Shawn Wasabi’s arcade-inspired Midi Fighter 64 is now available for purchase

Shawn Wasabi is an LA-based musician, but not in the way you might traditionally think. He doesn’t just play a guitar or piano or produce songs in a DAW (digital audio workstation, like Ableton or FL Studio). He’s a controllerism artist, using a piece of equipment called the Midi Fighter 64, a custom 64-button controller commissioned from music tech company DJ TechTools.

Controllerism artists use physical MIDI controllers like the Midi Fighter 64 in conjunction with a DAW, allowing them to perform complex musical routines live. Wasabi uses his Midi Fighter 64 with software called Ableton on his MacBook. Samples are loaded into Ableton, which are programmed to play when individual buttons on the controller are pressed, a process called MIDI mapping. Most controllers use rubber buttons — “squishy,” Wasabi says while scrunching his face — that have a maximum life of 40,000 presses before failure, and use a metal dome contact that’s prone to error.

This is what drew Wasabi to DJ TechTools’ Midi Fighter, which operates like a traditional controller, but uses Japanese Sanwa OBSF-24 arcade buttons instead of rubber ones. “I really like arcade buttons,” says Wasabi, “and people love feeling keyboard clicks. Playing on a Midi Fighter, it’s reminiscent of playing on arcade cabinets. There’s the satisfying haptic feedback with arcade buttons that you don’t really get from other buttons. These buttons are also designed to be fast and rapid-fire and withstand being spilled on and being beat up by hundreds of kids every day.”

Wasabi faced a roadblock though: at the time, the Midi Fighter only came in a 16-button model, and he wanted a 64-button version comparable to what other companies were producing. Sixteen buttons simply wasn’t large enough for the complex pieces of music he wanted to perform.

So, he bought multiple 16-button models and connected / MIDI mapped other electronics so he could have more functions to play with. In one of his first published YouTube performances, “Mac n’ Cheese,” Wasabi uses two 16-button Midi Fighters in conjunction with a PS3 controller and an Xbox controller, which were mapped using application MotioninJoy. “I even mapped the motion-sensing in [the video game controllers],” says Wasabi, “so when you lean them back, it switches it to another bank of sounds.” The setup was a stopgap solution, but it required an immense amount of work. “It was overwhelmingly complex, even for me to understand,” says Wasabi. “I felt like it was too much. I realized after I made that, I was like, ‘Wow, I need to scale back on this.’”

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Shortly after, Wasabi reached out to DJ TechTools, inquiring about creating a 64-button version of the Midi Fighter to mimic the layout of other popular controllers on the market. He was eventually put in touch with engineer Michael Mitchell, the original designer of the Midi Fighter, and a prototype was designed and 3D printed for Wasabi to use.

“Marble Soda,” the first routine Wasabi recorded for YouTube on the 64-button prototype, immediately went viral. It looks more polished than earlier videos. There’s professional lighting, and it’s set against a baby blue background with bubbles slowly drifting across the screen. The sound is evolved, too. “Marble Soda” is decidedly more twee than Wasabi’s earlier electro-influenced music, like the OST to a Nintendo game that could also be played at a rave. The mashup uses over 150 samples, and his fingers dexterously fly across the board, lighting up the buttons’ LED rings and triggering designs and animations (including a pokéball). One of his favorite samples, he says, is Super Smash Bros.’ Home-Run Bat effect. “It makes this really airy sound that sounds really cool.”

“It’s a lot of muscle memory,” says Wasabi. “I’ve built the dexterity from doing it for several years; it gets ingrained in your muscle memory. You have to learn how your hands move. It’s a lot less about learning about what each button does than learning about how your hands move and developing patterns. ‘Marble Soda’ took me about a month [to memorize].”

Wasabi’s popularity soared, and so did interest in the Midi Fighter 64 as he made more videos and increasingly featured the controller on socials in absurd situations. People wanted to know about this one-of-a-kind hardware. Where could they get it? Was it really the only one in existence? Why wasn’t it for sale? A fan started a Change.org petition asking DJ TechTools to make it en masse, available for purchase. It got thousands of signatures. And DJ TechTools noticed.

