60 seconds with: Lauren Ianni, ROLI

Smithers Rapra conducted a Q&A sessions with Silicone Elastomer World Summit 2015 speaker Lauren Ianni from ROLI, getting a sneak preview into her presentations for the Barcelona event and how ROLI utilised elastomers in their latest product.

Lauren Ianni, Program Manager, ROLI Ltd.

Lauren is the Program Manager for New Product Development at ROLI. She also works as a design researcher. ROLI is a design-led technology company which makes integrated hardware and software products and services designed to expand the bandwidth of interaction between people and technology.

Lauren previously served as fellow and designer for the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Harvard Global Health Institute. She holds an A.B. from Harvard University.

Smithers Rapra: Would you like to briefly explain who ROLI are and what they do?

Lauren Ianni: ROLI is a design-led technology company. ROLI makes hardware and software products designed to expand the bandwidth of interaction between people and technology. We are a team based in East London and have established ourselves as a leading innovation company in London’s fast-growing technology community. Currently, ROLI designs and produces new tools for musical expression. The team is proud to have just announced the release of our new product this September 2015 – the Seaboard RISE. Previously, we released our first product line in March 2013 – the Seaboard GRAND.

Smithers Rapra: What is the Seaboard RISE and what is the role of elastomers in the product?

Lauren Ianni: The Seaboard RISE is a next-generation musical instrument. Traditional keyboards are a dominant tool for artists, composers and producers worldwide, but their expressive range is frustratingly limited. The Seaboard RISE interface remodels the keyboard as a pressure-sensitive, continuous surface that responds to even the subtlest gestures. The primary product interface – the ‘keywave’ – is composed of a sensor-loaded, continuous complex contoured elastomer. The technology creates a pressure-sensitive surface which enable musicians to play with multi-axis gestures and pressure fluctuations.

Smithers Rapra: Why are elastomers used as opposed to other materials for the interface?

Lauren Ianni: Elastomers allow us to ‘layer’ materials with different elastomeric properties, creating a truly unique three-dimensional touch experience. By doing this, we create a surface responsive to a range in touchgesture input. For example, over the course of fraction of a second, a musician may use one hand to strike, press, slide, glide or release the keywave’s supple surface to play a set of notes, and the other simultaneously, to manipulate the sonic parameters of that set in real time. This high resolution of three-dimensional expressiveness is not achievable with a rigid material like a touch-screen.

Smithers Rapra: How does the ROLI team approach the development of a product which requires a degree of openendedness in its end use?

Lauren Ianni: It is both one of our most significant challenges and one of the most exciting aspects of the project. Musicians require tools which empower them to achieve their technical ambitions as well as afford them the liberty to experiment intuitively. Ultimately, the Seaboard product family creates instruments for intuitive music creation through haptic interaction. We can specify the end use cases to a point, but in practice, we have created an apparatus that opens new possibilities for musicians. Developing hardware and software together in-house is critical to fulfilling this vision. Our software team developed Equator, a custom-built software synthesizer to use with the Seaboard. In addition to the keywave elastomer, the Seaboard RISE has an elastomer-based control panel with touch faders and a track pad for mapping and modulating sound parameters in real time. Once we equip musicians with this new interface, we expect they will experiment with it and develop new playing methods.

Smithers Rapra: You will present a unique topic on behalf of the company ROLI. Could you give us a preview the presentation?

Lauren Ianni: The presentation reviews a novel end-user application of a large, complex, injection-molded elastomer manufacturable in volume for a music industry product. I’ll detail our team’s project objectives, development and production processes. I’ll also highlight some key challenges we faced in fulfilling the overall product vision of an uncompromising product performance with precise technical and aesthetic requirements.