It all starts with the Furby, which is being readied for a 21st century makeover.
Furby’s new LED eyes make bizarre designs, and motion sensors make Furby laugh when tickled. An app that comes with Furby lets you shoot it some food and even train it talk. They’ll cost $60 and come out in September. If they drove you crazy in their first incarnation, they’ll likely do it again, only with a high-tech flair.
Videogames have become richer, but the old stories buried deep inside of Disney are meeting the new videogames. The best evidence is a new game announced at San Diego Comic Con, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. Of course it’s coupled with a new movie: Disney Epic 2. The story involves Mickey, and drags in Oswald the lucky rabbit (Oswald actually looks very much like Mickey, with bigger ears).
The two heroes head off to Wasteland – a land populated with 80 years of forgotten Disney characters and theme park attractions – to teach kids a bit about saving the planet as they play. Mickey gets a paintbrush as his weapon of choice, while Oswald gets a remote control. It’s a colloborative play experience which many parents will cherish, minus the setup headache. The game will be available this holiday season for Nintendo, Xbox 360, and the PlayStation3. Check out their YouTube video.
No moss growing under our feet this summer. We’ve been busy at work, running some new summer summits as well as planning for an exciting year at CES in 2013. Whether you’re a digital health professional or just someone who’s going to have to visit a doctor someday, this overview of our Digital Health Summer Summit is required reading.
Held during the height of San Diego’s June gloom, at the Omni Hotel, the mission was to take a deeper dive into the digital health waters by creating an environment where all of the various stakeholders could exchange ideas and best practices.
Thanks to Amanda Goltz of Pacific Business Group for sharing her top twitter captures with us:
“Instead of looking for healthcare, I want to see consumers care about health.”
~ Nick Martin, UnitedHealth Group
“The government’s burden is the entrepreneur’s opportunity!”
~ Jody Holtzman, AARP
“FDA is an evolving hurdle that needs to be understood and respected.”
~ Aidan Petrie, Ximedica
“The US takes 90% of the world’s pain killers.”
~ Aidan Petrie, Ximedica
“Starbucks spends more on employee healthcare than coffee beans.”
~ Amanda Goltz, Pacific Business Group on Health
“Your zip code can play more of a role in your health outcome than your disease state.”
~ Richard Migliori, UnitedHealth Group
Our personal favorite tweet came from attendee Aidan Petrie: “For every line of code, you need 20 lines of justification for FDA clearance.
Who looks at health care websites? Sharecare@sharecarenow , a growing web health portal explained that their users came in “thirds” – a third of visitors to their site come directly from Dr. Oz (a celebrity medical advisor), a third from Google search, and a third from partners like Weight Watchers. If you’re looking to create a media property with any sort of respectable following, the ShareCare prescription is a good one to follow.
Platform Development: Apple vs. Android was a hot topic of discussion for medical app developers and institutions. The consensus, reached through discussion led by Agamatrix, was that the Apple platform is more carefully curated. Apps are more apt to be vetted for quality on iOS, and the Apple infrastructure is more stable, with less versioning problems. Hope Google is taking notes.
Ten Commandments: In a fascinating and far-reaching conversation, Lisa Suennen, Managing Member of Psilos Group, and Don Jones, Vice President of Wireless Health, Global Strategy spilled the beans on what’s behind the digital curtain in health care. Journalist and brand builder Denise Lee Yohn summed up the conversation in her Ten Commandments of Digital Health.
Patients: Entitlement vs. Responsibility: OK. Patients take their fair share of abuse – mostly for non-compliance with doctor’s orders. CEO Robert Pakter of PillJogger, Inc says, “When patients don’t take their medicines for chronic problems such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma and the like, it’s well-documented that they’ll have more acute illnesses” said Dr. Pakter. Each year, it’s been estimated to cost up to $300 billion in avoidable health costs in the US, and cause up to 100,000 avoidable deaths. Sharecare chimed in by reminding us that diabetes costs the US $175 billion annually, and 95% of that cost is preventable. Ben Chodor, CEO of Happtique, a boutique for health applications, reminded the audience that health apps are not just websites on your phone. The difference? Customization, personalization and most important of all, the ability to change behavior.
