Japan’s Shikumi Design unveils magical motion-based musical instrument

Shikumi Design CEO Shunsuke Nakamura demonstrates Kagura.

See the original story in Japanese.

Fukuoka-based startup Shikumi Design unveiled a next-gen musical instrument called Kagura on 14 January. The app allows users to play instrumental music by intuitive operations leveraging distance and gesture recognition technologies.

The Kagura app won the grand prize at the Intel Perceptual Computing Challenge competition in 2013. The new version introduced at this time has been upgraded to support Intel RealSense 3D, a new technology available on PCs from Lenovo, Acer, and others, enabling an app to understand and respond to natural movement in 3D with a built-in camera. However, vision analysis for playing instruments is conducted in 2D, so if you are satisfied with playing instruments only, the app can work with any Windows PC with a built-in camera regardless of whether it supports the RealSense technology.

Below is a Kagura promotional video, produced in cooperation with another Fukuoka-based startup Koo-ki.

Shikumi Design CEO Shunsuke Nakamura demonstrated Kagura at a press briefing on Wednesday. Upon this release, they have brushed up several functions including new interface roll-out, five pre-installed sound-sets, as well as YouTube video uploads so that even non-savvy users can enjoy playing it as soon as they install the app.

Shikumi Design specializes in image displays and digital signage, and has been demonstrating the Kagura app at various live performance events, including collaborative performances with DJs, VJs, and vocal percussion artists.

Nakamura said,

Unlike non-music players like me, I’m often impressed at how DJs or VJs play music using various instruments in a professional manner. We’ve been receiving great support from human beatboxers as Kagura is giving them a new way of expression. In addition to professional music players, children can also enjoy creating music with Kagura simply by moving their bodies. Start with exploring the potential of our app with professional musicians, we want to expand the concept of music.

The Kagura app is available for free in order to make the experience open to more people. They aim to monetize the app by selling additional sound-sets and tool kits for professional musicians.

He continued:

Another possibility is a platform that allows users to share their post about playing music. There are many possibilities out there, but we want to develop the app with users while enjoying music.

Kagura has introduced a new way of music expression that will give birth to next-generation musicians and performers. Nakamura wants to kickoff a trend that encourages people to enjoy music and create new expressions similar to Hatsune Miku, the Japanese vocaloid platform from Crypton Future Media.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by Kurt Hanson and Masaru Ikeda
Proofread by Chris Ames Pomeroy