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Here’s what your boring app would look like as a conversation

Uncategorized July 31, 2016

speech bubble vector background In years to come, conversations will breathe new life into software — particularly the boring enterprise tools millions of knowledge workers begrudgingly use every day. Conversational user interfaces (CUIs) work because of our familiarity with messaging. Even the most technically complex interactions can look as simple as getting an SMS text when presented as a conversation. Read More

Source: TechCrunch

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BBC: And then we strapped a helicopter rig to an elephant

Uncategorized July 31, 2016

20160726-Elephant Rig Imagine being part of the BBC’s natural history unit, traveling the world to create some of the world’s most beautiful documentaries. Sounds like a dream job, right? I sat down with Huw Cordey, the producer on a ton of the Beeb’s best-loved shows, to find out more about the technology and gadgets the team deploys to capture the beasties in action. Read More

Source: TechCrunch

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The other pipeline

Uncategorized July 31, 2016

other-pipeline-main Chrisfino Kenyatta Leal never thought he would end up in prison, let alone the tech industry. What he did envision, he tells me, was dying before the age of 25 or 30. “I saw so many people around me dying at such a young age that my long-term vision just wasn’t in focus,” Leal tells me. “I was just focused on what was right in front me.” Read More

Source: TechCrunch

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In depth: How to make sure your next car is future-proofed

Uncategorized July 31, 2016

In depth: How to make sure your next car is future-proofed

Cars – the next tech milestone

Whenever we buy a new piece of technology, we have to weigh the decision carefully. With a phone it isn’t simply a case of picking the device with the biggest screen or the fastest processor; there’s a more fundamental decision: iPhone or Android?

Whichever you choose will lock you into that device’s ecosystem for the next couple of years – and your choice of apps and features will be limited by the side you pick.

And with today’s cars becoming increasingly tech-filled, from sat navs and entertainment systems to what are essentially in-car operating systems, considerations of compatibility, obsolescence – and yes, Apple vs Android – are now just as important when you’re buying a new set of wheels.

We don’t replace our cars as often as we replace our phones, or even our games consoles. According to one report, most American consumers now plan to hold on to their car for 10 years before trading it in.

When we buy car, then, we’re essentially gambling that the features and functions on offer will still be useful in maybe a decade’s time – and given the pace at which technology evolves, there’s a real risk that we could end up lumbered with the automotive equivalent of a Betamax or HD-DVD player, long after they’ve become obsolete.

So what to do? Here’s our guide to future-proofing your car to make sure you’re asking for the right things… or that you’re at least able to upgrade when the time comes.

Entertainment and navigation

Car manufacturers and smartphone makers know that in the future we’re going to expect a lot more from both our vehicles and our phones – and Apple and Google have done something really smart. Apple has created CarPlay, while Google is offering Android Auto.

The future of cars

The idea with both is that you plug your phone into your car, and a screen on your dashboard will give you access to car-friendly versions of the apps on your phone – Google Maps, Spotify or whatever.

All of the processing takes place on your phone, with the screen on the dash being simply an easily accessible window to the data you need. This means that over the next decade, as your phone gets faster and smarter your car will too, without needing to replace your vehicle.

So in 2026, when you’re plugging in your iPhone 11 or Galaxy S15, you’ll still be able to run the latest apps, even if you’re driving a 2017 Ford Fiesta.

So the advice here is simple: make sure your next car supports CarPlay and Android Auto, and your car’s entertainment system will easily be able to keep pace with your phone.

At the time of writing, over 100 different cars support CarPlay, and a similar number support Android Auto. If you want to upgrade your current car, Pioneer make a number of aftermarket devices which you can plug into certain head units.

Autonomous driving

If you try to imagine the day you buy a driverless car, you probably see some distant time in the future when you hand over the keys to your boring old conventional car, and pick up a fully autonomous vehicle that looks like something out of the Jetsons.

It turns out, however, that the autonomous revolution won’t be like that – and in fact, you may already own your first driverless car.

Thanks to the power of connected vehicle technology, car makers are able to issue regular software updates that add new functionality to vehicles already on the road. Most famously this happened with Tesla, which introduced ‘Autopilot’ mode as an over-the-air update for existing Model S owners.