It’s All in the Execution: Qualcomm’s Jack Young, from the Qualcomm Ventures Group, was generous enough to share his abundant and astute knowledge of how to get a product from idea to a funded, executable reality. Deciding between venture capital, a loan, family and friends, and angel investors is a job in and of itself. Advice on how not to be a perpetual fundraiser, and finding the right partnerships made us begin to believe that getting any medical product out the door is a miracle.
The Connected Health Network: Independa focused on home connectivity by showcasing the capabilities of their new tablet as the center of the home/health universe. Their tablet, which uses Qualcomm’s Bnet system for interconnectivity, allows everything from patient care to home control, television remote to email, to all be controlled easily from a single tablet device.
Who Will Pay for What: The big question of “who’s going to be paying for the adoption of all of these technologies” had about as many answers as a centipede has legs. Consensus wasn’t betting on the consumer, but on changes in health benefits laws.
The onus on patients was for more involvement in their own care, more compliance with procedures, and more benefits for those who stay healthy by doing the right things. Gamification and reward principles will ultimately play heavily as much of United HealthCare’s pioneering research has indicated.
United HealthCare offered a compelling testimonial of how individual patient care becomes an aggregate of crowd-sourced information that can help create better treatment and compliance plans where the ROI is justified by the outcomes. Comprehensive wellness programs and rewards indicate serious gains in patient health. Through its Optum program, UHC saw patients taking responsibility (rather than entitlement) for enrolling in wellness programs, losing weight and reduced ER usage to name a few. Online systems that lets users download ID cards, use GPS coordinates to identify healthcare locations, and personalize with their own notes are a few of the success stories shared.
We’re not going to even try to synthesize the copious volumes of information that Frost and Sullivan supplied about the overall health of the telecare health systems, but this look at the top areas for growth sums up the landscape:
Other sessions included step-by-step procedures for winning FDA approval, where Stuart Blitz and John Flaherty of Agamatrix took extraordinary pains describing the various classes of FDA approval and how to budget and get it right the first time. As if the FDA wasn’t daunting enough, Blitz and Flaherty took us on an international tour of regulatory procedures. Hint: Europe is the easiest place to start.
As for insurance providers versus the consumers, it’s a matter of who will pay for what, and when. Blitz and Flaherty summed it up in this graphic:
Interesting ideas abounded, from HealthTap’s novel solution of having doctors reply to patients questions online incentivized by trust and ratings, to the role of health media properties, to a group of young rockstars from RockHealth, a San Diego-based digital health incubator. Their members showed everything from AchieveMint, an intelligent incentive network that rewards consumers who make healthy choices, to one of our favorites, Cardiio. Cardiio is software that turns ordinary cameras into biosensors, allowing people to use mobile devices they already own to gain insight and take charge of their wellbeing.
It’s Friday night at 11, and suddenly I find myself with that all-important contract that needs to be signed and countersigned by Monday morning. I don’t know about you, but I junked my paperweight cum fax machine (recycled actually) about a decade ago. I lost my password to the fax email service I used to use. And I hate wasting trees to print out a contract only to sign it, scan it, turn it back into a PDF, and send it on its way. Especially knowing that the guys on the other side are going to have to repeat my actions to countersign.
I discovered DocuSign when they signed up for our Mobile Apps Showdown in NYC, and now I can say it actually rescued my Friday night (Clearly 15 million others have discovered it before me, at least according to the company’s website).
The steps are pretty simple. Create an online profile replete with your signature and photo. You can use a drawing program to create the signature, or use your finger or stylus on a tablet PC, or just choose from one of the signatures created on your behalf by DocuSign.
Next, you choose the contract you want to send. It’s imported so that it can be marked up, a revision history initialized, and includes a space for your electronic John Hancock. Fill out the recipients’ email address (the envelope) and your document is signed, sealed and delivered. If you’re into showmanship, you can sign the document and send with one hand tied behind your back.
You can track the status of your document as its read and counter-signed – and because your document is stored in the cloud on DocuSign’s safe service, rather than in your email, the security of the contract is excellent.
The smartphone versions can capture your location – another security check that keeps my Friday night mellow. The basic app is free and can be run on iOS, Android, Windows Live and even works with Saleforce and other more vertical programs
The only downside to this app is the human one – it’s way too easy to buy a car, a house or anything else that requires your signature. The only thing I have to fear is myself. The basic app is free but you can upgrade to versions that let you do things like add multiple recipients, for example.
