The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) arrived in the ’80s to help digital instruments communicate with each other. Nowadays, with much of the action on computers, a new breed of MIDI controllers has emerged. Many of today’s designs include built-in pressure sensitivity to provide a semblance of analog expression when played, but Joué is a bit different. It was developed to free digital music artists from the lockstep confines of keyboards, button rows, glowing displays and marching lights, while providing modular flexibility and, above all, fun.

The name Joué, translated from French, literally means “play” or can be interpreted as “I play,” and the company would like you to approach the device with an open and creative mind. It’s a USB-powered pressure-sensitive board that works with a variety of soft — and occasionally squishy — pads that are detected and uniquely identified through embedded RFID tags. You map portions of each pad to any MIDI-capable program like Ableton Live, Apple Logic, Garage Band or iPad apps to help bring your music to life. They’re swappable on the fly, and the tactile interfaces offer an alternative to high-tech distractions. The device is currently on Kickstarter; the company is raising funds to move from industrial prototype to final product, and as usual, early bird deals are available. You can buy a Joué board and starter pack of pads for just over $300, with the eventual retail price expected to be under $500.

Joué’s MIDI controller adds tactile fun to music-making [Engadget]