Then, in 2016, Wasabi’s car was broken into. His Midi Fighter 64 prototype was stolen, along with his MacBook and hard drive. The gear that had become his calling card was gone. Wasabi went back to DJ TechTools asking for a replacement to be made, and eventually, they acquiesced, creating and giving him a higher-quality replacement. While designing the replacement, the company decided to make a limited 20-unit run of the Midi Fighter 64, gifting the prototypes to artists around the world. The resulting explosion of its popularity combined with the Change.org petition from Wasabi’s fans prompted DJ TechTools to mass-produce the Midi Fighter 64 this year.

For the past three months, the company has been busy manufacturing its first 1,000-unit run, and on June 2nd, the Midi Fighter 64 became available for public purchase for the first time. DJ TechTools had 64,000 Sanwa arcade buttons shipped from Japan, the custom firmware was updated to include easy animations, and each Midi Fighter 64 is hand-assembled, one at a time, by the company’s in-house “circuit bender and DIY maker.” Each one is numbered, signed, and shipped with a certificate of authenticity.

Ean Golden, founder of DJ TechTools, thinks this could signal “the new way that product development may happen in the future thanks to new hardware and social tools.” Without Wasabi’s creativity and persistence, the controller would have never been built. “I think this story is a beautiful example,” says Golden, “of young makers using the technology around them to get things built that support their art.”

In the end, Wasabi is simply grateful that people want to watch and listen, and DJ TechTools helped his vision come to life. “I’m really happy with how everything’s going,” he says. “With the Midi Fighter 64, the music I’m making, and the videos I’m working on, it’s incredible.”

The Midi Fighter 64 can be purchased via DJ TechTools for $499.

Cox is the latest ISP to expand broadband data caps

After beginning a wide expansion of data caps earlier this year, Cox is now putting limits on even more of its internet subscribers. As spotted by Ars Technica, Cox has expanded its 1TB home data limit to Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, and Oklahoma; the cap was previously in place for customers in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

Cox subscribers who use more than 1TB of data in a month will automatically be charged $10 for every additional 50GB that they use up in a month. There are some locations where Cox isn’t charging overage fees yet (gigabit customers, who have a 2TB limit, also appear to be excluded), but it appears to be in place for most states.

While 1TB is a pretty high cap that most subscribers are unlikely to reach, there’s still good reason to be unhappy about Cox putting it in place. For one, home internet service has long had no cap at all, and now subscribers are getting less internet access for the same price.

But more importantly, even though 1TB seems like a lot right now, it won’t be in the future. As streaming video becomes increasingly popular, data usage is going to soar. That’s already happening, and it’s going to become an even bigger issue when people begin switching over to 4K, which requires a lot more data.

Unfortunately, home data caps are starting to proliferate. Comcast has placed a 1TB data cap on most of its customers as well, having raised that cap from a meager 300GB little more than a year ago. AT&T also places a 1TB cap on all but its highest-paying home broadband subscribers.

Ars Technica does point to a bit of good news, though: CenturyLink, which has about as many customers as Cox, dropped its plans for data caps back in May, saying it “no longer aligns with our goal to simplify offers and pricing for our customers”

A template for investor/founder sexual harassment policy


This policy template is a collaborative effort by a group of whistleblowers, investors, founders, and activists, compiled by TechCrunch. The full list of contributors can be found below.

Venture capitalists need to adopt formal policies to protect startup founders from sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination throughout the fundraising process. The policy template below was created to facilitate the creation of comprehensive, enforceable investor/founder sexual harassment policies. It also seeks to lower the barrier so more people can courageously speak up against their harassers without fear of retaliation.

We hope to see all VC firms draw from this template to formalize their own binding policies, establish them with urgency, and consistently follow-through with ejecting or punishing staff that violate them.