View DocuSign’s YouTube video here.
Nolan Bushnell likes to play. He believes that even the most ADD of us can focus and pay attention when we’re deeply involved in a game. And he believes that our current education system is desperately broken. Bushnell, who’s made a healthy living from playing, is out to take the lessons learned from building Atari, Chuck E. Cheese and other playful ventures into the classroom.
Brainrush, his newest company, is based on the idea that every curriculum lesson can be a mini-game. The games promote speed learning of facts and ideas. Bushnell says that videogames can take the most onerous parts of being a classroom teacher – disciplinarian, paper-grader and role taker, off the to-do list, freeing them up to teach big ideas.
Brainrush is best described as Zynga meets Wikipedia. You take a body of knowledge – say multiplication tables or body parts – and you gamify the experience of learning in a hyperactive setting. You’re racing against the clock, and every six seconds you must supply a response. You’re drilled until you get it right. Then it’s off to the next level. The program adapts to review the things it knows you haven’t mastered, and lets you move on once you do.
Bushnell’s game is not a new idea. Edutainment software that combines gaming and learning has been around for years. Speed drills are built into the rubric of many educational systems (think Japanese cram school). And Brainrush doesn’t do much to evolve the critical thinking and problem solving skills that are mission critical to tomorrow’s workforce.
But Brainrush is a bit different that other learning games, if only in scope. For one, Brainrush is an open-authoring system enabling anyone with a body of knowledge to create a game: Spanish, artwork, biology, you name it. For another, it tracks each student’s progress in micro detail – if you haven’t learned fractions, it’s going to be hard for you to move on to decimals. Brainrush can figure that out.
Finally, according to Bushnell’s research, Brainrush elicits thalamic engagement. In other words, you remember better when you’re excited and you’re excited when you’re playing.
I tested Brainrush by learning the muscles of the body. I’m no genius and I’ve got the attention span of tse-tse fly, but in 15 minutes I’d mastered about 25 of the major muscles. I returned to them 4 days later to find that I could still identify the latissimus dorsi and trapezius just easily as a few days before.
The proof of concept is undisputable. Repetition and quick response leads to mastery. But the question remains: is memorizing the muscles of the body the most effective use of my learning time? In a world where it’s a given that there’s too much information to possibly know, is it now more important to learn how and where to find the information, or how to memorize it? Brainrush will need to rush to answer that question before the classroom becomes the Chuck E. Cheese of education.
As if one screen wasn’t enough. You’re about to get more than earful (eyeful?) about what to do with your second screen (your tablet or mobile device) as you’re glued to your first.
To be honest, the industry isn’t leading this revolution – they’re following what we do. We watch TV with mobile phones in hand, tablets in fist, and a laptop nearby. We tweet while we watch. We read while we tweet. We’re developing all of the right reflexes to prime us for the moment when one screen just isn’t enough.
Signs the Second Screen is Coming to a Console Near You: Microsoft’s Xbox SmartGlass was recently unveiled as its second screen salvo. Xbox users can connect their phones, tablets, and other devices, even if they’re not Windows-based, and have the content from those devices shared on their Xbox. You could for example share your photos snapped by phone right to your big screen, or download a movie from your Xbox to your phone to continue watching when you’ve got to leave home. Gamers will be able to use their phones to interact with the game in new ways; shoppers can watch TV and click on what they like to have it added their shopping carts.
The Wii U from Nintendo offers a second screen vision of its own. The device looks like a cross between a small tablet PC and a Wii controller. The device can display video games on TV screens or while using its controls to allow you to play with what you see on TV. Miniverse, Nintendo’s online world for Wii U, users offers the social, collaborative play experience. Wii U can act as your TV remote as well.
While it’s not as new, SONY is rediscovering its PS Vita, also a handheld screen-plus-console control. You can take your play with you on your Vita screen when you’re ready to leave home, use social networking to find a good game, and use the two built in cameras for augmented reality play.
Signs of Second Screen Apps: Console mobile devices are just one way to take advantage of the second screen phenomena. The other is through mobile apps. There are apps for your phone that let you search for and interact with programming, apps that act as your remote control, and network-as-you-watch apps.
