Trubador: The Hands-Free iPad Case

I came up with the idea for Trubador originally at PAX East, a conference in Boston. Watching musician Jonathan Coulton wield a giant, custom-made music box on stage, I thought of Apple’s Garageband app for iPad, which I had been tested earlier that day. A thought occurred: musicians needed a way to use the great new software instruments coming out for iPad in a performance environment.

After assembling a rough prototype from an existing case, a few pieces of cardboard, tape and paperclips, I set to work with Patrick Duffy to refine the idea into reality.

Within a few months, we’d designed a fully-working model, built as a modification of an existing case and harnessing support struts that propped the screen back towards users while hanging from a shoulder strap like a guitar.

We perfected the idea of a “hands-free” case, allowing musicians to keep both hands on the screen instead of having to hold the iPad in one hand and play with the other. Even better, the case closed up to resemble a small messenger bag when not in use, providing protection to the iPad and making it an eminently portable solution.

We placed this initial version of Trubador on Kickstarter, and I began a PR campaign to alert media to our new invention. We were blown away by the response Trubador received.

Trubador in the Headlines

Trubador was covered by Time, Wired and Gizmodo among other online sources, as well as by the local Jacksonville affiliates for NPR, CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox. The NBC report was picked up by a nationally syndicated newsmagazine program called Daily Connection that airs in the nation’s top 10 media markets.

We also received a story in the Florida Times-Union on the front page of the Sunday Money section. Links to all of the coverage, as well as our initial pitch video, can be found at the Trubador Project Kickstarter Page.

More Than Music

As our funding period drew to a close, we began to realize that Trubador could be useful in many other fields, as well. After a few months away from the project, we set back to work in Fall 2011 on a vastly revised version of Trubador, designed from scratch to serve not just the music market, but also the medical, education, public relations, convention/events and sales/merchandising fields. Indeed, we were quickly approached by two major food and beverage companies about manufacturing Trubadors for their sales and merchandising teams.

The new version of Trubador was designed with a marine-grade, UV-resistant vinyl exterior and a luxurious suede interior. Rather than using velcro loops or buttons, as in the initial prototypes, the production model of Trubador makes clever use of extremely powerful neodymium magnets that allow the user to easily snap the support struts in and out of place. The magnet-based design also takes advantage of the Smart Cover feature built into the iPad, which allows the screen to be turned off and on automatically as the user shuts or opens Trubador.

Below are some pictures of the initial prototype, the logo and teaser image I designed for Trubador, and the photo of Patrick and I that appeared in the Florida Times-Union.