Consumer product design Grand award Blue Man Group Keyboard Experience by Manley Toys HAVE YOU EVER imagined yourself as a conductor of an orchestra, or a music producer jamming with your favourite musician during a studio session? The Blue Man Group Keyboard Experience created by Manley Toys was designed to realise such dreams. The keyboard won the company the grand award in consumer product design at the Hong Kong Awards for Industries. It is the first musical instrument to use motion and proximity-sensitive tubes to trigger sounds and functions. The Keyboard Experience allows people who do not have any musical experience to interact and experiment with music easily. The six motion-sensitive tubes that surround the keyboard allow users to 'play' up to nine musical instruments, including piano, electric guitar, trumpet and violin. It also allows the user to speed up the tempo, modify the volume of a piece of music and mix in layers of tunes just by waving their hands over the tubes in different directions and at different speeds. The 'instruments' are installed in a synthesizer keyboard. The keyboard also contains an iPod or MP3 player storage tray which users can connect to their iPod or MP3 device and jam to their favourite songs. By recording and playing back the songs, players can add as many layers as they wish. Samson Chan, chairman and chief executive of Manley Toys, said his staff had devoted enormous amounts of time to develop the product. 'We didn't want to compromise and aimed for the best quality possible,' he said. 'The most difficult part was to make the tube react instantly with the movements of the hands. We improved our sensor many times until we were satisfied with the reaction time.' Mr Chan said consumer expectations were much higher than previously. Children were exposed to electronic products and computers at a much younger age, and as a result they were harder to please. Adults expected toys to be educational and totally safe. 'Only by aiming at perfection can a company make a successful product,' he said. According to Mr Chan, there are three aspects to consider in a good consumer product: good marketing sense, practical functions and a reasonable budget. Mr Chan said the award and the recognition were very encouraging, and he wished more toy manufacturers would win accolades at the Hong Kong Awards for Industries. The Hong Kong toy industry was the third largest in the world with more than 200 companies, Mr Chan said. However, it was hard to find good designers, because the government did not invest sufficiently in training up people, he said, adding that only Polytechnic University offered proper design courses. In a fast changing world, Hong Kong needed much more design talents to maintain its competitive edge, he said, adding that local companies should be more daring and invest in research and development. Certificate of MeritGerman Pool (Hong Kong) Halogen multipurpose cooking pot IDT Electronic Products ATC-2K Water-proof action cam Perception Digital Ultra-compact 1 inch harddisk thumb drive PD-1606 Techtronic Industries Torque IV cordless drill VTech Telecommunications mi6870 two handset expandable 5.8GHz cordless phone system with digital answering device VTech Telecommunications gz 2335 Vmix 2.4GHz cordless phone Award winners Daka Development (One Touch Can Opener) Fook Tin Technologies (DUO A Revolutionary Kitchen Scale) IDT Communication Technology (Touch Phone) Perception Digital (All-in-one Harddisk Multi-Media Player PD-3000) Techtronic Industries (18V One+ System) VTech Telecommunications (i5871 5.8GHz Premium Cordless Phone) And the judges said: Achieving a professional sound on a toy-grade, toy-priced keyboard music synthesizer is a tough challenge, and that is exactly what the Blue Man Group Keyboard does. The judges were impressed with the innovative use of a man-machine interface that has gone far beyond the effects of the traditional piano keyboard, using cost-effective optical sensors impeccably integrated in a small instrument that can be played on simultaneously by a professional group of three musicians. The instrument is neat and simple, without too many buttons and complicated dials. The design, on the other hand, has a non-traditional, modern feel, with a tube structure that makes one think of the service pipes design of the famous Centre Pompidou in Paris, which houses the National Museum of Modern Art. While there are many very sophisticated hi-tech synthesising keyboards available in the market, this toy-grade instrument is captivating.