Electronic instruments company Roland has unveiled a concept piano called the Facet, which is likely to turn heads as it makes appearances this year. The low poly (or as Roland says “evocative crystal-like”) design has a keyboard with a smart screen and a hollow cabinet that contains speakers instead of the usual hammers and strings. It’s a true concept product in that there are no plans for it to go on sale — Roland says they made it to show the piano’s future.
Roland notes that the piano has been around for about 300 years with little change to its form in that entire time. The company wanted to poke into the limitations of the piano’s traditional design, and challenged designers to the task in 2015. The Facet is the result of that competition — with a futuristic, angular look that’s reminiscent of the design language in Tesla’s Cybertruck.
Here’s how this thing works: Speakers and resonators are packed in everywhere, from the base to the top board to the inside of the hollow frame in order to recreate the sonic resonance that typically comes from a piano cabinet. There are even near-field speakers that project sounds the player would specifically notice, and will recreate things like the noise that hammers make when they hit an acoustic piano string. So when you play the keyboard, it should sound like playing a regular grand piano, both to you and anyone else listening.
Given that Roland came out with an Alexa-powered keyboard last year, it’s not a surprise to see that they went all-in on tech with the Facet. There is some seriously crazy stuff baked into the piano’s music stand, which doubles as a smart screen. It’s Android powered, has a built-in music creation app, and comes with Alexa so you can command the piano with your voice. Oh, and there’s a video projector in the base. It conjures up visuals based on how you play and then projects them onto the piano’s top board.
I imagine internal conversations around the Facet went something like:
Design team: What smart features would you like in this piano?
Look, a lot of this is delightfully batty because of how extreme the piano is, but some of these ideas aren’t far-fetched. Plus, it’s great to see companies shatter traditional molds and continue to play with how tech can be merged into instruments that have been around for ages.
It is important to reiterate this is a concept. And as my colleague Dieter Bohn said in his OnePlus Concept One review, the point of a concept is “to look cool and convince you that the company that made it can do cool things.” Roland certainly achieved that with the Facet.