech firm Roli, are known for adapting traditional music instruments into smart gadgets like its Seaboard synthesiser, a keyboard-style controller that lets you manipulate notes as you can on a guitar, and its modular Blocks music system.
While the Lumi’s primarily designed to be an entry point for beginners looking to learn piano, it doubles as a MIDI controller and is compatible with more advanced software and Blocks for more experienced electronic musicians. Also like Blocks, it’s a modular system, as Roli demonstrates in a promotional video by creating a ridiculously long keyboard of multiple Lumis linked together.
That $US299 ($424) preorder also comes with a carrying case and a discounted subscription to Lumi’s music library, which includes more than 100 lessons and 400 songs that range “from Beyonce to Beethoven,” as the company put in its press release. That subscription jumps to $US9.99 ($14) after the first year, making it clear that Roli’s hoping Lumi will find success as a service as much as it does as a gadget.
The first units are scheduled to ship in November, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have me geeking out a bit. I was one of those cringey kids who was far too eager to share with everyone that they could play Guitar Hero on expert, and the Lumi essentially looks like if Activision dusted off the IP for a piano-style rebrand. Do I need to spend my money on another expensive gadget that I don’t really need? Absolutely not. Am I going to? Well…If I’m going to make good on at least one New Year’s resolution this year, it might as well be with something cool that lights up, right?