The Dubler Studio Kit lets you use your voice to control synths, drum machines and other MIDI gear

Vochlea Music, a U.K. startup and alumni of Abbey Road Red, the music tech incubator from Abbey Road Studios, is launching a crowdfunding campaign today for “Dubler Studio Kit,” a new device and app that turns your voice into a MIDI controller for synths, drum machines, DAWs and other music gear.

Described as a “vocal MIDI controller,” the Dubler Studio Kit consists of a bespoke USB microphone and a desktop application for Mac and Windows. It claims to be able to listen to you sing or beatbox and turn those sounds into MIDI notes and other MIDI control messages in real time.

Designed to be responsive enough to use live or for use in a recording studio, with a bit of practice, its makers say you’ll be able to hum a synth pattern (depending on your ability to sing in relative tune), beatbox to trigger a virtual drum kit or manipulate effects and filters vocally.

Vochlea Music demoed an early version of the technology at SXSW last year and won the festival’s pitch competition for its live vocal recognition for music making. While in pre-launch beta testing, Dubler Studio Kit has been used by Mercury Prize-nominated grime MC and producer Novelist, alongside other musicians and producers.

In a call with Vochlea Music founder and CEO George Wright, he explained that the Dubler Studio Kit was created in part to lower the barriers to generating and recording musical ideas, especially for those who are unable to play an instrument.

It’s common for artists, such as singers, to make a vocal note of their melody ideas using the iPhone’s voice memo app or similar mobile recording apps. However, being able to create MIDI notes and other MIDI data using your voice, instead of raw and often badly recorded audio, has the advantage of being able to edit and manipulate those ideas later within MIDI, including patching the resulting MIDI data to different sounds and effects.

Perhaps even more exciting is the way Dubler Studio Kit can be used in addition to playing an instrument, such as a synth or other keyboard, to control various parameters and effects. Traditionally, you have to lift one hand off the keyboard to make tweaks to the sound, or use a foot pedal. Dubler Studio Kit adds a fifth limb, so to speak.

Furthermore, Dubler Studio Kit doesn’t use the VST or Audio Unit plugin format for integration with a DAW. Rather cleverly, once the software is installed, the Dubler Studio Kit is recognised by your Mac or Windows machine as a standard MIDI controller so that it can be used by any software that accepts MIDI, including Logic or Ableton or the hundreds of virtual instruments on the market.

Related to this out of the box experience is the choice to couple the Dubler Studio Kit software with a Dubler-branded low-latency USB microphone. Wright says he wanted to avoid the user needing to have to conduct lengthy calibration with the Dubler machine-learning powered software, which would be the case if third-party microphones were supported.

In the future, that doesn’t prohibit Vochlea Music developing a version of Dubler Studio Kit for iPhone — where device specs are well-known — but will make supporting Android more tricky.

Live on Kickstarter, Vochlea Music wants to raise £40,000 for the Dubler Studio Kit over the next 35 days. During the campaign, backers have the opportunity to pledge to be amongst the first owners of Dubler Studio Kit at what promises to be an early-bird price starting from £175.

Time is Ltd. uses data from Slack and other cloud software to help companies improve productivity

Time is Ltd., a Prague-based startup offering “productivity software analytics” to help companies gain insights from employees’ use of Slack, Office 365, G Suite and other enterprise software, has raised €3 million in funding.

Leading the round is Mike Chalfen — who previously co-founded London venture capital firm Mosaic Ventures but has since decided to operate as a solo investor — with participation from Accel. The investment will be used by Time is Ltd. to continue building the platform for large enterprises that want to better understand the patterns of behaviour hidden inside the various cloud software on which they run.

“Time is Ltd. was founded… to help large corporations and companies get a view into insights and productivity of teams,” co-founder and CEO Jan Rezab tells me. “Visualising insights around calendars, time and communication will help companies to understand real data behind their productivity.”

Powered by machine learning, the productivity software analytics platform plugs into the cloud software tools that enterprises typically use to collaborate across various departments. It then analyses various metadata pulled from these software tools, such as who is communicating with whom and time spent on Slack, or which teams are meeting, where and for how long as per various calendars. The idea is to enable managers to gain a better understanding of where productivity is lost or could be improved and to tie to business goals changes in these patterns.

Rezab cites the example of a large company undergoing “agile” transformation. “If you want to steer a massive company of 5,000 plus people, you really should understand the impact of your actions a bit more much earlier, not after the fact,” he says. “One of the hypothesis of an agile transformation is, for example, that managers really get involved a bit less and things work a bit more streamlined. You see from our data that this is or is not happening, and you can take corrective action.”

Or it could be something as simple as a large company with multiple offices that is conducting too many meetings. Time is Ltd. is able to show how the number of meetings held is increasing and which departments or teams are instigating them. “You can also show the inter-departmental video meeting efficiency, and if the people, for example, often need to travel to these meetings, how long does that takes versus digital meetings — so you can generally help and recommend the company take specific actions,” explains Rezab.

Sales is another area that could benefit from productivity analytics, with Time is Ltd. revealing that most sales teams actually spend the majority of their meeting time inside the company, not outside as you would think. “The structure of these internal meetings varies; planning for these events or just on-boarding and education,” says the Time is Ltd. CEO. “You can, so to speak, follow the time from revenue to different teams… and then see over time how it changes, and how it impacts sales productivity.”

Meanwhile, investor Mike Chalfen describes the young startup as a new breed of data-driven services that use “significant but under-utilised datasets.” “Productivity is one of the largest software markets globally, but lacks deep enterprise analytics to drive intelligent operational management for large businesses,” he says in a statement.

That’s not to say Time is Ltd. isn’t without competition, which includes Microsoft itself. “Our biggest competitor is Microsoft Workplace Analytics,” says Rezab. “However, Microsoft does not integrate other than MS products. Our advantage is that we are a productivity platform to integrate all of the cloud tools. Starting with Slack, SAP Success Factors, Zoom and countless others.”