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“Piano Hero” Concept Video Makes Me Want To Try To Learn The Piano For The 500th Time

piano hero

Take a piano. Strap a projector above it. Build a Guitar Hero-esque interface that shows upcoming notes, and project it down onto the Piano’s top surface and keys. What do you get?

The piano instructor of the freakin’ future. Or, at least, a piano instructor that won’t yell at you and make you wish you decided to stick with soccer after all.


Highlighted in a video by NewScientist this morning, the Projected Instrumented Augmentation System is a project built by a team out of Germany’s Ulm University. Combining the aforementioned projection setup with logic that detects what you’re playing, the system is able to illuminate mis-pressed keys, and can move the song’s notes along at your pace.

Yeah, yeah. This might not teach you to actually play the piano – at least, not without lugging a big ol’ projector with you everywhere or memorizing everything you want to play. It certainly won’t teach you how to read sheet music. But it would help you get more comfortable poundin’ away at the old ivories, and help you learn to contort your hands into the many crazy shapes that piano playing requires. Plus, it probably feels pretty awesome to play along with.

This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve seen piano playing gamified, with companies like Konami (with Keyboard Mania), Harmonix (with Rock Band 3) and to some extent Smule (with Magic Piano for iPad) having toyed with the concept in their own ways. But this is the first time I’ve seen it mashed up directly onto the piano – and man, does that look rad.

If you’ve got a MIDI keyboard and are looking for something sort of similar (albeit without the crazy projection setup), check out Synthesia.

Forget Pagers, Philly Startup Seratis Wants To Bring Hospital Communication Into The 21st Century

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We get it: there’s a silly number of mobile messaging apps out there, and a great many of them are meant for you to share your banalities more easily. But a Philadelphia-based startup called Seratis is different.

Before Divya Dhar founded Seratis earlier this year, she was a practicing physician who had to use a work-issued pager to try to keep tabs on her patients and colleagues. That didn’t stop her fellow doctors from using smartphones to do the same thing – it’s the 21st century for heaven’s sake – but it turns out sharing that kind of information over insecure protocols isn’t exactly lawful.

Enter Seratis, a secure, HIPAA-compliant messaging app that may finally kill medical pagers dead.

Frankly, it’s sort of a surprise to hear that pagers are still widely used since they’ve all but disappeared from the public vernacular, but Dhar told me at Dreamit Ventures’ Philadelphia Health Demo Day that “90 percent of hospital communications still flows through pagers.” Turns out they’re pretty expensive, too.

“Everyone knows pagers need to go, and everyone is moving towards that,” she added.

Here’s how Seratis works: you log into the service as you would any other mobile messaging app, but the app organizes messages based on the patient they pertain to, so the entire team can see exactly what’s been going on with a particular person before they even check in for their shift. Even better, the app gives physicians direct access to colleagues they may rarely see, which makes for a much more fluid transfer of patient information.

After all, if you need clarification about a patient’s condition from a fellow doctor you haven’t run into before, imagine how long it would take to track down their contact info, reach out to them (assuming they’re not knee-deep in other work), and respond accordingly? That’s time that could be much better spent, and Dhar is frankly pretty sick of wasting it. Throw in support for read receipts and a quick, at-a-glance view of a patient’s entire medical team, and you’ve got a solid little smartphone app.

Turns out, the app is only part of the solution (data nerds may like where this is going). Hospitals and wards inside them will have access to important analytics from those conversations – some of the metrics like messaging volume and response time are pretty straightforward, but Seratis can also track specific words as they’re thrown around. Think of it as a lexicological early-warning system. If a slew of doctors working with multiple patients all repeatedly use the word “infection” on the same floor, something bad may be brewing. Seratis will be able to flag this so staffers and administrators can prepare and respond accordingly.

Of course, Seratis’ model isn’t exactly without its drawbacks. If you’re going to implement a crucial smartphone-centric messaging system in a hospital, you need to make sure every doctor who needs to use it actually has a smartphone. Considering smartphone penetration rates, there’s a solid chance that most physicians already have one, but Dhar conceded that some hospitals may need to offer incentives like data plan reimbursement to coax doctors into joining the BYOD bandwagon.

The team is also still trying to figure out the sweet spot, but Seratis plans to charge users per month so it can fit into small hospitals, as well as sprawling ones. Right now an alpha version of the iOS app (an Android version is in the pipeline, too) is being tested by Penn Medicine, but here’s hoping my doctors can more easily communicate about all my terrible miscellaneous ailments sooner rather than later.

The iblazr Flash Illuminates Your Smartphone And Tablet Photos, Preventing Black Square Syndrome

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A new Kickstarter project wants to let a little light shine in on your mobile photos – much more than the built-in flash on devices like the iPhone 5 can provide alone. The iblazr is an external flash that uses four high-output CREE LED lights to provide a whole lot of illumination via a small piece of hardware that plugs into your gadget’s headphone jack, easily outgunning the iPhone’s flash, and giving the flash-less iPad something to shine on photographic subjects.

