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The Seaboard Grand tries to reinvent the piano with a custom, pressure-sensitive keyboard

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Roli Seaboard Grand
Roli Seaboard Grand

The familiar black-and-white interface of the piano keyboard has existed for several centuries without any massive changes, but the designers at Roli have just pushed it forward with the introduction of the Seaboard Grand. It's a new musical instrument that is played similar to a piano, but uses a soft-touch, custom-built, pressure-sensitive interface that allows players to manipulate the Seaboard Grand's sounds in a fairly unique fashion. As seen in Roli's demo video, the Seaboard Grand allows you to implement pitch vibration, volume adjustments, full guitar-style pitch bends, and other modulations directly on the keys themselves, instead of having to reach off the keyboard and turn separate dials. While the sounds themselves aren't entirely unheard of, the method of accomplishing those tonal changes definitely seems unique.

The technology behind the Seaboard Grand is Roli's SEA Interface, making its first appearance in this new keyboard. The company describes it as a "high-resolution haptic pressure sensor" that provides tactile feedback and three-dimensional gesture inputs, all of which appears to be on display in the Seaboard Grand. While Roli is introducing this interface in a musical instrument, the company says it can be modified and fit into a wide variety of applications and form factors in the future. The company also says that piano players should be able to sit down at the Seaboard Grand and play it without too much of a learning curve. That remains to be seen, but only a small number will truly get a chance to find out for themselves — Roli's offering up a limited run of 88 Seaboard Grands for pre-order this April, and there's no word yet on how much this new instrument will cost potential buyers.