I don't know how much money they're going to charge, but considering that they already overcharge for their standard guitars, I"m sure that this will be an expensive option... It's very easy to get locking tuners and tune the guitar yourself... My 2 cents anyway..
It's like the flying faders on the old Neve boards... It loooked cool for the client, but unless you had the kind of business that allowed you to afford that kind of board, it wasn't worth it...
The engineering approach is quite unorthodox and brilliant! Don sold the patent to Story & Clark, a company that, if I remember correctly essentially rebrands Chinese manufactured pianos and adds player mechanisms, etc.
I don't think that they were able to reduce the technique to practice at a commercial level. I suspect that the system would need to be engineered right into the manufacturing process. The last time I spoke with Don, he hadn't figured out a way to economically retrofit a piano with this system.
Whenever I hear words like "tunes itself" I'm tempted to ask "does it really" There's already skepticism about the usefulness of this thing, and that's assuming it actually works. But different strings have different levels of tension and tune differently. I have a hard time believing this thing is so smart it will accomadate this variation. And what about the fact that as strings age they sag and have to be tuned more tightly. Is it gonna know that?
By all accounts, Don's prototype, a re-engineered Kawai grand worked very well indeed. The teeth-knashing by some in the PTG (Piano Technician's Guild) was clear indication of that!
As I expected (even though I've been out of the business for about a quarter century) the economics of the acoustic piano industry (rather grim, these days) wouldn't support the development costs required take the design from prototype to a product integrated into the instrument manufacture. The economics of the guitar industry are a very different story.
Looking at Gibson's website description of this gadget,
I strongly suspect that Don is under contract to Gibson. The technique that they describe measuring the string frequency of the strings during the tuning process bears a lot of similarity to Don's method. They probably bought or licenced the patent rights. Don is a top notch mechanical engineer and industrial designer. The servo mechanism that they appear to be using is similar to one that he experimented with for pianos but found wasn't sensitive enough. Guitar tuning is a much simpler problem from an engineering standpoint. If I remember correctly guitar strings are at a much lower tension that a piano's 160-180lbs per string.
The method used by Don for pianos involves using a slight current to adjust the string tension. Nylon harp strings don't conduct at any reasonably safe voltage.
The servo mechanism they're using for guitar could probably work for harps but again, the economics of it probably won't.
Sounds great to me. With all the time in research and development they've put into it, I don't see how they could have over-looked factors like how older strings need different tensions, how different brands of strings require different tensions etc.--We've had digital tuners for years now, clearly this "Robot Guitar" will rely on a digitally perfect reference tone to keep adjusting things until the strings are each tuned accurately, despite unpredictable factors about the strings themselves.
This quote on the news page amused me:
"..."I'm sorry, this is just lazy. With stuff like this, tuning is going to be a lost skill," wrote LettheBassPlay..."
Why cry about tuning being a "lost skill"--? Considering how many badly tuned instruments we've all heard musicians playing, it's obviously alReady a "lost skill"--!
How many piano players tune their own pianos? Keyboard players who use soft synths rarely if ever need to reach for tuning knobs. And I'm trying to picture pipe organ players crawling around tweaking the pipes - ok, well actually I Do know one such stalwart individual, but he's not typical.
I say let technology advance and keep helping musicians to focus on what they need to focus on most - making music, not twiddling tension keys on stringed instruments.
In fact, I say let's develop this technology and FORCE orchestras to use it - If I have to hear out of tune string players ever again--ARrrrrrgh they can be painful. Concert Master cues the orchestra for tuning up- and invariably you can hear musicians scattered around the pit who blithely over or under shoot the pitch, because their ears aren't accurate enough, apparently.
Pretty useful feature I'd say, but the page says, "Professional guitar players use a lot of different tuning and people who listen to the stars wonder why they can't reproduce the same sound themselves,"
That's a mother of all misleading statements! Like you're going to turn into Al DiMeola clone simply by having your guitar tuned better?