It’s important to acknowledge that this is merely a jumping off point that should help generate conversation and, more importantly, action on the part of firms and founders. The long-term ability of people in power to impact the quality of life of entrepreneurs, employees and users is worthy of more discussion.

[For more on how firms can ensure fair enforcement, and how this cultural shift towards decency can avoid causing a chilling effect on fundraising for female-led startups, check out TechCrunch editor Josh Constine’s accompanying op-ed “The need for industry-wide investor/founder harassment policy.” Constine also coordinated, compiled and edited the information contributed to this template. -Ed.]

Founders should expect and push their investors or those they consider partnering with to have made a clear commitment to eliminating harassment. Those looking to support this drive can share this template with the hashtag #HarassmentPolicy. 

Purpose And Context

  • Declaration of the goal to eliminate sexual harassment and discrimination in startup funding
  • Statement of values regarding why protecting founders from harassment by investors is necessary due to the imbalanced power dynamic
  • Explanation that standard  sexual harassment law does not adequately cover the investor/founder relationship, so voluntary policy is needed
  • Recognition that harassment and discrimination perpetrators and recipients can be of any gender or identity, though most often women are harassed by men
  • Discussion of the need for a culture of explicit consent
  • Encouragement of founders and LPs to demand formal sexual harassment policy from investors with whom they work
  • Note that meetings after-hours or in informal locations are part of the fundraising process, and that typical sexual harassment policies do not prohibit appropriate contact in these settings
  • Acknowledgement that startups also need strong internal sexual harassment and discrimination policies
  • Context that fixing sexual harassment and discrimination is part of a larger need to address all kinds of discrimination and harassment in the technology and startup industry, including sexism, racism, ageism, and ableism

Investor/Founder Sexual Harassment And Discrimination Policy

  • Zero-tolerance for investors overtly sexually assaulting, harassing, or discriminating against founders or their teams
  • Stern punishment for other violations of the policy
  • Scope of those bound by the policy that beyond investment partners may include any investment decision makers including VC firm staff, advisors, scouts, board members, or anyone else that could retaliate against a founder, or influence the funding decision about a startup
  • Scope of those protected by the policy beyond founders receiving investment, including founders who pitch or discuss potential investment with the firm, their fundraising teams, and potentially all staff, plus anyone the firm tries to recruit to their portfolio companies

Prohibited Forms Of Harassment Or Discrimination

Level A: Verbal Or Gender Harassment

  • Inappropriate comments about physical appearance or romantic life
  • Degrading sexual or sexist remarks, innuendos, and jokes

Level B: Direct Sexual Propositions

  • Sexual advances including repeated requests for dates, drinks, or personal contact
  • Inappropriate sexually-themed communication in person or online
  • Sexual invitations including requests for sexual activity or romantic meetings at one’s home or hotel room

Level C: Sexual Coercion Or Bribery

  • Quid Pro Quo harassment including implicit or explicit requests for sexual activity or silence about harassment in exchange for reward including funding, referrals, future employment, promotion, or invitation to exclusive events
  • Sexual coercion under threat of punishment including defamation, firing, negative reviews, or blocking funding

Level D: Sexual Assault

  • Unconsented physical contact of a sexual nature, including touching, groping, or kissing
  • Sexual contact without proper consent due to intoxication
  • Rape

Enforcement

  • Enforcement policy with consequences for each level of violation will be internally published and available to prospective portfolio companies, LPs, or hires to the firm as part of the due diligence process
  • Training in following the policy, its enforcement, and complaint reporting procedures will be mandatory all new and existing firm team members, and updated regularly
  • Violators of the policy face punishment including ejection from the firm
  • Subjects of harassment will be protected from retaliation or being publicly named
  • Whistleblowers will be protected from retaliation or being publicly named
  • Firm members aware of violations who do not report the problem to the firm or outside mediator will be punished in compliance with the firm’s enforcement policy for willfully ignoring or enabling violations
  • Complaints will be swiftly addressed with priority over day-to-day business
  • Resolution disputes will be referred to independent third-party review and mediation
  • Agreement to do due diligence on prospective firm employees and  not knowingly hire or work with those rightfully fired by other firms for violating the policy
  • Clear guidelines on how past violations by someone prior to working with the firm will be handled, including whether all past violations are punishable or if there is a statute of limitation
  • A process for what happens to prior investments, in-progress deals, board seats, and fundraising connected to a venture partner fired for violating this policy, such as adding clauses to terms sheets, limited partner agreements, and general partner operating agreements

