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Joan Ganz Cooney Center Releases Study on Apple’s App Store and Kids Content

One of the most engaging of our Kids@Play sessions this year took a look at “screentime” and how much is too much (or  too  little) for young kids. One of the presenters, Carly Shuler, of  the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, focused her study on the Apple  iTunes “educational marketplace.”  The study, “ iLearn II: An Analysis of the Education Category on Apple’s App Store” found that among products for the iPhone and iPad in the education category, apps for toddlers/preschoolers experienced the greatest growth – 23 percent – in the last two years. Using a 2009 analysis conducted by the Center as a benchmark, the new market analysis examined nearly 200 top-selling education apps for the iPad and iPhone with the goal of understanding the education app market dynamics and trends. Among the key findings:

• Only 14 percent – one in seven – was tagged for intended school usage.
• The average price of children’s apps has risen by over $1 since 2009, but still is under $2.50.
• 109 different publishers were represented within the sample; 89 of these publishers were not represented in the sample two years ago.

Much like the early days of CD ROMs, the marketplace is glutted by entries in the toddler arena – some better than others. The irony of a device that was created with their parent as the audience, and having so much content for toddlers was not lost on the audience.

For more on the study read this piece on the Huffington Post.

History is Made at CES Kids@Play: 6 Mobile Devices Just for Kids

Here’s the logic. If kids covet their parents iPads and iPhones,  and if Android devices are beginning to catch up on sales of phones and tablets, will kids then want their own Android devices.  Hard to predict, but at CES Kids@Play, Warren Buckleitner, moderated a history making panel that looked at a new crop of mobile devices designed just for kids.

Vinci , a complete learning system tablet for toddlers, announced at last year’s CES returned to announce  a “little vinci” – iPhone sized unit, for half the price.  The Mini tablet will cut the price in half.  Vinci’s focus is on leveraging technology to create a curriculum for kids with clear objective. The company’s CEO has often said that “every child should play their way into Harvard”. An Android with a touch screen, built in camera and WiFi comes with software that teaches everything from colors and shapes, to emotional thinking, to math and music. Priced from $379

Fuhu is a clever Android based device with a 7 inch screen. Designed for a slightly older child, the Fuhu comes preloaded with  Netflix and Angry Birds, both hits for the primary school kids. It has a book reader, pre-loaded music, gobs of math problems, and higher end features including HDMI out , USB, audio out for headphones and a camera.  An Ask Mom button sanctions buying when your child asks.  And Fuhu costs under $200.  Read what the Hollywood Reporter said.

Playbase  Go is another Android tablet with a clean simple design just for kids.  It too has a 7 inch capacitive touch screen and plenty of storage and RAM. The special protective covers for the unit come in various colors and actually convert to a book stand type cover. It’s got a built in camera and comes with its own version of special software including . Of the various devices, it’s capable of showing 3D  and is built to take a beating but still thin and light. Read the Pocketlint review.

LeapPad, introduced this fall is a $99 educational experience from Leapfrog.  LeapPad has quite a few features for the price , a built in camera, creativity like an art tablet, a music player, games, books and more.  The big difference between it and the other devices is that you can’t just download any apps.  The apps must be downloaded by connecting the tablet via USB to a PC and going to the Leapfrog site. Still, it’s tried and true content and was one of the most sought after products this holiday season.  See the live video from CES.

The PlayStation Vita is really a different beast, developed to take play to the next level.  It’s got more of everything: not just one, but two capacitive touch surfaces on both the top and the bottom of the mobile device. It’s got the traditional PlayStation dual analog stick controls, WiFi, 3D and front and back cameras.  This makes it an incredibly diverse game play experience – one that can grow with your child.  Demo games include augmented reality and lovely hi definition games.  See what USA Today had to say about the Vita demos at CES.

Finally, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC XO3)  is a totally redesigned tablet version of the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child that relies on a touch screen rather than a keyboard ). A Linux based device that runs open source games and programs, and a scaled down version of Wikipedia called Wikipedia slices, OLPC is being used mostly in developing countries to provide equal access to computing power. The focus of OLPC, a project of MIT and Nicolas Negroponte is to provide an environment where you can build your own games, explore source code for your applications, create and surf the web. There’s even a hand crank feature to generate power for the machine. Every feature, including a very special looking interface shaped like a spiral begs for exploration. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/9675748.stm

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Wearable Fashion that’s Cutting Edge

It’s not denim or lace.  It’s not midi or mini.  The future of fashion is all about integrating technology to create a beautiful and unique experience. These fashions were created by a group of young designers who know that the body is the mobile device of choice. Take a peek at their creations.

A new piece of conceptual fashion FURver is an interactive hard shell corset with “emotionally volatile” fur. Like many threatened creatures, the clothing reacts to the proximity of those who get too near. Inspired by sea anemones, animated tentacles rise and bio-luminescent color intensifies to warn predators of personal space dimensions being invaded as well as protect the wearer. The sensor is located at the base of the neck – like eyes in the back of your head. As it sees someone approach, fiber optic spines rise and light up to warn and protect – almost like an extension of goose bumps. The hard shell corset is personal space armor as well as a interactive protection of spatial boundaries.