IntoNow is a social networking app that runs on your iPad or iPhone and where you can view archived TV shows stored on the web, as well as network with friends who are watching what you’re watching. And that’s just for starters. IntoNow employs video recognition. Similar to the way that Shazam recognizes music, IntoNow recognizes video.
Visiware’s PlayAlong isn’t available in the US yet, but Brits are using it to watch a TV show – say Jeopardy or How to Be a Millionaire – and actually play along, just like one of the on-screen contestants.
BuddyTV is a popular programming guide that lets you search Amazon, iTunes, Netflix and a few TV operators (including Dish, DirecTV, and Tivo). You can also communicate with friends via social networks like Facebook.
Dijit is yet another show-searching app, with a twist: it delivers trivia and game experiences, and you can win prizes for playing.
Want to follow the second screen activity? Follow the blog on Digital Video Space.
Kids who cut their teeth on PCs in the early 1990s will fondly remember Living Books from Broderbund Software. For millions of kids around the world, Living Books was their first interactive experience. Engaging stories with clickable words and drawings captivated the first generation of on-screen readers. These classic titles were retired and collecting dust – until now, that is.
Wanderful, a new interactive book company, has dusted off some familiar favorites: Arthur’s Teacher Trouble by Marc Brown, Little Monster by Mercer Mayer, and the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare, with the promise of more to come. The content has been app-ified to run on iPhone/iPad, Android, and Windows platforms. iPhone and iPad will be out by the end of June; the other platforms to follow.
Wanderful is promising more titles added to the franchise soon, including Stan & Jan Berenstain’s Berenstain Bears, more of Marc Brown’s Arthur the Aardvark, and others. Each app is available in three versions: a single language edition is $4.99 (extra languages can be added for $1.99 each) and a premium edition for $7.99 which includes materials for teaching.
In case you’re wondering where Living Books was sequestered for the last decade, it was part of Houghton Mifflin, who sold the rights to Wanderful. We’re still waiting to hear where the Carmen Sandiego and KidPix series turn up.
Mark Schlicting, one of the original members of the Living Books team, has been involved in porting the old stories to their new homes. “These stories will never be dated,” says Mark, “and they sold millions of copies each at a time when each cost significantly more money and there were much fewer installed devices to play them on”. More than a simple port, the new apps have enriched content and animation. This is a great test of the staying power of a good story across generations. To hear Mark speak about ebooks on a panel at Kids@Play at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2012, click here. And Wanderful is also on Facebook, as well as Twitter: @Wanderfulbooks
Space travel devotees don’t have to wait a moment longer to book their trip. Andrew Nelson, CEO of XCOR, the aerospace company behind the creation of the Lynx space vehicle, announced that Space Expedition Exploration was setting up shop and taking orders for one heck of trip – the first commercial space flights. The company is open for orders, and so far, they have commitments from 70 people paying $95K each for a 60-minute suborbital space flight.
The reusable shuttle can take off and land from any normal runway. Initial plans call for takeoff and landing include two separate space ports – takeoff from Curacao, an island in the Dutch Caribbean, and landing in the Mojave Desert. The space shuttle will hold the pilot and one passenger. The quick jaunt lets the passenger experience the G-force of takeoff, the weightlessness of space, and a Google map-like view of Earth’s crust. With a glass canopy providing sweeping views, the Lynx’s trajectory is basically straight up to 100km above earth in about four minutes. That’s followed by a six minute weightless glide and a slow gliding descent back down to the runway. Four booster rockets and a mixture of pure kerosene and liquid oxygen fuel power the shuttle.
To whet your appetite and give you the full $95K experience, the party starts long before the actual flight. Experiences leading up to the flight include a G-Centrifuge ride, a trip to the Netherlands for a spin in the Desdamona flight simulator and a little jaunt as a passenger on fighter jet are included in the price, as well as a flight suit and vacation in Curacao.
While the other 99% may wait for the prices to come down to earth, it’s fascinating to see the migration of the space program move from a government initiative to a worldwide private sector experience. SpaceX has a sales force, a heavy Dutch-based management group including support from KLM. Me, I’m afraid I’ll need to wait for the press junket, but my bags are packed.