Supplemental Recommendations

  • Scheduling regular in-person anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all new and existing firm members
  • Setting aside long-term funding to pay for outside independent review and mediation of disputed resolutions to complaints, such that mediators aren’t incentivized to protect the firm
  • Avoiding non-disparagement clauses in contracts that are designed to silence those who are harassed or whistleblowers
  • Proactively surveying portfolio companies regarding whether they or their colleagues have been harassed
  • Disclosure to LPs, portfolio companies, staff, and when appropriate, the public, if someone is ejected from the firm because of sexual harassment or discrimination policy violations to discourage them engaging in the same behavior elsewhere

Contributing Writers:

  • Cheryl Yeoh Sew Hoy, founding CEO of Cheryl Yeoh & Co
  • Niniane Wang, founder of Evertoon
  • Susan Ho, founder of Journy
  • Sukhinder Singh Cassidy & Lesley Grossblatt, theBoardlist
  • Shaherose Charania, co-founder of Women 2.0, strategist at 23 Design
  • Kate Brodock, CEO of Women 2.0
  • Susan Hobbs, partner at CrunchFund
  • Dave Morin, partner at Slow Ventures
  • Jacqueline Garavente, analyst at Union Square Ventures
  • Eric Bahn, former venture partner at 500 Startups
  • Elizabeth Yin, former venture partner at 500 Startups
  • Hunter Walk, founding partner of Homebrew
  • Nicole Patrice De Member, CEO and founder of INDAIS
  • Ingrid Sanders, entrepreneur and advisor
  • Ernestine Fu, partner at Alsop Louie Partners

Special Thanks For Inspiration:

Trump supporters accuse CNN of ‘blackmail’ after controversial article on Reddit user

CNN is facing escalating backlash after publishing a controversial article on a Reddit user.

The incident started earlier this week, when President Trump tweeted a GIF showing himself knocking out someone digitally labeled “CNN,” an image that many took as an endorsement of violence against the media.

On Reddit, a user named “HanAssholeSolo” took credit for the GIF, saying he was “honored” that “the MAGA EMPORER himself” had tweeted it. Racist posts from the account were soon uncovered, the latest in a series of incidents where a Trump tweet was linked to racist internet users.

In a now-deleted post on Reddit’s r/The_Donald, Solo later apologized for his behavior. “I am in no way this kind of person, I love and accept people of all walks of life and have done so for my entire life,” he wrote. “I am not the person that the media portrays me to be in real life, I was trolling and posting things to get a reaction from the subs on reddit and never meant any of the hateful things I said in those posts.”

But in an article published yesterday, CNN wrote that, just prior to Solo’s post, the organization had determined Solo’s identity by piecing together information he’d previously posted online. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski wrote that the organization would not publish Solo’s identity, however, as “he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again.” Still, Kaczynski wrote, “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”

The seemingly conditional statement about revealing the user’s identity became a flashpoint, with prominent — and largely, but not exclusively, right-wing — accounts accusing CNN of “blackmail.” Kaczynski defended the line, saying it had been “misinterpreted” and “was intended only to mean we made no agreement w/the man about his identity.”

By Wednesday, the hashtag #CNNBlackmail was trending, and Twitter was awash with false information. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that CNN had “bullied” a “15-year-old” — despite Kaczynski flatly denying that Solo was a teenager.

