- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2009

ATLANTA | Talk about a helping hand.

Georgia Tech researchers are trying to reinvent how students learn to play the piano by developing a glove that vibrates to cue a budding musician which finger needs to be played at a given moment. The goal is to fuse music with muscle memory to teach pianists their craft.

“You can literally feel the notes,” said Kevin Huang, the Georgia Tech graduate student who came up with the idea.

His early design is basically a golf glove powered by a battery that’s hooked into five vibrating motors. The glove has a wireless link to a PC and sends a tiny jolt through the motors to prompt each suggested tap of a piano key.

The glove’s software links to just a handful of songs, but developers say it can be synchronized with iPods or other music players. That means a student wouldn’t have to sit at a piano to begin building the muscle memory of how songs are played.

Mr. Huang and his professors were encouraged by a pilot study that showed the glove helped some users learn basic songs quicker. Eventually he hopes to turn the glove into a wristband that could teach users to play woodwind instruments as well.

“It’s not a replacement” for traditional teaching methods, Mr. Huang said. “This just augments it. It provides a new, alternative way to learn the piano for people who don’t have time for the traditional, vigorous process.”

Mark Cuban offers financing for transparency

Usually, business plans are hatched in secrecy. Internet billionaire Mark Cuban is taking a different tack, offering entrepreneurs funding in return for transparency.

In a blog post last week, Mr. Cuban asked start-up and existing companies to post their business plans on his blog for anyone to see and comment on — in return for the possibility of an investment from him.

Mr. Cuban said in an e-mail that he thinks the faltering economy will rebound more quickly if people feel confident about starting their own businesses and that providing a route for people to get funding and share ideas “might encourage people to take a chance and go for it.”

Of course, posting your business idea online could lead someone else to copy it. Mr. Cuban expects — and wants — this to happen.

“It’s a good thing if someone sees an idea and replicates it somewhere else. The more businesses that are started the better,” he said.

Mr. Cuban has attached strings. These transparent businesses must be able to be cash-flow break-even in two months and profitable within 90 days. They also can’t rely on advertising for revenue. Mr. Cuban thinks enough businesses already are trying to get by on ad sales.

“It makes it much harder to control your own destiny as a start-up business,” said Mr. Cuban, who is also the Dallas Mavericks owner and became the target of an insider-trading lawsuit from federal regulators last fall.

By midweek, several people had posted business plans to Mr. Cuban’s blog, including Alain Raynaud, a Mountain View, Calif.-based entrepreneur who runs a company that helps people start online businesses and conduct networking events online. So far, he hasn’t heard anything from Mr. Cuban.

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