Google Hangouts is Google’s new enhanced video chat service. If Google+ Circles is the Google equivalent of Facebook, then Hangout is the Google equivalent of Skype. To make Google’s video chats more appealing than its competition, the company is showcasing apps that are meant to show off the power of video chat. For instance, Cacoo is a very cool diagramming tool, and SlideShare is a presentation-sharing app.
As far as “family-friendly” apps go, Scoot & Doodle on Hangouts is the only option in the Google+Hangout world, at least for the time being. It offers a chance to doodle on the screen while video chatting. I like to call it “collob-a-draw”. The technology is pretty cool. I chatted with two Scoot & Doodle folks in three separate video chat windows while we all collaborated on a drawing on a shared screen floating above us. The idea, says Scoot@Doodle co-founder Christine Egy Rose, is for families to do something natural together online.
The tools of the paint box program are still pretty simple – a lovely color palette, a few brush sizes (all round brushes) and an eraser are the major components. A blank screen can be daunting (and not just for kids) – but after a bit you’ll find there’s something zen-like about doodling while you chat. Inventive families could easily create a game of Pictionary or Hangman. There’s no text capabilities for labeling a drawing, no stamps or stickers, and the circular brushes are pretty limiting, but I the company expects to add these shortly. Doodling sessions can be saved and shared to sites like Twitter and Facebook, and unlike the usual my-turn/your-turn sessions of other games, the real-time drawing together provides a unique experience.
If you’ve got a web camera and internet connection, just set up a Google+ account (do this as an adult, not a child, and be careful to always supervise young children as they play). Start a family hangout with invited friends or relatives. This step lets you video chat. Hit the Apps button within Hangouts and select Scoot&Doodle (or whatever other app you’re into). If you’ve been sitting on the fence about family video chats, it’s well worth the extra steps.
On the Internet, if you’re under thirteen years old, you don’t belong in most places. Sites like Facebook, in particular, have made it abundantly clear that those under the age of thirteen are trespassers, subject to deportation.
But three things are changing the picture and it’s my guess that we’re about to see kid’s web that’s richer and more robust because of it.
- The regulations protecting kids on the Internet have become outdated and are being revisited.
- Developers who want to create great web experiences for kids are stymied by existing regulation.
- Parents have become silent scofflaws allowing their kids to join Facebook and other adult sites even in f the kids are under 13.
The regulation is question is COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, created to curtail the collection of data from minors on the Internet. If you’re going to engage a minor on a web site then parental consent is required.
Enacted in 2000, the law has been around since before iPads and smartphones, apps, social networks and collaborative tools. At a recent industry conference, All conference, FTC Commissioner, Leibowitz, Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC said COPPA was undergoing changes.
The second problem is that the world of kid’s is a god forsaken place for any developer trying to earn a living. By law, kid’s content developers can’t allow kids to share information, track their location, or know very much about what they’re doing without parental consent.
Lorraine Ackerman, who runs the site Moms with Apps, offered that given the instantaneous nature of the mobile environment, this creates an additional friction and should be factored into the sales viability of the app. Many developers play it safe, keeping the kids in a safe bubble. For example, sending a drawing to Grandma or offering personalized/localized activity (let’s say a scavenger hunt) is “walking a fine line”. Developers of kids’ apps, unlike others, have very little feedback on what kids like, what’s working and how to engage them further. Kids app developers forgo many of the analytic tools that other developers use to gauge user engagement. One of the byproducts of regulation is that developers err on the side of safety and refrain from making more engaging kids’ spaces.
And then there’s Facebook. Facebook is making headlines because the company is toying with technology that would allow kids under thirteen to be Facebook members in some sort of parentally supervised area. As Facebook goes, so goes the Internet. According to a study reported by Cnet, Minor Monitor, found that.38 percent of the kids on Facebook are below age 13. That’s over 3.5 million of Facebook’s monthly visitors in this country alone.
Welcome to the perfect storm. Regulation is being revisited. Innovation in the kids marketplace is being stymied. And it’s now possible for social networking technology to let children to talk to Grandma or Aunt Bess, their best friend or favorite cousin, without leaving them exposed to the vagaries of the Internet at large.