The iblazr is entirely synchronized with your device’s camera shutter, too, thanks to a proprietary free app for iOS and Android. It has a number of different features, including photo and video modes, a constant light mode, changeable brightness, and a built-in, USB rechargeable battery that lasts up to 1,000 flashes. The iblazr recharges via a flexible USB cable, and it even works without a smartphone or connected device at all, providing you a tiny pocket flashlight as well.

If you’re serious about your Instagrams, or about not carrying a dedicated camera around and still getting good shots, the iblazr looks to be a smart option, as it offers less chance to result in red-eye than the built-in flash, more than doubles the brightness possible and can even act as a fill flash for daylight outdoor shots to prevent exposure from becoming unbalanced between light and dark background and foreground.

The iblazr includes its own free app, but its creators also made it open source, and are offering SDK access before its general release to backers. Already a number of apps are signed up on both Android and iOS to take advantage of the accessory, so it’s possible your favourite mobile photography app will be able to take advantage, too.

iblazr is the product of a team based in Kiev, Ukraine, which includes a number of designers and engineers who have worked on hardware and software projects related to camera and photography gear before. Two of the team members were the first to solve flash synchronization issues with external devices on the iPhone, making the iblazr’s tricks possible.

The startup is looking for $58,000 in funding, and has raised nearly half so far. $39 is the price of admission for a pre-order pledge, which gets you one white or black iblazr with charger, with an expected ship date of December, 2013.

Apply Now For The San Diego Meetup + Pitch-Off

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The time has come. TechCrunch is coming to San Diego for a night of pitches, drinks and general tomfoolery. And we’re looking for the area’s best undiscovered startups to pitch their revolutionary ideas on our stage. Apply within.

On August 22, TechCrunch is taking over Block 16. Josh Constine, Jordan Crook, Greg Kumparak, and myself are stoked to see San Diego’s best up and coming startups. We’re only in town for a few days, so we’re looking to make this night huge.

General admission tickets are $5 and including drinks. 21 and over only, please.

But this is more than just a meet and drink affair. This is a pitch-off. And as the attendees of our Austin and Seattle’s pitch-offs will likely attest, this is an event you’re not going to want to miss.

We’re looking for the area’s best and brightest young startups to pitch their company or idea to a few TechCrunch editors and local VCs. It’s free to register, and the 30 companies selected will get free admission to the event, as well as some one-on-one time with TC editors earlier in the day.

Best yet, the winners of the pitch-off get a Disrupt SF Startup Alley package that puts them in front of the masses of Silicon Valley’s elite. The runners-up get two tickets to Disrupt SF.

Apply here or in the form below. We’re reviewing applications on a rolling basis so it’s best to apply early. Registration closes on August 16.

San Diego is our latest stop in TechCrunch’s nationwide Meetup + Pitch-Off tour. We were just in Seattle last week and found a bevy of amazing startups nestled in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest. In May, we visited Austin, Texas, and before that, we held the first Pitch-Off of 2013 in front of 1,200 people in New York. We’ll be visiting Boston in November.

Our sponsors help make events happen. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact our sponsorship team at sponsors@techcrunch.com.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo Will Take The Stage At Disrupt SF

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Twitter CEO Dick Costolo wears many hats. Not only is he helping lead Twitter into its possible future as a public company, Costolo is a master at improv from his days as a professional comedian, and is a serial entrepreneurs who has sold companies to Google (Feedburner) and others. Which is why we are thrilled to announce that Costolo will join us for a discussion at Disrupt SF.

As Twitter heads down a path towards an eventual IPO, Costolo has been steering the company towards profitability via new ad products, with Twitter potentially hitting $1 billion in ad revenue in the coming year. Beyond supercharging the financials, Costolo has a unique approach to managing his fleet of over one thousand employees, and creating a distinct culture at a company that has been growing by leaps and bounds.

We’re excited to have Costolo take the stage along with other notable CEOs like Marc Benioff, Marissa Mayer, and Jeff Weiner. Much has changed for both Costolo and Twitter since hespoke at TC50 in 2009.

Disrupt SF takes over The San Francisco Design Concourse from September 7 to 11. Tickets are currently on sale here. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, opportunities can be found here.


Dick Costolo
Twitter, CEO

Since October 2010, Dick has been the Chief Executive Officer of Twitter, where he is responsible for the growth and management of the overall business. Previously, as Twitter’s Chief Operating Officer, he oversaw monetization and day to day operations.

Before joining Twitter, Dick was co-founder and CEO of FeedBurner, a digital content syndication platform that was acquired by Google in 2007. While at Google, Dick was Group Product Manager on the Ads team responsible for social media ads.