The future of cars

This added features that enabled the car to steer itself when it can detect lines demarcating the sides of the road, and adaptive cruise control to ensure that you maintain a safe distance from the car in front of you.

It even added a ‘summon’ mode, which enables owners to press a button on an app and have the car drive up to them over short distances.

Tesla isn’t unique, and there are a number of these ‘semi-autonomous’ cars, including the BMW 750i and the Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG.

So it seems inevitable that over the next decade we’re going to see more autonomous features. In fact, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has publicly speculated that we could see fully autonomous vehicles on the road as early as 2017, and that by 2018 Teslas will be driving coast to coast in the United States autonomously (we’ll believe it when we see it).

What this means for you is that if you’re buying a new car now, your best bet is to buy one that’s semi-autonomous or one that’s at least connected, and able to receive updates, so that when carmakers do bring the technology to market you’ll be best placed to receive the software enhancements.

Safety first

From April 2018, all cars sold in the European Union will be required to support eCall, a system that will automatically transmit data if anything goes wrong.

Essentially, the system will automatically contact the emergency services over a voice connection, as well as transmit a ‘minimum set of data’, which includes the vehicle’s location, so that emergency services can reach you faster.

The future of cars

At the moment no specific models have been named as the first to feature the new standard, though the European Commission has voted for all cars created from April 2018 to be eCall compliant.

In the meantime, or if you don’t want to upgrade your car and still want the benefits of eCall technology, Bosch has created a Retrofit eCall plug, which plugs into the 12V socket on your dashboard and connects to your phone via bluetooth.

This does the same thing, and if its accelerometers detect a crash it will automatically call for help and transmit your location (pricing and availability has not yet been announced).

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcIHDQu6XRs

When it comes to the aftermath of a crash, it is now increasingly common to find dashcams built into cars, rather than as simply an accessory that can be removed.

For example, the New Citroen C3 comes with what the company calls a “ConnectedCAM” built into the nub where the rearview mirror attaches to the roof. This records your journeys on 16GB of built in storage, automatically switches on if it detects an accident and will record for 90 seconds.

The significance here is that dashcams are not just useful, but soon they could become essential either by law or by the requirements of insurers.

The latter is already starting to happen with larger insurance firms like AXA and Confused.com offering discounts to drivers that have dashcams installed. It is conceivable that as the technology becomes trivially affordable and more ubiquitous that it could be made a requirement.

So if you want to be fully future-proofed, make sure your car has a camera – or can easily have one installed without becoming a hulking great lump on the dashboard.

Cars that talk

We’re a society that is mad enough to let people attempt to pilot large chunks of metal moving at high speed, so wouldn’t it be great if those chunks of metal could talk to each other and make us much safer? That’s the rationale for the steps being taken towards Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communication systems.

The future of cars

Following successful trials in 2012, the expectation is that V2V could become a requirement on all new vehicles in the not too distant future – with both American and European regulators attempting to allocate the 5.9MHz frequency band solely for communications of this kind.

The idea is that if everyone has the connection, your car will have a better idea about what potential hazards are on the road ahead, as indicator and brake signals can be sent wirelessly to your car’s computer – limiting the need to rely on your hazy vision.

Similarly, if there is an incident further along the road but your view is blocked by a large truck, the V2V system could transmit that information back to your car so it knows to slow down or get out of the way.

Though a number of major companies are currently working on it, no cars yet have come with the technology built in – though General Motors has apparently said that the 2017 Cadillac will come with V2V.

Once it arrives, given the potential safety benefits it is inevitable that, just as with the eCall system, V2V will likely be required in all new vehicles – original plans were for this to be mandatory in the US by 2017, but it looks like that deadline won’t be met.

Fuel Consumption and Emissions

It’s accepted that the future of automotive travel will involve some kind of electric propulsion, but we don’t know yet is how soon the future will arrive, and how it will look.

There are signs, however, that mainstream use of electric cars could be here sooner than we think though – and this could have profound implication for combustion engines.

