ROLI‘s touch-sensitive BLOCKS have quietly added
 Android support today, with the portable modular music-makers
 showing up at Google’s I/O 2017 keynote. The BLOCKS were
 launched last year, though initially only as an iPhone
 accessory; indeed, Apple sold them through its own stores. The
 rubbery top on each block acts as a pressure- and
 gesture-sensitive controller.

By swiping and tapping, various different sounds and drum beats
 can be created. Two add-on BLOCKS add dedicated controls for
 loops and other live performance adjustments. However, since
 none of the units — which clip together magnetically, using
 pogo-pins along their edges to connect — have their own onboard
 synth engine, they rely on a connected device for the actual

That’s meant, for mobile purposes at least, only iPhone and
 iPad users have been able to play. ROLI has said before that
 it’s been looking at Android, but the variety in devices — and
 how they handle things like peripherals — has proved a
 limitation. Instead, BLOCKS have remained a gadget for iOS (and
 Windows/Mac) users.

That all changes today, with the release of ROLI’s synth app
 NOISE for Android. Quietly slipped into the Google Play store
 this morning, the “unreleased” app — which its creators warn
 may well have some issues still — lists the Samsung Galaxy S8
 as the only Android smartphone it currently works with. It
 connects over Bluetooth with the handset, creating a MIDI link.

However Google’s pre-I/O keynote DJs were using BLOCKS — along
 with Seaboard RISE 49, the company’s
 pressure-sensitive, rubber-keyed keyboard — with what looked to
 be Pixel phones. They were hooked up with USB cables, in fact,
 suggesting the system may have been jury-rigged somewhat,
 though alternatively the DJs may have been relying on external

ROLI uses JUCE for its apps, the same engine that can be
 found powering Korg, Akai, and Max MSP software, That was
 recently updated to JUCE 5, adding Android app development
 support among other things, a change which could mean more
 synth and similar software for Android phones and tablets
 moving forward. Since ROLI hasn’t been the only company to
 eschew the platform for the confusingly broad range of
 abilities of Android devices, it’s a big step for filling in
 gaps in the app catalog.

For more on the ROLI BLOCKS, check out our original review testing them with the
 iOS NOISE app. Like that, the Android version is a free
 download and you don’t need the BLOCKS hardware in order to
 test it out: you can just use your fingers on your phone’s
 touchscreen to control the light-up pads.

MORE Google Play

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