Gear4, maker of the Unity Remote we saw at CES last week, also designed the Pocket Loops keyboard, which represents something I think we'll see a lot more of: devices designed to work only when paired with a smartphone or tablet device. iPhones and iPads are leading the way into a new era of mobile devices, and many future toys and products will do what the Pocket Loops keyboard does: offload the heavy lifting of processing to a mobile device, and instead focus on bringing an interface into play.
As you can see above, the keyboard has a dock that an iPhone or iPod touch can plug right into. From there, the device works with a free app that will be released in about three months, which is basically a MIDI recorder and sampler with up to 16 loops running from 29 different keyboard sounds. The app will also enable you to record, remix and even share tracks through the device's email system. Choosing a set of voices gives you various sounds to play on the keyboard; you can play and record loops as you wish, even editing in echo and chorus effects with the touchscreen interface.
It works fairly well so far. There were a few software bugs while we demoed the device, but I was told those would be ironed out by release. The whole idea is interesting, because the keyboard doesn't have its own screen or even a battery. Instead, everything comes from the iPhone. Gear4's rep said the device would have been over US$200 if the iPhone hadn't been utilized to do most of the work. Instead, the Pocket Loops keyboard is due in a few months for a retail price of $69.99.