Product: Skoog 2.0 Tactile Musical Interface
Producer: Skoogmusic Ltd.
Cost: $399.95 + tax
The Skoog 2.0 Tactile Musical Interface is advertised as a, “tactile musical instrument” that, when paired with a compatible iOS device, can be used to produce music by pressing on one of five colour-coded buttons. It has been promoted as an accessibility device, serving individuals with both physical and cognitive disabilities, with the intent of removing barriers from musical participation and creation that may be present with more traditional instruments. Currently, three apps have been released on Apple’s app store specifically for use with the device: Skoog, Skoog Skratch, and Skoog Access. The Skoog is also able to connect with current Apple programs such as Swift Playgrounds, GarageBand, and iTunes to provided extended features. It is Bluetooth-enabled, wireless, and advertises a rechargeable battery that supports ten hours of continuous use with a three hour charge cycle.
- Soft, tactile, rubber surface that can be easily sanitized
- Touch-sensitive to both dynamics and length of note, and each button can be adjusted independently
- Uses pentatonic (five-note) scale with the ability to select key, octave, and musical mode as desired. Pentatonic scales are unique in their ability to maintain almost complete consonance when played in harmony (they sound good with almost everything)
- Possible to turn on/off each button independently and can select single-note playback or place in polyphonic mode
- Once set-up, can be used immediately to produce music alone, play along with iTunes library, or follow colour-coded songbook of familiar songs included within Skoog app.
- Order of colour-coded buttons on apps are linear, but reference a 3-D clockwise orientation of buttons on the Skoog which is counter-intuitive and confusing (this cannot be modified)
- Requires user to stabilize the cube with one hand while playing with the other, though mounts are available at an additional cost
- Sound will trigger unexpectedly when pressing on corners of the cube (indirect pressure due to soft surface), which is easily done when attempting to stabilize its positioning for playing
- One side of the cube is always non-visible to user making it challenging to follow colour-coded songs in songbook
- Though advertised for its ability to be used as an accessibility switch for communication, the Skoog Access app is not functional for this purpose at this time (with no user guide available for either Skoog Skratch or Skoog Access)
Ease of Use: User Guide Required ★★☆☆☆
Adaptability: Some Personalization Possible ★★★☆☆
Accessibility: Suitable for Most Users ★★★☆☆
Cost vs. Value: Expense Greater Than Return ★★☆☆☆
Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆
As a purely recreational music device, Skoog does provide an interactive, accessible experience that is unique from traditional musical expression. It is visually engaging for users and has an immediate cause-effect feedback that reinforces learning and continued interaction. There are a variety of settings available for personalization and sound modification, and these are relatively easy to access and adjust. Use of music modes and features has been well-planned to be adaptable to a wide variety of musical genres and activities, but there is discontinuity between the intended user demographic and practical applications for use.
For example, interactive activities with iPad apps, such as the songbook feature, require dual referencing and spatial problem solving. Users must look at the iPad for instruction on what button comes next, retain this information while they shift their eye gaze to the Skoog and locate the correct button colour (which may require rotating the cube and changing visual perspective), pressing the selected button, and then returning their gaze to the iPad to find the next note. It is not possible to adjust the setting to create an errorless experience or prevent stimming behaviour on a single note. It is easy for users to produce sound with the Skoog, though this does not automatically equate to producing music.
The apps currently available need continued development before being fully functional for use. Though it is possible to personalize features to adapt to each individual user, there are significant limitations for use which need to be considered, particularly for complex diagnoses, which decrease accessibility. Until further software developments are made, the Skoog should not be considered as an accessible communication device. Both the Skoog device and accompanying apps show considerable thought has been made as to how to create an accessible, engaging experience for those with cognitive and physical disabilities, and the potential is apparent for future use; however, the current version falls short of expectations when trialed under realistic conditions.