While simply color-coordinating or backlighting parts of an instrument may work for regular novices, it doesn’t translate to visually impaired users. Vitar hopes to solve that by covering its entire fretboard with Braille keys that can help blind and vision-impaired people navigate their way around a guitar. Vitar, however, isn’t a traditional electric guitar either – it’s a MIDI instrument styled like a guitar, which also unlocks an entire world of potential with electronic music.
If the Vitar looks a little odd at first, it’s because it isn’t your average Spanish guitar. Designed to electronically send signals to a software (technically known as a Digital Audio Workstation), the Vitar comes with keys that you press with your left hand, indicating the notes you want the guitar to play. However, Vitar doesn’t quite stop right there. Each key located in the guitar’s fretboard comes with a Braille letter embossed on it, allowing even the visually impaired to work their way around the instrument. It’s a classic example of a tiny design detail that radically improves the product’s experience for all its users.
Designers: Eojin Roh, Seonjin Baek, Yujeong Shin
The fascinating part about the Vitar is its unconventional design. The way it was made has nothing to do with acoustics, but rather has everything to do with being intuitive and minimizing the learning curve. The Vitar’s body has an odd asymmetric shape that helps users instantly understand which way it’s supposed to be held (one could argue that it isn’t ambidextrous, although that might come across as pedantic). Strings sit in a recessed chamber on the main body, so the hand or guitar pick knows when to stop (while also giving you a place to conveniently rest your fingers). Guidelines across the main body help the hand navigate around the guitar in an instant, so you spend more time jamming and less time figuring out if you’re holding the instrument right.
Vitar’s most impressive feat, however, remains its Braille keys. One of the most difficult parts of the guitar learning experience is figuring out which fret triggers which note. Sure, a talented guitar can easily pick this up by ear and with repeated practice, but for a novice, it requires a lot of counting down the frets, examining the corresponding string, etc. Just by simply molding Braille letters onto the individual keys, the Vitar makes the process as easy as pressing a button… quite literally.
While the Vitar is targeted towards visually impaired students, even most regular users can benefit from the sheer muscle memory of their fingertips knowing which key is located where, and what button triggers what note. If it helps us regular folk pick up a bit of braille in the process too, that’s an overall win in my book!
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen uniquely designed and shaped electric guitars. Earlier this year, Ezra Feldman unveiled an unconventional ‘curved’ electric guitar that was designed to offer a much more ergonomic and strain-free experince.