What if a player piano could take requests? In the hacker/maker spirit of DIGITALKITCHEN, our team re-imagined a forgotten technology as a simple interactive experience that connects people and music and in new way.

Meet Stanley. The world’s first instrument to have a conversation with its audience and field its own song requests.

Stanley started as a player piano with a simple repertoire found in a box of paper rolls. One thing was for sure: he couldn’t play any Kanye. We replaced his piano roll with hardware that enabled each key to be controlled electronically. A USB MIDI interface would send note data to Stanley’s hardware, triggering each note to be played. All songs were created from scratch or modified existing MIDI files found online. In some case, the full arrangement (vocals, drums, bass) of each song was transcribed by hand for the piano.

To manage social communication (Twitter, live video feeds, crowd interactions, and song requests), The team at DK built a custom tool called STANFORD. This tool supports simultaneous multi-user control—each person working behind the scenes can work in tandem without having to worry about overlap.

The perfect debut show presented itself on the street right outside DK Seattle’s front door. As a way to support Seattle’s independent music scene, Stanley first appeared at the Capitol Hill Block Party ready to play music from the performing indie artists. A video teaser and street posters in the Capitol Hill neighborhood invited folks to meet Stanley in person, and the rest of the world to tune in via live feed.

Over the three days of the festival, people danced, laughed, battled, argued, and fell in love with Stanley. Every tweet, crowd interaction and song Stanley played was personalized and authentic, building an emotional connection to his fans. People interacted with Stanley on his Twitter account and over live HTML5 video feed, accessible across all devices.

In the end, Stanley resonated with thousands of people, blogs and news outlets around the world totaling more than 25 million PR impressions. He connected with fans not just as an innovative application of technology, but as genuine personal experience. He still receives song requests to this day.


  • 220,000 website page views.
  • 121,000 views on Vimeo.
  • 14,000 @mentions.
  • 7,000+ people to watch the live stream for lonnger than 30 minutes.
  • 4,500 song requests.
  • 44 blog hits including Wired, Creators Project, Mashable, and Design Taxi.
  • 39 press hits including ABC National News, Huffington Post, and Mail Online.
  • 1 Tweet from @alyssa_milano. 😉
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