Perhaps the strongest sign so far is the “affordable” Tesla Model 3, which is due for launch at the end of 2017. Despite not much being known about the car, 373,000 reserved one by May 2016, signalling that soon the 720,000 pure EVs currently in use will soon be joined by many more.

The upshot of this is that the “chicken and egg” problem of needing charging stations could soon be solved, as the economics of building plugs will soon make rapid expansion worthwhile.

The future of cars

Juniper Research reckons that this reduction in “range anxiety”, combined with improved battery life and greater public awareness could lead to 17 million hybrid and electric vehicles hitting the road by 2020.

What does this mean for your next car? If you go for a gas guzzler not only are you killing the planet, but you could be hit in the wallet too. As soon EVs become more viable, governments will want to incentivize their use – so will bump up the road taxes and fuel duty on polluting cars.

With major cities facing air quality problems, it is also likely that in the next decade we’ll start to see cities ban the use of CO2-emitting vehicles.

In fact, Paris has already started. As of 1 July 2016, cars registered before 1997 are banned from the city between 8am and 8pm on weekdays, and these regulations are only set to tighten.

So if you want to actually be able to drive your car whenever you want in the future – get one that runs on electricity, at least partly.

Wireless Charging

Wireless charging is becoming increasingly standard in phones – with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5 supporting the technology. It seems inevitable that over the next few years Apple will add wireless charging to the iPhone.

So when buying next car, don’t condemn yourself to spending the next decade untangling wires – choose a car that supports wireless charging.

The future of cars

According to one study by Juniper Research, by 2020 50 million cars will have built-in wireless charging – up from around 4 million now. And given that both Apple and Google is working on making their car systems work wirelessly, soon you may just have to sit your phone on the dash or in a cup holder to give it some juice and connect it up.

Wireless charging could also enable some cool new features in future cars – such as “Cockpit Drill” customisation. By using the phone to identify the driver, your car could adjust the driving seat position automatically for each driver, meaning no more faffing about trying to adjust the headrest before you set off.

The only complication as things currently standard is that there are two different wireless charging standards: Qi and A4WP/PMA… and it isn’t inconceivable that when Apple gets around to adding the feature it will go its own way and invent its own standard.

But if you do want to take a gamble, Audi, General Motors (Vauxhall), and Toyota have all started making cars with wireless charging included – and currently, Qi is the frontrunner to be the widely accepted choice.

Don’t Buy A Car

And finally, if you truly want to remain future-proof, perhaps the best option is to not buy a car at all.

With the rise of services like Uber, it is conceivable that eventually private car ownership could become a thing of the past.

Why go to the expense of owning a lump of metal if 99% of the time it remains unused? Why go to the hassle of finding a parking space? Wouldn’t it be easier if you can simply be dropped off right outside where you need to be?

If you live in a large city like London or New York, this sort of lifestyle is basically already possible. Simply hit a button on your phone and a car will turn up – and you’ll be soon on your way to your destination. As technology improves this is only going to get easier too.

When vehicles become fully autonomous too, it will be bad news for taxi drivers, but the cost of rides will go down as the likes of Lyft, Uber and rivals won’t have to pay for a driver, and will be able to keep its vehicles running 24/7.

Elon Musk writes that he plans for Tesla to let drivers rent their cars out in the future while they’re not in use, letting them become self-driving options for the rest of us – meaning you’ll always have access to your own private chauffeur.

At a certain point, once you’ve factored in tax, insurance, repayments and fuel… that seems like a lot of hassle. Perhaps it is time to embrace the future and pick up not a new car, but your phone?

Source: TechRadar

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Amazon has plans for headphones that mute themselves in an emergency

Uncategorized July 31, 2016

Amazon has plans for headphones that mute themselves in an emergency

The world of patents is always an interesting one to peer into – they can often reveal clues about some of the ideas companies are kicking around before they’re prepared to make those ideas public.

In that spirit we present to you some new patents filed by Apple and spotted by CNN: noise-cancelling headphones that will automatically respond to certain sounds, like a car horn, or an emergency siren, or someone shouting out your name.

If it sounds like you’re in danger, the headphones will let the sounds of the real world back in, potentially saving you from a life-threatening situation. Microphones embedded in the cans listen out for key sounds – just like your iPhone listens out for “hey Siri”.

