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Far Out Tech

This 'Instrument' Lets You Rock Out With Your iPhone

This 'Instrument' Lets You Rock Out With Your iPhone
Image credit: Artiphon

Far Out Tech

It seems like every other day we read about some far-out, new technology that makes us scratch our heads and say, "What the heck?" In this series, we'll take a look at all types of crazy new gadgets, apps and other technologies -- and the entrepreneurs dreaming them up.

Feel like rocking out but don't have a guitar handy? Or a drum set? Or a keyboard? Or a cello?

No worries. Artiphon's Instrument 1 can be the solution to all your rock-star needs as it is essentially an entire orchestra of instruments all in one. All you need is a passion for tunes and an iPhone or an iPod.

The Artiphon was created by Mike Butera, a Ph.D. in sound studies from Virginia Tech. To operate the device, you slide your iPhone into the dock. Instead of actual strings, a player strums or picks the raised ridges on a pressure-sensitive surface. The smartphone then receives information about what you're playing from the device and computes that into musical notes. It works with music apps such as Garageband and Auria.

Made of African hardwood and bamboo, the Artiphon was first demoed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. It has a unique design that allows users to switch playing positions depending on the instrument, such as guitar, mandolin, bass, violin and lap steel. It comes with built-in 100Hz–20kHz speakers and a 30-Watt amplifier. And there are a number of controls for modifying sounds.

Granted, there are a number of other smart instrument alternatives, like the gTar iPhone guitar, but the Artiphon crams so many instruments into one device that's designed in such a way that apparently makes it feel like an "authentic" instrument, according to a review by Engadget.

One cool fact: Butera says the devices are handmade in the company's headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. One not-so-cool fact: the Artiphon comes with a $800 price tag and is only open for pre-orders so far. So, it isn't shipping yet and can cost the same as a used Fender Stratocaster.

See below for a video demonstration of the Artiphon, using Apple's Garage Band app. Pretty far out, dude.

What crazy apps and gadgets have you come across lately? Let us know by emailing us at or by telling us in the comments below. 

Jason Fell is the managing editor of

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