Talking to Oddball co-creator Nathan Webb
Oddball is a drum machine, synthesiser and loop station, all packed inside a bouncy rubber ball. The project, from Royal College of Art grads Nathan Webb and Pasquale Totaro, is designed as a playful new interface for making music. Ahead of Oddball’s Kickstarter campaign, which launches today, we sat down with co-creator Nathan Webb to understand what it took to get this far.
Oddball is rather simple in operation. The squishy latex casing suggests the way you might want to use the device — bounce, bat or bash the ball to make some beats, as the impacts felt by the ball are sent and interpreted as sound by a companion mobile app. Through this app, users are able to select sounds, loop and sequence them, as well as export and import songs to their phone’s library.
Let’s play ball
On Oddball’s origins, co-creator Nathan Webb explains: “Whether it’s due to lack of space, money, time or skill, playing a music instrument can be pretty elitist. In fact, on average only one in ten people picked up an instrument last year. However, music is loved universally. Everyone listens to music, but not everybody feels like they can enjoy making music. We want to make laying down a beat easy, playful and fun for everybody.”
“Not everybody knows how to play with an instrument,
but everybody knows how to play with a ball.”
— Nathan Webb, Oddball co-creator
Through this simple haptic interface, Oddball turns an intuitive act of play into musical composition. Webb notes that “not everybody knows how to play with an instrument, but everybody knows how to play with a ball.”
The challenge of making
The project was born at the RCA, where Webb and Totaro had to quickly become familiar with the many different disciplines involved in prototyping the product. Webb comments: “Between the two of us, we have dabbled in product development, mechatronics, electronics, latex moulding, coding, UI/UX design, market research, film making, animation, project management, business development, social media, web design and packaging. We’ve been constantly learning and confronting new things for the first time.”
When asked about the technical challenges in making the Oddball device, Webb revealed: “The internal design of the ball has gone through many incremental iterations to help make it robust enough to withstand the physical pressures. Our original prototypes might have only lasted for a couple of hours, but the latest products haven't shown any sign of breaking yet and have been put through the paces for weeks on end. We have a way to go with testing but so far so good.”
Oddball is available to back on Kickstarter now.