Hey Alexa

Amazon doesn’t make any headphones right now, but CNET reports that the Amazon engineers who’ve filed the patent have previously worked on the Alexa AI that helps power the Amazon Echo.

It’s possible that Amazon wants to expand its hardware empire or perhaps it’s looking to introduce this kind of smart listening functionality to its existing devices. Patents don’t always develop into fully fledged products so it might be some years before we see something like this (if we ever do).

The patent is clearly designed to combat the growing problem of digital distraction: focusing so much attention on our phones and the entertainment they offer that we miss what’s going on in the real world. Now where are those Pokémon?

Here’s our review of the Amazon Fire TV:

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mm5BGZ8t7uE
Source: TechRadar

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In depth: Why 3D printing will save your life one day

Uncategorized July 31, 2016

In depth: Why 3D printing will save your life one day

A 3D future

The simple fact is really sick and desperate people are left frustrated by modern medicine for a number of reasons.

Those seeking transplants have to wait on long lists, and if they do eventually find a donor, their body might reject the tissue. Patients in need of casts or equipment to help them heal often only have expensive choices made of heavy materials.

And those in developing countries don’t have access to the medication they so desperately need — often resorting to black market options that are unreliable and dangerous.

These are only a small handful of the problems that 3D printing could eradicate completely, creating personal, bespoke solutions that are tailored to each patient, where materials are light and comparatively cheaper than traditional options. And crucially, 3D printers can be taken anywhere, so those in remote locations aren’t left without – and they can even print hair.

What does the future hold?

3D printing is already giving amputees a new lease of life and turbocharging healing time with tailor-made super-healing casts, but the future looks even brighter and more exciting.

We’re not even talking about the ‘boring’ consumer applications, where digital rights management will allow us to print something like a new pair of glasses for yourself without having to pay an optician, book an appointment and waste time at a fitting – although even that is revolutionary.

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nnrstBxomk

The same can be said for medical equipment. There’s a lot of noise around 3D printed human tissue, but 3D printing can also be used to improve the way doctors carry out procedures by arming them with ground-breaking equipment.

Whether that’s printing a tiny 3D printed medical three-lens camera that can fit into a syringe or projects like iLab Haiti, an initiative that brings 3D printers to Haiti allowing basic but important equipment to be printed with ease, the more obvious ideas for 3D printing are very real possibilities.

But what’s the future of the technology – could it change the face of healthcare forever? We spoke to a number of industry insiders to find out what’s to come – instead of casts and legs, could we one day be using them to print an entire human from a chunk of DNA, à la The Fifth Element?’

Why medicine really needs 3D printing

It feels like every day a new 3D printing medical “miracle” makes the headlines, but one of the most widespread examples of printing already being used in a number of medical establishments is to create prosthetic limbs (hell, even this dog has 3D printed legs) and state-of-the-art casts that heal broken limbs up to 80 percent faster.

Jesse Harrington-Au, 3D printing expert at global 3D design software company Autodesk, told us the reason printed prosthetic limbs are so revolutionary is three-fold.

“They’re a fraction of the weight of traditional prosthetics as they’re made using lighter nylon or titanium meshes, instead of heavy, mass-produced solid plastic. They’re also easily customised to the user’s body, which not only radically improves comfort but also means they can be designed with fashion in mind, helping empower individuals, especially kids.”

3D printing in medicine

He added: “3D printing is also drastically lowering the cost of prosthetic limbs to as little as $70/£50. Limbs made using traditional manufacturing techniques can cost thousands of pounds, putting them out of reach for many people.”

It doesn’t stop there though: the wide-ranging possibilities for personalisation in 3D printing means you could print prosthetic limbs that behave even more like human limbs — or are actually more superhuman.

For example, a heat sensor being printed into a prosthetic arm could let the user “feel” sensations in a new way. Or a 3D printed leg with a tracker could help users take the quantified-self obsession to a whole new level.

Harrington-Au told us: “Soon we’ll start to see limbs fitted with a range of sensors and other electronics. For example, prosthetics could be fitted with heat sensors, heart monitors that can act like a built in FitBit, or even a torch.

