It’s All About the Music!

My first startup was a company called ESS Technologies, which originally stood for Electronics Speech Systems. We started out as a software speech synthesis developer, and found mild success making the early Commodore 64 and Apple II games speak. Our claim to fame was that every one of the 20 or so games that licensed our technology made it to the Billboard top 10 of software games.

ESS moved into speech chips, and sales grew dramatically when talking books started shipping. ESS’s sales really took off though, when music synthesis industry pioneer Roi Peers started running music on our chips This enabled ESS to release a single chip IC that essentially removed the need for Creative Sound Blaster boards on portable PC’s. It was ESS’s music chip sales that launched it as the most successful semiconductor IPO of 1995, and sales increased exponentially from tens of millions of dollars per year to hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

I love music. I used to work in the music industry, and I’ll play just about any instrument I can get my hands on. I used to hear the statistic that 1/10 people consider themselves a musician and 9/10 people want to be a musician. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s reasonable. I just read in my Costco Connection magazine (must have reading while I wait for programs to load on my slow computer) a few interesting things about music game software:

– 2006 sales were $250 Million
– 2007 sales were $1.3 Billion
– 31% of PS2 dollars were spent on Guitar Hero when Guitar Hero was released
– Guitar Hero alone made over $820 million more than Mario and Halo combined!

Sensory hasn’t yet announced our next generation chip, but for those that read my blog, here’s a sneak preview…This chip is called the VPC and will be an AWESOME low cost music chip (while also offering many other hi-quality audio technologies including speech recognition and synthesis):

  • STEREO 16 bit DAC output – Sensory’s current generation IC’s are mono 12 bit devices, making them applicable only for low fidelity toys.
  • 32 voice MIDI synthesis – it can play midi files and access the large available content base
  • MP3 decoding – yes, it’s an MP3 player!
  • Mixer/Effects – Reverb, EQ, echo and other effects are included
  • Sampler – we have a 16 bit stereo ADC so the chip can also record sounds

So is this the next great music chip to take over the Pro-audio market? NO. It’s also not a high-end audiophile-quality MP3 playback device. But it is very low cost, and 99% of the population couldn’t hear the difference and would rather save the money!

Maybe it’s the chip for a new generation of low cost Guitar Hero like instruments that can be played and jammed on in a stand alone or “group” jam environment. It should start shipping in 2009…but no guarantees about any features, ship dates, or anything else…it hasn’t been announced yet.