Rocki, a device and app that wants to be at the center of how you listen to music in your home, announces an upcoming integration with Rhapsody today. The integration will allow users to link their Rocki and Rhapsody apps, enabling them to stream Rhapsody music straight to connected speakers through their homes.
First, a refresher on what Rocki is. It’s both an app and a device, but the device—which broadens the pool of speakers that can be called "connected"—is most interesting. You’re familiar, of course, with the fact that speaker companies are increasingly putting out speakers that enable input straight from your smartphone. But what if you have a sweet speaker system already, but one that happened to have been manufactured before Steve Jobs waved his iWand in the mid-aughts and transformed the tech landscape?
So Rocki set out to create a little device that would essentially retrofit your speakers to work directly with your phone. The Rocki Live, as the device is called, works over Wi-Fi, which enables all sorts of innovations not possible with a simple Bluetooth connection (more on that in a moment). Depending on your nerd quotient, this comparison may fall on deaf ears, but the device—shown in an array of colors above—basically looks like a real-life Hyrule rupee.
Rocki set out to gauge interest in their device on Kickstarter in December, with a $50,000 ask. It drummed up over $220K within weeks. A basic Rocki is $49; more tricked-out versions (with outputs to some advanced audio systems) will be $89.
"We’re the first to be on the market with this," says Dennis List, Rocki’s Dutch cofounder (the main members of the team hail from the Netherlands). He says that competitors use Bluetooth, which limits your range to five meters, and which forces you to pair your device anew each time you want to play it. Another reason List and his team went for Wi-Fi over Bluetooth is what he says is a less compressed audio stream. "You’ll hear the difference between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth," he says.
But perhaps the coolest features enabled by Rocki’s bet on Wi-Fi involve how your speakers can be controlled. Over Wi-Fi, various devices can be combined to create novel effects, and to turn your entire house into a sound system of sorts. For instance: if you buy multiple Rocki Live devices and hook them up to different speaker setups in different parts of your home, you can stream different music to each one simultaneously. You can effectively turn your house into a multi-room nightclub, if you want. Rocki’s technology also enables multiple users to control what music is playing, via multiple devices. Translation: Even if it doesn’t win the mass market, the hosts of underground raves should love this thing.
And yet Rocki has every hope of winning the mass market. "After Kickstarter, we realized this is much bigger than a consumer product," says List. Industry partners—both online streaming services, and actual speaker manufacturers—began to reach out. "We thought, this is not just a small, fun consumer product," says List. The recently confirmed partnership with Rhapsody is what List hopes—and has hinted on the Kickstarter page—will simply be the first of many, including Pandora, Spotify, Deezer, and others.
The partnership with Rhapsody is one of those minor-seeming things—essentially, an in-app button—that can nonetheless make or break a product. The integration, which should be complete by September, will mean that the Rocki app will now feature a Rhapsody icon connecting users directly to their Rhapsody account. The Rocki app essentially becomes your new music dashboard, and users can add their Rhapsody music directly to saved playlists in the Rocki app. "Rocki makes it easier for Rhapsody customers to experience music without interruption on any audio system—even on older models," says Brian McGarvey of Rhapsody.
It’s rare for real hardware innovation to come from outside of major companies today—but the rise of Rocki proves it’s not impossible. Having carved out a niche at the nexus between old and new—between legacy speaker manufacturers and novel music streamers—Rocki has found what could prove to be a lucrative niche.