“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” It would be hard to imagine what Newton would think, almost 350 years later, of how the world of technology has taken to heart this concept of building upon previous knowledge.

Today I am going to talk about one specific product which is a little unusual for my tech columns, but it is the best example I have seen for some time of that concept of a product that builds upon a number of different pieces of technology.

Step 1. We have this little thing called the Internet. More than anything else, the Internet gives us access to an incredible amount of information – and it is searchable in mere seconds. We have only had access to something resembling the current form of the Internet for less than thirty years.

Step 2. Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) screens were accidentally discovered in 1888 and were a scientific curiosity for decades. It wasn’t until 1964 that the first working LCD was built by George H. Heilmeier and in 1988 Sharp developed an underwhelming 14-inch LCD TV. By 2008, annual sales of LCD televisions surpassed the sales of CRT units for the first time.

Step 3. The next step in the music revolution. After cassette tapes and vinyl then CDs and DVDs, music moved online. 1993 was the first time an online music archive was available to download and this led to Ritmoteca.com quickly followed by Napster and then, in 2001, Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Downloads soared stratospherically. Within three years, one billion songs had been sold via iTunes.

Step 4. The next, next step in the music revolution. In 2008, Spotify launched. It may have been before its time but is reaping the rewards now. Why buy and download individual songs – the way that old-fashioned Apple model worked – when you can access just about every song ever produced for a reasonable monthly fee. 217 million users currently agree that Spotify is a sensible way to source their music – and that is just the largest of a number of online streaming music providers.

Step 5. Forget about physically visiting a library to access information. With the Internet, you can build a database and the world can access it. Databases of song lyrics started being created by the mid-nineties and it would be hard to find a song where the lyrics are not available online somewhere. As a kid, I used to be attracted to the bands that included an album sleeve with the lyrics to the songs printed on it but online lyrics make this so much easier.

Put all of these previous discoveries together and you end up with a device that is the perfect technology example of Newton’s quote.

The Cotodama Lyric Speaker allows you to connect to your speaker via cable or Wi-Fi (no big deal there), access songs from just about any of the streaming providers (again pretty common) and when the music plays the speaker automatically sources the lyrics of the song and displays them on an LCD at the front of the speaker. Using technology developed by Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, the words display differently depending on the mood of the song. Since Alexander Graham Bell patented the first loudspeaker in 1876, I can think of no better example of the most technologically advanced ‘simple’ device than the Lyric Speaker. Sourcing songs online, sourcing lyrics online, connecting wirelessly and displaying the lyrics!

Tell me if you like to see the lyrics when you listen to music at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson

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