 

The Cocoon Necklace takes its design cue from insect cocoons. It is made of felt-covered LEDs, the same way a cocoon would cover and protect the pupa inside. The soft glow coming from the LEDs represents the life inside of the cocoon – that’s you. Tasteful tech-art at its best.

 

 

DIY wearable fashion can be simple, too. Here’s a a handmade headphone hoodie – a jacket with speakers built right into the hood.

 

Don’t let the cold weather stop you either. AGloves are simple but all important winter gloves that work brilliantly on all touchscreen devices, with all 10 fingers. And the price – less than $25 – is something to blog home about.

 

One of  my favorites, the GER is short for Galvanic Extimacy Responder. Translation? It’s a mood sweater providing a display based on your emotions. The designer calls it a externalized intimacy — a display of the personal in the world — the interface by which we identify with the other so that we may gain greater insight of the self. GER visually displays the wearer’s emotional state as interpreted by a Galvanized Skin Response (GSR) – in other words, a classic lie detector test. The sensors read sweat [nervousness] and translate the data into a palette of affective colors.

The high collar, bowl design positioned with LEDs reflects onto the self for instant biofeedback and acts as a tele-display or external blush for the other. Located on and around the larynx, the visual interface replaces speaking, as emotions are instantly expressed. This creates a biofeedback loop that enhances the blush and tranquility of the wearer.

 

 

 

As the day winds down and the night stretches before us, twinkling LEDs come to life. The dress you’re looking at has won kudos in the field of wearables by combining technology with customizable prêt-â-porter fashion. The designer hopes to inspire a future where wearables are democratized, aestheticized, and performative. The LEDs in this dress are designed to react to luminosity – change the lighting and you’ll change the dress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The outdoors man will like this pollutant shirt – it provides a warning signal by producing a visualization of the pollution that exists invisibly all around us. For example, when the shirt senses carbon monoxide, the piece subtly changes color and pattern to indicate higher levels of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hems go up and hems go down, just like the stock market.  This bustier, when unbuttoned, wirelessly transmits real time stock updates to a nearby computer or mobile phone.  The piece plays with the concepts of gender, economics and power.  The eyelet on the top button acts as a sensor triggering the updated stock quotes to appear. And for the bashful, the first eyelet is all you need to open to get the quotes started. No nudity required.

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How Social Networking Wrecked My CES Events

I am not a newbie – I’ve been at CES for an eternity, as the emcee and creative force behind the Last Gadget Standing and the Mobile Apps Showdown – two events at CES that both rely heavily on the people’s vote to decide on a winner.

There was a time when the people’s vote meant something. Either it meant you trusted the company, you had a passionate interest in its product, or you simply thought it was a cool idea. Why else would you show up to vote?

This year will mark the end of a decade of trusting in the people’s vote and it’s all because of social networking.  Today, the winner of the people’s vote is content-free; it’s a cross between a popularity contest, a shouting match, and a hacker’s club.

This year’s popular vote for The Last Gadget Standing and Mobile Apps Showdown made Florida’s hanging chads look like child’s play. Here’s how we noticed that our world had changed. A product that hasn’t even been announced yet starts to get thousands of votes on our people’s choice voting page – so many votes that our servers  crawl to a halt.

Suspicions heightened, I make a call to the company asking how it’s possible for them to have such a strong lead. They proceed to tell me the story of the ShayTards – evangelical followers of a guy named Shay Carl, whose disciples hang on to his every blog. “He’s our spokesperson,” the company tells me, “his people will do whatever he tells them to do.”

Who knew? Now, I call a few other companies to see what they’ve been doing to garner votes and it runs the gamut from email blasts to hiring professional bloggers. The comment fields for each product are filled with useless endorsements like “Cool product”  at best, or “I was told to vote here” at worst.   Meanwhile, the website is nearly at a standstill and my office is under siege from voters complaining about not being able to access the site.

A quick call to our hosting company results in an upgrade to more space. No improvement. A second call results in a second upgrade. Like the kid who keeps getting detention in school we start to realize we’ve got bigger problems than server space. Turns out there were 40 “denial of service” scripts running against our voting page. They made it impossible to vote and they were equally impossible to track down to a source.

Finally we moved our vote to a hosting company that’s probably one level below DOD clearance (at great expense, I might add). We believe that we’re back on track. But who knows?

The point of the story? If you’re naïve enough to believe that crowd sourcing is really indicative of what the crowd thinks, or that the people can be trusted to vote thoughtfully based on real information…think again. I used to believe that the people knew best; now I believe that they’ll do whatever it takes.

Last Gadget and Mobile Apps will continue, but you better believe that the rules will change.

For now, we’re still honoring the people’s vote. Head over to Mobile Apps Showdown or Last Gadget Standing and do your civic duty.