The story has now escalated into harassment from racist websites like The Daily Stormer, which published an article saying it would “track down” the family members of CNN employees for “comment” on “criminal associations.” Prominent alt-right personality Mike Cernovich wrote on Twitter that a “protest” in front of Kaczynski’s home was planned. Reddit users, meanwhile, sent a swastika to the front page of the site, in a dubiously effective attempt to have the image appear next to CNN in Google Images.

In a statement released today, CNN said it declined to release Solo’s name “out of concern for his safety,” and said the user had apologized before speaking with reporters. “Any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced him is false,” CNN wrote, adding that it “included its decision to withhold the user’s identity in an effort to be completely transparent that there was no deal.”

So long, paper tickets. Ticketmaster will soon let you check into events with just a sound

Getting into live events could soon be a whole lot easier, thanks to a new Ticketmaster partnership.

According to a report on VentureBeat, the ticket company is teaming up with Lisnr — an ultrasonic audio technology that sends data over inaudible sound waves called Smart Tones — to launch Presence, a new audio-based ticketing technology.

Presence works by transfering data from smartphones directly to receivers in event venues, using sound. The receivers then scan the data to confirm your identity, turning your smartphone into an efficient mobile check-in device.

Essentially, by making Lisnr’s technology available on mobile devices with Presence, Ticketmaster hopes to do away with the classic paper tickets that make entering events such a hassle.

“Lisnr sends data over audio that’s completely inaudible by the human ear.”

According to a video obtained by VentureBeat, using the technology is simple. As you approach the venue, just take out your phone and it will broadcast your personal ticketing data, ensuring the lengthy process that normally occurs when attendants have to check paper tickets is now just a distance nightmare of the inconvenient past.

In the video, Lisnr co-founder and CEO Rodney Williams said the technology “sends data over audio that’s completely inaudible by the human ear” to create customized user experiences. By eliminating paper tickets and making each event attendance personalized, Ticketmaster hopes to eliminate fraud, bots, scalpers, and discouraging long lines.

VentureBeat also reported that Presence has the ability to track users’ locations in venues to send out helpful customized messages. While that feature sounds kind of creepy, the technology could also help eliminate friends losing each other in large crowds, thus creating a safer environment.

The new ticketing system is already live in venues around the world, clocking entry times at less than a second long. Over the next four years Presence is set to roll out globally to billions of people, so you could be whizzing into venues like a pro before you know it.

Mashable reached out to Ticketmaster and Lisnr for comment.

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Solve escorts you through the airport like a VIP


There’s nothing scarier when traveling than the walk sprint from your arrival gate to customs. As a traveler you usually have no idea how long the customs line is going to be, and you could end up being stuck waiting for hours depending on the airport and time of day.

But now there’s an (easily accessible) solution. Meet Solve, the startup that finds you a concierge to meet you at your arrival gate and escort you through the airport, through customs and to your waiting car.

Part of Y Combinator’s Summer 2017 class, Solve will also help with airport arrival service, and connection transfers.

The reason I said Solve provides an easily accessible solution is because the infrastructure to supply these VIP escorts is already in place – Solve is just making it easier for the average traveler to take advantage of. Over 500 airports around the world already have agreements with companies that provide these escort services – but the industry is fragmented and very behind on technology. It’s hard to make reservations and get pricing information, and some providers still use fax machines to run their business.

So Solve has aggravated these services into one site with transparent pricing and easy booking.

Because there are hundreds of operators all running their own escort services, pricing varies. You can get a VIP escort from your car to your gate for $140 in Cape Town, South Africa but would need to pay $740 for the same service in Moscow. But generally, you can expect to pay about $300 for an escort for two people in most airports, including major U.S ones like SFO and JFK. You can type in any airport here to get specific pricing for that location.

Different operators also mean different levels of service – while many airports have a fast track lane for escorted VIPs at customs, there’s a chance the airport you’re at may not have such an arrangement. Also with over 500 locations operated by different companies there will obviously be different levels of service provided depending on how frequently that airport handles VIP transfers. That being said, Solve does guarantee each transfer will meet the passenger at the gate or curbside and “expedite the security, immigration, and customs processes”.