“These sensors and additions not only assist in creating more human acting hands but also can help to enhance the user.”

Prepping for surgery with a printer

3D printing could revolutionise surgery itself but before that happens it’ll be used to help plan procedures in a whole new way, giving surgeons information they’ve never had access to before.

A number of doctors are already using 3D printing to construct real-life models of patients in order to better inform their surgical decisions – recently doctors created a 3D printed model of unborn baby Conan Thompson, to assess whether he’d need surgery in the womb.

3D printing in medicine

Glenn Green, one of the doctors who worked on the case, explained: “The 3D printed model of the foetus allowed us to actually see in person what it looked like and have something in our hands to help us decide the best way to care for the baby.”

Although every expert we spoke to was excited about the prospect of futuristic concepts like printed organs, they all agreed that 3D printing these planning models was what could actually make the biggest difference.

Although there are already a few examples of 3D printed models being used to inform surgery, in the future we can expect this to become widespread and commonplace — even for the most basic procedures.

Bioprinting new organs, skin and ears

Up until now, a number of researchers have only begun printing small quantities of human cells and synthetic skin. But recent advancements in 3D printing tech mean these cells may soon actually withstand being transplanted onto a human and behave like human skin and organs.

Back in February, a research team led by Anthony Atala from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine unveiled an innovative 3D bioprinter called the Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System (ITOP). The bioprinter uses living cells as ‘ink’ and injection nozzles that follow a CT scan blueprint to create a bespoke body part, like muscle, bone or even organs.

A similar kind of technology has been developed by researchers from the RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology in Japan. Their focus has been on creating skin grafts that actually behave like living human skin, ‘creating’ stem cell-like structures and convincing them to perform like the skin they’ll need to replace.

Lead scientist Dr Takashi Tsuji, from the RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology, said: “Up until now, artificial skin development has been hampered by the fact the skin lacked the important organs, such as hair follicles and exocrine glands, which allow the skin to play its important role in regulation. With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue.”

Similarly, Researchers at Cornell University have pioneered a way to use cells from cows in order to grow cartilige that can then be moulded into an ear shape and transplanted onto patients who have lost ears to cancer or in accidents.

Cow ear

So far these skin cells, homegrown organs and cow ears have only been tested on lab animals, but the next steps are obviously creating ones that can be transplanted to humans safely – and it’s in the lab that the first victories will be found.

Simon Shen, CEO of leading 3D printer brand XYZprinting, told us: “Printing whole organs for transplant is something that might be possible in the distant future, but more immediately printing skin cells and pieces of tissue to test drugs could be viable within five years.”

Not only is human transplanting next on the list, but so is using the patient’s own DNA. And this is where 3D printing will become even more effective.

Printing pills

One area that’s had a great deal of attention and research is 3D printing medication — as well as the designs they come in.

Last year the FDA in the US approved the first 3D printed drug, but in the future we can expect all kinds of medications to be printed quickly, cheaply and on demand.

The reason drug printing has garnered so much interest is because there are so many challenges when it comes to creating and distributing medication today.

These include creating customised shapes (required to administer drugs in specific ways for different conditions), tailoring medication to a patient’s needs and cutting costs and stopping the rise in counterfeit drugs in developing worlds.

Simon Shen told us: “The true advantage of 3D printing in pharmaceuticals is this capacity for personalisation.”

He continued: “3D printing can create any number of unusual shapes of pills that standard production techniques find difficult. The surface area of these different shapes (and therefore the duration of drug release) can be adjusted for various patients’ needs.

3D printing in medicine

“Some patients need fast acting medication, whereas others need gradual release over a longer period of time – 3D printing can create shapes specific to these requirements.”

Clive Roberts and his team of researchers at Nottingham University have been working on 3D printing a polypill. This means a single pill that contains numerous drugs with different release profiles, which would be hugely beneficial for those who have to take more than 50 pills a day, like the elderly or those with HIV.

What are the drawbacks?

When it comes to printing drugs, the problems are pretty obvious. In a world where medicine is digitised, what would stop a drug being shared online, with people using the technology to print narcotics? After all, some area already printing 3D guns.

