When the lovely people from Miselu contacted me a few weeks ago I was really pleased to hear that they were coming over to visit and I was really excited to get my hands on the Neiro, and I wasn't disappointed.
If you've no idea what I'm talking about and don't remember the Neiro or Miselu, then you can check out their site and take a look at the amazing product that they're developing. However, in short, the Neiro is essentially a portable keyboard device using Android as it's operating system with a custom SDK for music apps.
Now you might say, well there's already lots of great music apps and hardware available for iOS devices, so what's the big deal? Where is the market for this?
I think that's a good question. However, there are some really important differences in what Miselu are doing. Firstly, the Neiro is a fully self contained unit. The hardware is completely designed for music and purely for music. I think that makes it unique, and in my opinion the Neiro is one of the most exciting developments in mobile music right now. Bringing together the hardware and software platforms in a single design is going to be very powerful indeed.
A look at the Neiro:
The Neiro is absolutely as it looks in all the photos. It's an intriguing size for a mobile device. Too big for a pocket, but a perfect size for a rucksack, but it's a nice size too. It doesn't feel bulky. I don't think I'd feel awkward pulling the Neiro out on a train for 20 minutes, although I'm sure I'd get some strange looks.
This isn't the finished device though. It's what team call 'a reference device'. I guess it is really a prototype model and as such it doesn't feel finished as yet. You can tell that there are still some decisions that will need to be taken about how the hardware will function, not huge decisions, but some more work is probably needed. However, the core of the design is solid and it's something I think I could see myself using in the future.
What about apps?
I got a try out a couple of the apps that are running on the prototype, the Korg Polysix (above) and also the Retronyms drum app which borrows a lot from Tabletop on the iPad. I got to see a few other apps as well, but as the screen size is fairly unique for Android there are only a handful of things that are designed to work with Neiro right now. However, expect that to change as they get nearer to their launch as Miselu are working with a number of developers who have plans to port their apps to the Neiro.
Why Android and what about latency?
I asked the team why they had decided to use Android and how they were addressing the latency issues associated with it.
In terms of the OS Miselu decided to use Android early on mainly because of the openness of the platform but recognising the shortcomings of it and the fact that it didn't have many of the media components that developers have come to expect with iOS.
In terms of the latency that I'd normally expect from Android apps, the prototype was nowhere near as bad as I'd expected at all with the Korg Polysix running on their reference device. I've used a handful of Android devices and this device didn't suffer from the issues that those have in terms of latency. In fact it was really quite reasonable when you take into account that this is not the finished hardware.
It turns out that addressing the latency issue is a lot to do with their SDK which is still in development but is something that Miselu have put a lot of time into in order to enable developers a straightforward solution to bringing their apps to the Neiro platform. This leads to lots of other exciting possibilities, but more of that another day I think.
So what comes next?
Well the Miselu team is getting bigger, they've got a lot to work on and some really great ideas on how Neiro will develop over time. The launch is still set to be in 2013 but I can't tell you when in 2013 or where the price point will be.
It was great to meet the team this week and hear first hand what they've been doing and what they've got planned too.
And it was great to see the Neiro first hand at last.
I think that the Miselu have a great future ahead as does the Neiro, so keep an eye on what they're up to over the coming months.
Why is the Neiro on ping pong table? That's another story entirely.