Simply Music


Simply Music Pianoˣ Challenge

The Simply Music Pianoˣ Challenge aims to create VR glasses that allow you to view and play a virtual display of a piano keyboard.
Pre registration



The HeroX team is partnering with Simply Music on the Pianoˣ Challenge and we want your input! As we move toward a solution, we welcome your input and thoughts on this challenge.


The goal of the Simply Music Pianoˣ Challenge is to create Virtual Reality (VR) glasses that allow you to view a virtual display of a piano keyboard, and play it in a similar manner to how you would a traditional piano or keyboard. Our commitment is to take virtual pianos to a whole new level, and create an instrument that is as easy to transport as a harmonica and, like a harmonica, can be played just about anywhere.


Piano and keyboard remains the dominant instrument in developed nations. Although the internet has clearly transformed how music lessons can be delivered, traditional methods of teaching piano have remained largely unchanged for centuries. As a result, learning piano, even at a recreational level, remains a struggle for many, if not most students. An entirely new approach to music education is desperately needed.

Unfortunately, even for those students who may have online access to new teaching methodologies, or succeed with traditional approaches to learning, the physical size and weight of the piano causes it to be extremely inaccessible as an easy-to-use and socially relevant instrument -- pianos are physically impractical and completely unportable. Even electronic keyboards are large and bulky and, for the most part, require permanent access to the power grid. As such, there are entire populations of people who simply have no access to an instrument to learn on and play.


The ultimate goal of the Simply Music Pianoˣ Challenge is to facilitate a breakthrough in creativity for humanity, by allowing students, performing artists, hobbyists, and recreational musicians a new means of creative expression without physical limitations. Combining the Simply Music methodology with a portable VR instrument will overcome barriers to education, performance, accessibility, and availability of the instrument. The solution to the Simply Music Pianoˣ Challenge will make this possible.




The Simply Music Pianoˣ Challenge is awarding $1 million to the best solution for portable VR Glasses that display a virtual piano keyboard, and that is played in the style of a piano.  



The Simply Music Pianoˣ Challenge has three stages:

  • Registration and Innovation

  • Final Submissions

  • Judging and Announcement of Challenge winner



One Challenge Prize will be awarded at the end of the Challenge. The Team or Individual with a submission that best meets the judging criteria will be the sole winner of the Simply Music Pianoˣ Challenge.



The Challenge is open to Individuals, Teams and Organizations globally. To be eligible to compete, innovators must comply with all the terms of the Challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreements. The Challenge Agreements include restrictions on potential entrants that are intended to prevent conflicts of interest.



The Challenge will be judged by the official Judging Panel. The Judging Panel holds responsibility for evaluating all submissions against the winning criteria and the guidelines and rules for the Challenge. The panel will be responsible for evaluating compliance with these rules and guidelines and will have the sole and absolute discretion to select the Challenge Prize recipient. All decisions made by the Judging Panel shall be rendered by a majority of the judges and are final and binding on both the competitors and Simply Music and are not subject to review or contest.

A panel of highly qualified individuals will be selected by Simply Music to serve as the judges. All members of the judging panel will be required to sign Non-disclosure Agreements acknowledging that they make no claim to the Intellectual Property developed by individual competitors, teams, team sponsors, or partners.



All submissions must be received by Simply Music on or before September 1, 2015 5:00 PM PT. No submissions will be accepted after this date.



Challenge submissions must include:

  • Two versions of the prototype hardware/software for testing and evaluation

  • Completed submission form, including:

    • Signed Individual, Team or Organizational Registration Agreement

    • Questionnaire describing the development process, plans for finalizing the innovation, possible price point, individual, team or organization information, and description of the product

    • Operational instructions of the prototype

    • Technical specifications of the prototype

    • Technical contact person

    • Video showing device in use with narration (in English, only)

    • Completed testing results



All submissions must meet the following requirements to be included in the judging process for the Challenge. A submission that does not meet these requirements will be considered incomplete and will not be eligible for judging.


