‘Pocket Music Machine’ Puts Instruments At Your Fingertips

BittyNickolas Peter Chelyapov holds two Bitty prototypes.

What if you could fit a drum kit in your pocket?

Smaller than an iPhone, Bitty is easy to hold and easy to take with you. But don’t be fooled—its size has no bearing on the sounds it can make.

Nickolas Peter Chelyapov explains that he never would’ve created Bitty if he hadn’t come to Cambridge. Born in Moscow, from age 8 he grew up in Los Angeles and went to art school there. He became a graphic designer for movie posters, but switched tracks when, after his move to Cambridge, he started working out of a coworking makerspace in Somerville. With the right tools at his fingertips, he dove headfirst into combining sound, technology, and art.

“I got nerdy about hardware,” says Chelyapov, who now works out of another maker-heavy coworking space, Industry Lab, in Cambridge. “It was out of circumstance. The density of the creative nerdery here is amazing. I was always nerdy, I just didn’t know anyone that messed around with hardware.”

Chelyapov has created three types of Bitty (named for its “itty bitty” size) so far: drum, melody, and noise. But he explains that anyone can tweak the software, opening up many programming possibilities.

As for a target audience, Chelyapov thinks Bitty knows no bounds. For children, it can be a music toy that doesn’t require music experience. For musicians, it’s a portable instrument that has the eventual potential to mimic an endless variety of sounds.

Another of Chelyapov’s projects that he’s passionate about is curating Curious Sound Objects shows, which feature work at the intersection of technology, sound, and art. For example, a jar of hair gel that makes noise when you put your fingers in it, or a birdhouse that sounds when you shake it.

Bitty isn’t for sale yet, but Chelyapov plans to launch a Kickstarter soon to build 500 of them. To get notified when the Kickstarter goes live, people can subscribe to emails on the Bitty website. Chelyapov estimates that a Bitty will end up costing around $50.