Dec 10th 2013, 13:31, by Steve O'Hear
Throw the mic in the air like you just don’t care.
Catchbox is a new throwable microphone designed to liven up audience participation, and in turn reduce the faffing around that seems to occur whenever a conference turns to questions from the audience.
The brightly coloured padded cube houses a wireless microphone that doesn’t mind being tossed across a room or passed from person-to-person crowd surfing-style. In fact, it’s actively encouraged. That’s because, along with being able to sustain being dropped, the device has been engineered to automatically mute the sound when flying through the air or if it falls. The tech is patent-pending, apparently.
Although various smartphone apps and cloud-based tools have attempted to lower the barriers of audience participation at live events by enabling the audience tofollow along on their own devicesor take part in realtime polls, Catchbox’s makers reckon the humble microphone has been neglected.
“There are a number of products that are aimed towards increasing crowd engagement,” notes Mikelis Studers, CTO of Catchbox, citing event apps, voting systems and, of course, conventional wireless microphones. But these, he argues, can be pricey and complex to set up and deploy, or often require the audience to be educated first and/or download an app.
In contrast, Catchbox’s proposition couldn’t be any simpler. “Audiences understand the product immediately: it’s a throwable microphone,” he says.
The Finland-based hardware startup isn’t just targeting events with large audiences, such as tech conferences. Other markets include education, company meetings, and consultants (here I’m envisaging those team-building experts with their endless supply of counterintuitively awkward ice-breakers, or motivational speaker types).
“There is a high expected value from every group session in those fields so we want to provide a tool that would make each session more efficient,” says Studers. “[The] internet has created new ways for sharing. We want to enhance sharing of ideas when people physically come together”.
The Catchbox is available for pre-order today, priced at $549/€395, which includes a separate receiver that can be plugged into various sound systems including stereos, computers and professional sound equipment. It’s not the only product planned by Catchbox, either. Studers tells me that in future the company will expand in the area of “crowd engagement devices” and explore other revenue models.