For printed drugs to work, it would have to be heavily regulated and controlled by pharmacists or other medical experts.

Professor Lee Cronin, Regius Chair of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow and TED Talk speaker spoke to Gizmodo about this topic in-depth and explained: “If someone went to a local hardware store right now, they could buy the chemicals and the equipment to make all sorts of drugs.

“It would take them ages, and they’d get in trouble, and it would still be illegal. And, in the end, they wouldn’t have a pure substance that they should trust anyone to take.”

He continued: “Will [this technology] increase access to [illegal] drugs? No, it will not change anything fundamentally from what is possible illegally now. But what it aims to do is dramatically lower the cost of drug manufacturing and open up access to the world to medicine – it would allow the entire inventory of known drugs to be made again, even if they are ‘out of print’, i.e. not being made today in a big manufacturing facility.

“[But even if it could be used illegally], the thought experiment is: how many millions of people suffer from drugs problems? And how many billions of people die because they have no medicine?”

Everything we have but better

Even if all of these problems are ironed out, some of the developments highlighted above could still be years away. This is due to the fact many of these ideas will need rigorous testing – after all, you don’t want a new 3D printed heart if it’s not likely to stand the test of time.

We’ve only scratched the surface about what the future of 3D printing in medicine will bring. But let’s not overlook some of the 3D printing tech that’s already in use.

Simon Shen told us: “Right now we are already seeing SLA 3D printing being used in dental work – dentists producing their own crowns, bridges and orthodontic devices at the touch of a button, which match every groove and curve. That’s something that I expect will come further into the mainstream very soon.”

So although this is a really simple application of 3D printing in comparison to some of the more ambitious research projects we’ve covered, it’s important to remember that advances will see techniques and technology improve, become more accurate, more effective and mainstream.

Brigitte de Vet, vice president of Materialise Medical: “In the future, 3D printing in medicine will no longer make the headlines, except in the most exceptional cases, because it will actually be an expected and accepted standard of care.”

“Much like you expect to be given anaesthetic before a surgery, people undergoing complex operations will expect that their surgeon has used 3D printing in the planning stage of the procedure, perhaps using 3D printed surgical guides to translate that plan into the operating room, or even using 3D printed, customised implants.”

Of course, with such huge developments, like printing organs and skin, don’t come without their their own challenges and ethical implications. But as Cronin says, the bottom line is that more and more people will be saved, which is what’s really important – provided the technology keeps advancing.

Source: TechRadar

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In Depth: Code Masters: 10 toys that are teaching kids how to code

Uncategorized July 31, 2016

In Depth: Code Masters: 10 toys that are teaching kids how to code

10 toys that are teaching kids how to code


You are never too early to learn how to code. With so many courses now available and coding taught in schools the world over, children of all ages are understanding what the building blocks of computing are, while learning how to use them to their advantage.

And you don’t have to wait until your child is old enough to go to school to teach them a little about coding. There’s now a variety of toys available that are not only fun to use but educational, too.

From literal building blocks that come to life when your program them correctly to robots that will obey your every command if coded properly, these are TechRadar’s pick of the cool toys that will help children learn programming, even if they still think Python is just a type of snake.

1. Sphero SPRK+


Sphero may be best known for teaming up with the folks at Star Wars and creating the fantastic remote-controlled BB-8, but it also does a brilliant range of educational toys. Our pick of the bunch is the Sphero SPRK+. Using the connected app and an innovative block-based coding system, there’s a tonne of things you can do with the Sphero SPRK+ – including navigating it through a maze, swim across water (it’s waterproof), or even mimic the solar system.

Find out more: Sphero.com

2. LEGO Mindstorms EV3


Just when you thought LEGO couldn’t get more awesome, the building blocks company has added programming and robots into the mix. The Mindstorms EV3 is a robot you build, like any LEGO creation but it also allows for programming. This is thanks to the EV3 programmable brick that comes with Mindstorms. Using the programming tool, you can connect different ‘blocks’ of commands together, feed them to your robot and make it do a number of weird and wonderful things. It’s a little more advanced than some of the toys in this list, but LEGO has a great suite of video tutorials to get you started.