Parents should be prepared to take on more of the burden for managing their kids online lives as these forces collide. But ultimately, a web where kids can talk to their friends and family, under watchful eyes, with the proper privacy protection can be a really great web for all of us.
These days my clothes pack quickly. My gear takes longer. By the time I synch gadgets, coil power cords, juice up batteries and prepare my SD cards and USBs, the clothes seem practically incidental.
But, these days you are what you carry. For maximizing your travel gear and minimizing the headaches, try a few of these tips…
Tablets are the most multi-functional device in the portable electronics world. Of course you’re familiar with the ubiquitous iPad, but it’s not the only way to go, nor the most functional.
A tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Note Tab has a couple of advantages. It’s available in sizes ranging from 5 inches (slightly bigger than a phone) to 10 inches (slightly bigger than an iPad). If you’re planning to use it as an entertainment device for watching movies and TV, the 10 inch tablet is a good choice.
The second (and much touted) advantage is a stylus which which you can jot down a few notes, sketch an idea or even put a note on top of a photo or map.
A third advantage, which is huge if you’re serious about photography, is the Galaxy Tab USB & SD Connection Kit, which will allow you to backup and view photos from your camera on your tablet.
The Galaxy Tab has full HD video recording and playback. It’s your music player, camera (rear and front facing so that you can use it to video chat), e-book reader, email, web browser, and more. And it takes advantage of the high speed 4GS network as well as Wifi and Bluetooth.
Word of caution – even the 5-inch tablet is bigger than most phones. You won’t want to be holding this one up to your ear to make a call. Invest in headphones. Make sure you install and download your apps before the travels. Getting apps downloaded at remote wifi hotspots is not fun.
Even with the built-in cameras on many of today’s tablet and smart phones, you’re going to want a digital camera to step up your game for that once in a lifetime vacation. The two main reasons that digital cameras take better pictures than phones are that they’re optimized for low light, and they usually have better lenses. There are a lot of digital cameras out there, so think a bit about what’s important to you.
If you simply want to point and shoot and get a great shot, you’ll enjoy the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7/SZ1. It’s a slim camera with an impressive 10X optical zoom lens that gets you close to the action on the beach or at a soccer match. Plus it captures full HD video. The camera has an image stabilizer that helps you get a clear shot even when you’re zoomed in all the way.
If you’re tough on your camera you might want the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20. It’s compact and waterproof (up to 16 feet), dustproof and shockproof. It’s a great choice if you want to take photos of the kids while standing in the surf, or if you want to bring a camera with you while doing water sports. And it’s a good choice if you’ve always been a bit rough on the gear.
Those who can never remember where they took their shots should look at the Casio Exilim EX-H20G. It’s got one of the best camera/GPS mapping features with a one-touch globe button that records where you took the photo.
Travelling alone or with the very hip? Try the Casio Tryx – its rotating body lets you do all the self-potraits you crave. A similar option is the Samsung DV300F, with a front-facing LCD display so you can see the camera image even when you’re facing the lens.
For keeping the camera extra steady the pros grab a travel tripod like these from Joby. A tripod is also great for self-potraits using the camera’s self timer.
If you’re going somewhere where you might not be able to recharge the camera every evening, invest in a 2nd (or 3rd) camera battery. eBay is a great place to get extra camera batteries on the cheap, just search for your camera model plus “battery”. For longer trips, consider getting a 2nd (or 3rd) SD card, so you have lots of space. eBay is also a great option for memory cards.
ALL THE OTHER STUFF…
Phone Chargers: Phones and vacations are not a match made in heaven. The Mophie Juice Pack Air is a slim iPhone case that also acts as a charger, and can nearly double your phone’s battery life.
Schoshe flipCharge Burst ($45) is a tiny emergency battery and charging unit that promises up to 30% of an iPhone charge or up to 70% of an iPod charge, depending on the model – enough juice to get you back up and running in a pinch.
Hands Free Calling and Streaming Internet Radio: Livio Radio makes a number of car add-on kits to let you make hands-free calls and stream thousands of Internet radio stations to your car’s radio. And it’ll even charge your phone as it plays.
Action sports in your plans? Check out Otterbox. The new reflex series cases are rugged but not rigid. They’ll protect your phone taking a blow or force in a flexible way.
And how to get all of this stuff through TSA without missing your flight? That’s your problem.