London-based designer Yuri Suzuki has always been obsessed with music, but his dyslexia made playing it a struggle. “I used to play trombone,” he says. “But I got fired from the band because I couldn’t read any music. It’s sad, but great in that it drove me to do a project based on that experience.”
That project is Ototo, a DIY kit that transforms any conductive object into a musical instrument. Ototo comes with a black-and-white circuit board that’s preprogrammed with 50 sets of sounds (piano, barking dogs, etc.) and 12 colorful alligator clips that connect to objects, turning them into fanciful, playable keyboard keys. Additional sensors react to light, pressure, and breath, adding extra dimensions of sound.
Since its debut on Kickstarter last February, Ototo has been a hit for Dentaku, the design studio Suzuki runs along with his business partner, Mark McKeague. (They named their studio after their favorite song, “Pocket Calculator,” by the genre-defining electronic-music group Kraftwerk. Dentaku means “calculator” in Japanese.) Suzuki hopes Ototo will be a tool for those who, like him, prefer to take their music off the page and out Into the world.