Previously, Dick lived and worked in Chicago, where he founded and ran two digital media companies: SpyOnIt, a web page monitoring service, and Burning Door Networked Media, a web design and development consulting company. Dick was also an improv performer with the acclaimed Annoyance Theater.

He graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Computer Science. He is @dickc on Twitter.

[image Scott Beale / Laughing Squid]

It’s Time To #DisruptEurope – Submit Your Battlefield Applications For Berlin Now

DisruptEurope

TechCrunch Disrupt Europe will be TechCrunch’s major international conference this October. Featuring global startups, influential speakers, VIP guests and breaking news, you will not want to miss out. But, if you are a new startup that wants to launch in front of TechCrunch’s writers on the Battlefield stage: We want to make sure you have filled out your Startup Battlefield application. Do it now. The deadline is approaching July 31, and the clock is ticking.

In addition to onstage panel sessions and fireside chats, Disrupt will feature Startup Battlefield and Startup Alley to the Arena Berlin venue.

Startup Battlefield competitors pitch their companies live and onstage to innovators, investors and influencers in the tech community. TechCrunch identifies emerging companies to demo and compete for a prize of 40,000 ($50,000) and the coveted Disrupt Cup, won previously by Mint.com, Yammer, Fitbit, and Dropbox. Companies can apply to enter Startup Battlefield now, and the deadline has been extended to July 31.

The Startup Battlefield will select 30 brand new startups to launch on stage in front of a panel of top VCs and other founders, coverage on TechCrunch and the winner gets the 40,000 prize. We review applications on a rolling basis, so it’s to your advantage to submit as soon as you can.

Due to strong demand, it’s unlikely that we will review applications more than once, so please don’t submit a draft application before you are ready.

All submissions are confidential unless otherwise permitted by applicants on the application form. PowerPoint slides and video demos are optional but highly encouraged. We reserve the right not to review applications without video demos based on application volume.

Startup Alley offers another way for early-stage companies to gain exposure with a setup that encourages both exhibiting and networking, and provides high visibility. Roughly 100 startups comprise Startup Alley with around 50 new companies demoing on Monday and 50 demoing on Tuesday. Startup Alley companies will have the opportunity to sign up for one on one conversations with the editorial staff of TechCrunch, also known as Office Hours.

Additional speakers and agenda details will be announced between now and the show – find all the latest information on the Disrupt Europe website.

Extra Early Bird tickets are available for a limited time. Click here to purchase before they sell out.

Our sponsors help make Disrupt happen. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact our sponsorship team here sponsors @ techcrunch.com

Media inquiries by can be directed to John Nolan on john.nolan @ teamaol.com

Someone Please Actually Hack Chipotle’s Twitter Account

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For whatever reason, this week has felt particularly long. It might be some astrological reason like Mercury in retrograde. Or it might just be the emotions that are a package deal with being a woman at the end of any month.

Or it might be that burrito haven Chipotle fake-hacked its Twitter account on Sunday, and the stunt has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Brands who stage fake hackings as an attempt to #winthemoment, does the world really need more Internet mistrust post-NSA PRISM?

Is fake hacking really something you’d like to have forever associated with your brand? Do you really want Pete Cashmore sopping up pageviews debunking your lame attempt at garnering publicity?

For that matter, is using twelve people to “position” a tweet really the best use of your precious time left on the planet? I mean, doing anything on Twitter nowadays is lauded as being cool and fresh. Even if the content itself is not cool and fresh. We’re on to you, Oreo.

The only reason I’m bringing this up is because the world is in the middle of an economic Cold War: On one side, over a billion people who make less than $1.25 per day; on the other, a class of overprivileged digital natives like myself who get paid to spend their lives on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, thinking up new ways to “go viral.””What if we faked a hack …?!”

The only way this will end is with my head on a spike. Let them snap chats!

Hit send too soon!-
Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) July 21, 2013

Mittens13 password leave-
Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) July 21, 2013

Image: Jillian Fleck

Angels Get Carry For Helping A Startup Raise Money With AngelList Syndicates

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AngelList is testing out a new service that lets angel investors syndicate deals with each other, a feature that could allow startups to raise venture-sized rounds of money with relative ease. Called Syndicates, the private-beta product lets any accredited investor on the AngelList fundraising platform essentially create, lead and collect carry for a fund of angel money for a specific startup.

The carry part could help motivate an angel who truly believes in the startup to put in the hard work of helping it raise all the money it thinks it needs. In a world where more startups than ever are trying to raise money, and more investors are competing to find the best ones, this model may quickly become popular.

Here’s a bit more about how it works, as gleaned from the newly-public FAQ from AngelList, the resulting conversation around the news on Twitter, and a conversation with AngelList cofounder Naval Ravikant. The news, we’ll note, was broken by anonymous startup personality Startup L. Jackson… who presumably has investor-level access to AngelList, whoever he or she is.

