In 2005, aspiring rock gods around the world lived out their fantasies with the Harmonix video game "Guitar Hero," which allowed everymen to throw it down like Eddie Van Halen -- even if they didn't know the difference between a fret and a bridge. That craze has passed, but two of the game's creators, plus an Activision vet and advertising production company exec, are now hoping to bring the average Joe's pop star dreams to life with home singing system Singtrix.
The next-gen karaoke system is an aspiring American Idol's dream, promising to make you sound better than you do, whether you're tone deaf or an already decent crooner.
Singtrix: Brand Video
The system was created by Eric Berkowitz, founder of advertising production company Humble; former Activision exec John Devecka; and Kai and Charles Huang, two of the original developers on "Guitar Hero."
Singtrix allows singers to "enhance" their performance with more than 350 different effects. But this is not Auto-Tune, according to Mr. Berkowitz. "That's a lot more gimmicky and a specific sound," Mr. Berkowitz said. "This will give a more natural sound." ... Or not, since among the many effects are harmony, robot voice, girl or boy voice, stadium announcer, Olive Oyl voice and even Barry White voice.
The system consists of a setup that seems not too different from your everyday home karaoke system -- it includes two mics, a 40-watt speaker with subwoofer, iPhone/iPad holder and studio effects processor. Users plug in their iOS or Android device, computer, or any source with the right jack, and it will lower or strip the vocals on any track -- even songs from YouTube -- to turn it into a karaoke-ready tune.
There's also an optional app and subscription service, which provides users with more than 13,000 songs and lyrics. Since its introduction at Engadget's Expand event, Singtrix has garnered favorable reviews on tech blogs including TechCrunch and Mashable.
While Singtrix hopes to bring fun to living rooms all over the world, Mr. Berkowitz believes there's a potential added revenue stream with advertisers, and says he's in discussion with a few brands on partnerships. While the module already offers 350 different sounds, "Can you imagine if Pepsi sponsored a vocal challenge and designed its own presets, or, if it worked with Beyonce and provided Beyonce presets?" he said.
Singtrix: Reggie Watts and Others Get Down
Sold online for $299.99 through a dedicated site, Singtrix is just the latest collaboration between Mr. Berkowitz and Mr. Devecka. The longtime friends have been making things together since they met as college students at Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. Their first partnership was a North Jersey hair band. They went on to launch one of New Jersey's largest independent commercial cleaning services, a vending machine business and eventually create videogames, with "Drumscape," a standalone musical instrument-based game that was later co-branded with MTV.
That product patent sold to Activision, which Mr. Devecka then joined while Mr. Berkowitz pursued his filmmaking and production passions. In 2006 Mr. Berkowitz founded Humble, a full-service company offering everything from live action, animation and effects to post and web/mobile content. It has has steadily increased its profile on the commercials scene and has produced spots for agencies including Anomaly, La Comunidad, Y&R, as well as independent projects like "Tumbleweed Tango," an animated film that Disney recently curated into its online shorts program.
For Mr. Berkowitz, the success of the system would be a win for Humble as well, as he believes it represents all that the production company has to offer. Although Singtrix is independent of Humble, all its development happened within the company -- everything from idea formation to marketing, including website, packaging, logo design and creative.
"If we had to go out of house for all the services we did here, we would have spent a jillion dollars," he said. Moreover, it's the perfect example of the company's product development chops. "You always hear people saying, "Yeah, we're gonna make shit,'" he said. "But do you have any idea what's involved in really making something? Do you know how many PCB boards we lit on fire and blew up, how many renditions of the box we had to make? Building a product is a major undertaking."