SkoogMusic Ltd was spun out of the University in 2009 to commercialise an innovative musical instrument that gives severely disabled children the chance to express themselves.
Skoog was developed as part of an interdisciplinary project at the University to enable severely disabled children who cannot use traditional instruments to play music in an expressive way.
Skoog is sensitive to the slightest touch, yet robust enough to resist strong handling. It is a colourful, squeezy cube that uses technology within a soft, tactile surface, linked to a computer, to generate the sounds of musical instruments, such as flute, trumpet and marimba. Children are able to play a variety of sounds on Skoog, altering pitch, timbre and volume with a very small range of movement.
The work to develop the device was part of a project led by Professor Nigel Osborne, renowned composer and Reid Professor of Music at Edinburgh. The project aimed to make music more accessible and help severely disabled children improve their communication and concentration skills. Dr Benjaman Schögler, a psychologist and musician, and Dr David Skulina, a physicist and musician, received funding support from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) to help develop a prototype Skoog.
‘Can be used by anyone’
Dr Schögler said: “Making music can be a huge help in a child’s development through boosting learning and creativity, but many children are unable to use conventional instruments. The Skoog can be used by anyone, of any age or ability, to make music.”
A new company, called SkoogMusic Ltd, was spun out of the University to commercialise the instrument. The spinout was supported throughout this process by Edinburgh Innovations (under the name Edinburgh Research & Innovation at the time).
Ian Murphy, Head of Commercial Development at Edinburgh Research and Innovation, said: “The Skoog is an excellent example of how innovative thinking can be turned into a useful and exciting product that could improve people’s lives.”
Skoog has been commercially available since March 2010 and has received widespread interest from the education community.
Skoog featured in the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, as part of a specially commissioned piece called ‘Technophonia’, performed by an ensemble of young musicians with disabilities at the Southbank Centre’s New Music 20x12 weekend. Skoogmusic Ltd successfully completed its first investment round in January 2012, allowing the company to begin manufacturing and supplying the instrument across the globe.
With around 2,000 original Skoogs in schools from the UK to Australia and Hong Kong to the US, the founders of SkoogMusic created a new product in 2014 that anyone can enjoy. Like the original version, the Skoog 2.0 employs tactile multi-dimensional control over sound, but the new, smaller Skoog is now multi-touch – meaning all five surfaces can be played at once. It’s also wireless, iOS compatible and comes with its own music-making app.