VCs and their limited partners (the entities who put money into VC funds) already use carry to align their interests. In addition to the VC partners collecting a set management fee for each fund, the carry provides them with a percentage of the profit for the fund.

In the AngelList implementation of the concept, the lead angel picks the percentage carry that they’ll get from a positive return in the company if it has a liquidity event. They can set this to zero, which would make the most sense if they’re relatively unknown and most concerned with building a reputation. Or they can set any amount above that – 40% could make sense, for example, if you’re a top angel and looking to monetize your reputation and deal flow.

The FAQ provides the following example of how a lead angel would use Syndicates:

Sara decides to invest in a startup and asks for a $250k allocation in the company. She personally takes $50K of the allocation and decides to syndicate the rest. She shares the deal with investors and specifies that she is charging a 20% carry on the remaining $200k of her allocation. Sara’s capital and her co-investor’s capital is pooled into a $250K fund which invests in the startup.

Sara’s co-investors pay carry for her access, governance and value-add. She sourced the deal and used her judgment to select the investment. She manages the fund and provides oversight for her co-investors’ capital. And she provides ongoing value-add to the startup.

AngelList takes 5% regardless, which makes Syndicates a potentially big revenue stream for the funding platform. It also sets each Syndicate up as an LLC specifically for the startup in question, with the lead angel signing off as an investment advisor. This legally obligates the angel to disclose any conflicts, such as other strategic or financial relationships with the startup.

As part of the service, AngelList also requires the lead to put up at least 10% of their own money into this vehicle, in contrast with the much lower percentages that LPs typically require of VC funds. In my discussion with Ravikant, he adds a few other points on how he sees Syndicates working.

“The backers are likely to be LPs, family offices [of the very wealthy], passive angels, and angels out of market who can’t get into a deal or don’t want to spend the time,” he explains. Meanwhile, the lead angel is expected to take this more seriously than some angels might be used to, in that they are expected to “provide access, oversight, and help the company.”

At the same time, he disputes the notion that Syndicates is competing against VCs here – an assumption one might make given that Syndicates could help a company raise a lot of money quickly. “This isn’t about ‘without VCs’ – in our test, anyone investing less than $100K per deal goes via Syndicates. Over that and you get a direct intro. If you’re putting in serious money, the company wants to meet you. The two will coexist.”

“In fact,” he adds, “some well known VCs have already approached us about syndicating deals – they wouldn’t take a carry, but would get advisory shares for being on the board and / or get to control syndicate allocations and voting. We are also talking to seed funds who want extra leverage.”

A less obvious benefit of the setup is that angels now have a new way to take advantage of pro rata terms. Typical deal terms already allow investors to continue putting money into a company in order to maintain their existing percentage, even as the company raises new funding at higher valuations. But, many angels do not want to raise or borrow the money to do this, so they forego the option. With Syndicates, the investor can fundraise to buy stock made available via pro rata terms, and collect carry on any resulting profit.

What about the murky world of finance law? Where does the Securities and Exchange Commission stand on this new method of raising money? AngelList has obtained a no-action letter from the federal agency, which means that it can launch the service without fear of its legal reprisal. You can view the PDF here.

But wait, how new is this concept? Finance writer Dan Primack notes that “fundless sponsors” already exist, and indeed they’ve become an increasingly common method for private equity investors to pool money in recent years.

There are very few instances of a carry-based LLC being used for angel investment, though. FundersClub, a relatively new investment-vehicle startup focused on raising funds around startups and startup categories, has also been pursuing it. Sequoia’s long-running “Scout” program is another, albeit at an intentionally smaller scale. To Ravikant, “[t]his is closer to Sequoia scouts than anything else. It allows anyone to be a scout, not just Sequoia’s CEOs, and anyone to be a backer, not just Sequoia. And it’s all carry-based (no fees).”

He adds that this is just a test for the next couple months. It may not work, or the implementation may change.

But any startup that needs funding and has an angel lined up is going to be looking at Syndicates hard as a new option. And the early-stage investment community is already busy trying to figure out the threats and opportunities.

Finally, the SEC, Congress and other government entities are currently changing the rules for private fundraising, which could make Syndicates explode in popularity. Private companies could soon be able to publicly advertise that they’re looking for money, which might help them benefit from the Syndicates concept immediately. And if non-accredited investors are allowed in, lots more money could start to flow through, too (and Startup L. Jackson will have a tougher time beating the tech press on AngelList scoops).

[Disclosure: AngelList has a partnership with our CrunchBase startup database product, a non-exclusive deal that is unrelated to this news as far as I know. I also have no financial relationship with AngelList, except through my nearly worthless employee stock option plan with Aol, the owner of TechCrunch and CrunchBase.]

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