  • The submission must be original work and be owned or the property of the competitor.

  • All platform use agreements must be satisfied (e.g., if the submission uses Google Glass, rights to work with Google Glass must be satisfied), if third-party technology is used, the competitor must have the right to use the technology in their submission.

  • Submissions must be a wearable device that weighs less than 13.5ozs and is wearable for long periods of time without causing fatigue or harm.

  • Submissions must be playable (and heard by the user) without being plugged in to the power grid.

  • Submissions must be playable unplugged for 2 hours without requiring a recharge.

  • Submissions must be rechargeable.   

  • Submissions must be able to connect wirelessly to external amplifiers or MIDI sound-module devices etc.

  • Submissions must be updatable (software updates can be done via computer or internet).

  • Submissions must be functionally self-contained (all the pieces needed for the user to play and hear the piano must be contained within the wearable device).

  • Submissions must display at least 49 keys and appear like a standard keyboard (key placement, size, and color)



Judging will include:

  • Usability testing (60% of the score) - All prototypes that meet the minimum requirements will be tested by target users including beginning piano students, experienced musicians, “non-musicians,” and gamers.

  • Testing of Prototypes (35% of the score) - Innovators will submit their prototypes for testing for tonal accuracy, durability, and quality of implementation of the feature set.

  • Two-Page Questionnaire (5% of the score) - Judging Panel will assess the innovators’ articulation of their vision for the product, their business plans, and a summary of their work to date.


Usability Testing

Each prototype will be tested by two each of the following types of users:


  • Experienced pianists

  • Novice piano students

  • Gamers

  • Non-gamers, non-pianists


Participants will be asked to complete a series of tasks with the prototype which they will judge on a scale of 0 (lowest) - 5 (highest).provide sheet music.


Ease of turning on and beginning to using prototype

scale from 0-5

5 points toward total

Ease of striking keys

scale from 0-5

5 points toward total

Ease of seeing keys

scale from 0-5

5 points toward total

Keyboard position remains stationary as expected

scale from 0-5

5 points toward total

Keys respond to finger motion as expected

scale from 0-5

5 points toward total

Sound and finger motion are synchronized (sense of latency)

scale from 0-5

5 points toward total

Overall ease of use

scale from 0-5

10 points toward total

Overall experience

scale from 0-5

10 points toward total

Ability to play selected pieces of music (varied to users’ abilities)

scale from 0-5

10 points toward total


After playing each prototype, the users will be asked to rank the following questions:

  • Ease of learning

  • Ease of use

  • Desirability

  • Satisfaction with quality of sound

  • Functionality for a beginning student/player user

  • Functionality for an intermediate student/player user

  • Functionality for a more advanced student/player user

  • Ability for a user to know they struck a key or that their fingers are on a key


Testing of Prototypes


Notes play with consistent accuracy (e.g. A above middle C is A440 universal pitch standard)

scale from 0-5

10 points toward total

Quality and accuracy of internal sound playback

scale from 0-5

10 points toward total

Quality and accuracy of external sound output

scale from 0-5

5 points toward total

Polyphony of at least 6 notes

scale from 0-5

5 points toward total

Durability - device’s reaction to stress tests;  dropping, moisture, heat, cold

scale from 0-5

5 points toward total



Each Judge will rank the submitted questionnaires on a scale of 0-10 based on competitor’s articulation of the following:

  • Product vision
  • Business plan for getting product to market
  • Anticipated price point for the product
  • A summary of work to date on the product

Judges’ rankings will be totaled and the top scoring submissions will receive 5 points toward their total score, the next highest scoring submissions will receive 4 points and so on.


Based on the above criteria, a single submission will be selected as the winning innovation and will receive the prize. In case of a tie, the winner will be selected at the discretion of the Judging Panel.


Challenge Guidelines are subject to change. Registered competitors will receive notification when changes are made, however, we highly encourage you to visit the Challenge Site often to review updates.