While the startup originally discussed putting employees in airports and creating these services themselves, they instead decided to focus on building products that make the suppliers more efficient. Some future ideas include an Uber-style app that shows you your concierge’s picture and name and provides real-time tracking and status updates, or a bio on the customer that the concierge has before they meet in the airport.

At best, Solve could save you hours of travel time for a pretty reasonable amount of money, at least compared to what most of us would expect services like this to cost. At worst, you’ll get to feel like a baller for a few minutes and get some extra help at the airport, which is never a bad thing.

These crowdfunded Switch docks are missing the point

The past few days have seen not one but two virtually identical-looking third-party Nintendo Switch docks hit crowdfunding sites. Over on Indiegogo, you’ll find the $59 SFANS, while Kickstarter has the slightly more expensive $69 Switch-Con to offer. Both docks try to take the features of Nintendo’s own bundled dock (which completely covers the entire console) and cut it down to a more manageable and portable size.

On paper, it’s a great goal. People have been complaining about the Switch dock since the console came out, with issues about overheating, scratching the screen, and the inconvenient size for traveling cropping up. But the two portable docks here, while certainly smaller than Nintendo’s dock, don’t feel like the way to go about this.

The biggest hurdle, of course, is price. The SFANS sells for $59, almost as much as Nintendo’s already overpriced official dock, which, unlike the SFANS, also includes a spare charger. And that’s just the early-bird pledge; it plans to sell the dock for a whopping $110 at retail after the campaign. Similarly, the Switch-Con costs almost as much as Nintendo’s own $89 offering. (Neither crowdfunded dock includes a charger.)

And if Nintendo’s dock was all that there was, these crowdfunded campaigns would be fine. Unfortunately, Nyko announced its $49 Portable Docking Kit at E3 earlier this year, which costs dramatically less than either the SFANS or the Switch-Con. It also includes a charger that can actually power the Switch, and serves as a stand for when you’re using the console away from a TV. Plus, Nyko is an actual established company which is far more likely to make its shipping deadline than either of the two crowdfunded options.

SFANS

I will note that the crowdfunded docks do offer regular USB ports, unlike Nyko’s offering, which does remain the only way to connect things like an Ethernet adapter to a Switch. Both crowdfunded docks can also serve as USB-C to HDMI dongle for other devices, like a computer or tablet. Whether or not that’s worth the extra money, however, is your decision. And yes, Nyko — with an established supply chain — likely can afford to make a cheaper product than the crowdfunded startups. But that doesn’t make selling a $70 dongle the right solution to the Switch’s dock issues.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, given that both the Switch-Con and SFANS have already blown past their crowdfunding goals. But if you’re looking for a spare dock for your Switch, maybe keep looking elsewhere.

Make Hollywood-quality animations at low-budget prices with this motion capture suit

Rokoko is a new startup helping indie film and game makers make high-quality content with a new type of lower-cost motion capture suit.

You might be familiar with the industry-standard green man MoCap suit many Hollywood studios use to capture the movement of objects or people for movies and games. Rokoko’s new Smartsuit Pro produces the same quality animations but sells for a fraction of the price, at $2,500, enabling indie filmmakers to get the same high-quality results.

It looks more like a ninja costume and comes equipped with 19 gyroscopic sensors embedded within the suit used as points for objects in motion. The suit comes with its own studio software, but the data can be exported to many different animation platforms, including Unity, Blender and Maya.

Founder Jakob Balslev, an eight-year filmmaking veteran, just started shipping the first 300 orders for the suit and says he’s already sold to huge-name customers — including someone working on one of the new Star Wars movies.

Balslev came into the TechCrunch studios with Fran Chung, a principal dancer at the San Francisco Ballet, to show us how it works using some of Chung’s crazy ballet moves. Check out the video above to see Chung in action and get a better idea of what this suit can do.