What is Magic Keys?

Magic Keys is a Mixed Reality piano learning app using a fun and innovative way of learning the instrument. With a very accessible 3D notation system, similar to the likes of Guitar Hero, users can play along simple pieces within minutes without having to read sheet music. Using Mixed Reality technology the notes are directly projected on top of the real-world piano keyboard providing a seamless interface to the music. On top of that Magic Keys aims to become a fully-featured virtual piano teacher including a learning schedule and interactive lessons for learning technique, music theory, improvisation and much more.

Our Vision

Our goal with Magic Keys is to lower the barrier of entry for anyone wishing to learn the piano. We want to provide an innovative new way of learning or just having fun. Learning and playing the piano has been one of the most meaningful and rewarding activites we have done our my lives. More and more people wish to learn the piano as an adult, however, for many the beginning seems too daunting to even try - from reading sheet music to navigating the 88 keys to coordinating left and right hand. Our mission is to keep all these people enganged in following their dream and give them a fun platform to explore this wonderful instrument.

About the developer

Dominik Hackl (26, from Austria) is a game developer and passionate pianist from early age on. When he first got into AR he was immediately hooked and couldn't think of a better use-case than piano learning. Combining his two passions this felt like a perfect match and he went on to spend the next few years developing prototypes for different hardware and researching digital music education.

The Journey so far

Dominik started working on this project in late 2017, initially as a prototype for a university course on Augmented Reality. Since he did not own any AR hardware at this time, he developed the first prototype for Android tablet using marker-based tracking. Even though the prototype was very rough and required the user to hover the tablet over the keyboard, it was still already clear that this could be of actual use.

He got access to the HoloLens, back then the only major AR headset available, and ported the application alongside with some major improvements. He continued to add features and tried to enhance the visualization of the music but he was greatly limited by the small field-of-view of the HoloLens back then.

In early 2019, he finally got access to a brand-new Magic Leap One, which was a huge step forward and enabled him to add some cool new features, including in-app feedback on note hits or misses (using MIDI input and output). The app at this point was a great proof-of-concept and was well-received by many testers. However, the low availablity of the Magic Leap One kept him from turning it into a full product which can be publicly released.

In 2021, Oculus released its Passthrough API for the Quest, opening up the possiblity for camera-based AR using their very affordable VR headset. Although the see-through camera technology was still in its early days, it looked very promising and finally provided an easy access to Mixed Reality.

Dominik immediately ported Magic Keys to the Quest using its Passthrough technology. He recorded a video of it and posted it on Reddit. There it blew up and went viral on several social media platforms over the following weeks. People from Meta themselves saw the video and reached out to finally feature the video in Mark Zuckerberg's keynote at the Facebook Connect 2021.

Since then Dominik has been working full-time on Magic Keys and with the help of another developer they have been adding tons of new features and polished the app to level where it was ready to go public. Which happened at the beginning of September 2022 with the Magic Keys Beta launch on App Lab.

With the recent worldwide hype and growing popularity of Mixed Reality and the Metaverse and a variety of new upcoming headsets, the future of Magic Keys and Mixed Reality music education in general looks bright.



Magic Keys - uploaded on the official Meta Quest YouTube channel

Magic Keys featured in Facebook Connect 2021



Praise & Mentions