This Baidu-Backed Israeli Startup Is Targeting China’s 50 Million Piano Players

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China is the world’s biggest producer of pianos, and the domestic market of players is at an estimated 50 million. Ownership of pianos per 100 urban households is expected to reach 4 units by 2020.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that Baidu’s investors injected $5 million USD into Israel-based Tonara last April.

“Music has been written down on paper sheets for centuries. Then the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) started to collect and scan all the paper sheet music written in the world which is no longer under copyright,” says Ron Regev, Chief Musician at Tonara.

“Now we’re trying to distribute sheet music through tablets to make printed music more interactive and relevant to today’s students and musicians, as well as profitable once more to publishers. If everyone uses only IMSLP, publishers will not have the resources to print any new music. It is similar to what iTunes did for recordings.”

Tonara provides piano learning based on the sheet music iPad app Wolfie, which will be localized to meet Chinese user’s needs by the end of this month. When users are learning new pieces, Wolfie can listen, follow along and analyze how a user is playing through iPad’s microphone. The app gives customized reports that can track user’s progress.

Founded in 2011, the company uses optical music recognition (OMR) technology, which recognize the melody and rhythms. By combining the OMR process with Tonara’s Polyphonic Score Following technology, the app can display the music on a tablet, and know which part is right or wrong.

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“We are not trying to replace music teachers, or to make a game. We’re trying to fuse the best true-and-tested practices of music teachers and music tradition with the excitement and motivation provided by today’s cutting-edge technology,” Mr. Regev said.

In China, The ONE smart piano and light keyboard won the Innovation Awards Honoree at CES 2016. The piano comes with a mobile phone or tablet to help users play any piece in short time. The campaign closed in August last year, and surpassed their Indiegogo goal by eighteen times, with over $464,284 USD.

Image Credit: Shutterstock, Tonara