Upon opening the Bebot iPhone app, you’re greeted by a smiling, cute-as-can-be cartoon robot in a snazzy tux and red bowtie. He looks somewhat like the spawn of Rosie the Jetsons’ maid and the Pillsbury Doughboy, but instead of that trademark “Doughboy” chuckle, Normalware’s Bebot Robot Synth ($2) serves up electronic bleeps and bloops based on your finger movements.
Drag your finger across your iPad or iPhone screen to hear Bebot sing. Add more fingers and he’ll harmonize with himself. Move those fingers to the right and left to hear the pitches go up and down, or vertically to hear the timbre of Bebot’s voice gradually change.
(Check out more ways to make music without really trying.)
Amusingly, all this is accompanied by appropriate visuals: Bebot rocking back and forth in time with the music, opening his mouth to make the sounds, and generally giving a pretty convincing performance of “singing” the music you make with what is one of the more curious music creation apps we’ve come across.
The out-of-the-box fun factor of this thing (we’re not kidding; it kept distracting us as we wrote this article) belies the fact that it’s really a full-on polyphonic synthesizer.
Double-tapping the icon at the bottom right brings up a control panel where you can customize everything from the waveform type to the amount of echo.
We especially appreciated the scale and auto-tune features, which make it a lot easier to play discernable melodies. There are also a few preset voices — including a killer theremin emulator — for those who just want a variety of cool sounds without having to mess with the synth’s back end or try to, you know, play actual music.
If you’re looking for an iPhone or iPad music toy/synthesizer with unique, intuitive controls, an amusing interface, and a wide sonic palette — or just for a cheap way to amuse yourself, then we recommend picking Bebot up. Just don’t expect to be able to put him down any time soon.