Find out more about LEGO Mindstorm EV3

3. Lightbot


Lightbot isn’t a toy as such, but a really fun app you can download to your smartphone or tablet. The whole point of Lightbot is that it teaches you how to solve problems using programming. Its learning curve is slight, so even if you have no coding knowledge it will help you understand that putting certain commands together will help your ‘Lightbot’ progress through the levels of the game. The app comes in two flavors: Junior Coding Puzzles, for those aged 4-8 and Programming Puzzles for those who are 9+. The best thing about the app is how it offers up a simple way to understand the basics of what can be complex computer programming.

Find out more at Lightbot.com

4. mBot Robot Kit


Make Block have created a number of robot kits to teach kids how to code and have some fun doing it. These kits range from the small mBot to an ultimate 10-in-1 robot kit. Each kit, according to Make Block, “help you learn the knowledge of mechanical structures, electronic modules and programming skill with ease”. These kits are definitely for those kids who already understand a little about coding and want to have a bit of fun learning more about Arduino programming and Python programming.

Find out more at MakeBlock.com

5. Cubelets


We’re not quite sure why but, as you will see from this list, when it comes to programming cubes are used a lot to educate children about the way of the code. Cubelets is a great little idea that involves ‘robotic’ cubes that can be linked together and programmed to do a number of things. You can buy a variety of cube packs and all you have to do is connect them together and they will create a ‘smart’ robot system. You can also add them to things like LEGO to make bigger and better robotic creations.

Find out more at ModRobotics.com

6. Project Bloks

Project Bloks

Project Bloks is still in its beta stage at the moment but you need to know about it because backing it is one of the biggest companies on the planet – Google. The idea of Project Bloks is that Google wants to make the teaching of coding both tangible and open source. So it has created a platform where developers can create puzzles and tasks that use electronic boards and programmable pucks. Children then connect these ‘bloks’ together and do with them what they will. The project is still in the ‘active research’ phase but if it sounds like something that would appeal to you, then you can register your interest and Google will keep you posted about where Project Bloks is going.

Find out more at ProjectBloks.com

7. Dash and Dot

Dash and Dot

As names go for robots that help you code, you can’t get much better than Dash and Dot. On its website Make Wonder, the makers of Dash and Dot, explain that “coding is the modern day superpower”. And we couldn’t agree more. To gain this superpower, all you have to do it choose either Dash (a fully fledged robot) or Dot (a robot brain) and then download an app and get coding. There’s a number of apps you can choose from and each one – through a little bit of coding – will control the robots in a different way.

Find out more at MakeWonder.com

8. Think And Learn Code-A-Pillar

Code a Pillar

Fisher Price has decided that you are never too young to learn a bit of coding and have created a caterpillar toy that helps 3-6 year olds understand the basics of programming. The way it works is that the child arranges (and rearranges) the caterpillar segments, and depending on how they are arranged the caterpillar will move in different ways.

Find out more at FisherPrice.com

9. Puzzlets


Puzzlets is one of the most innovative coding toys on this list. It uses both a tablet and a physical play tray, combining them both to offer up an interactive play experience. The people behind Puzzlets know that children understand how to use a tablet better than most adults, so instead of pretending this isn’t the case it makes the tablet as central part of Puzzlets. Half of the game is played out on a tablet, then the rest is physical – arranging and rearranging the Puzzlets tiles on the play tray. While the coding in the game is slight, it will teach children cause and effect, which is essential in programming.

Find out more at DigitalDreamsLab.com

10. Cubetto


Cubetto, according to its makers, is a playful programming language you can touch. It consists of a movable Cubetto cube, a board, 16 blocks and a story book. Kids can put the blocks into the board and, depending on the arrangement, they will be able to control the movements of the Cubetto cube. Like many of the toys on this list, Cubetto takes the idea of coding and programming and makes it tangible and fun.

Find out more at KickStarter.com

Source: TechRadar

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In depth: Take a step inside the classroom of tomorrow

Uncategorized July 31, 2016

In depth: Take a step inside the classroom of tomorrow

Inside the classroom of tomorrow

When you cast your mind back to the days of school, you probably think of dusty textbooks, graffiti and chewing gum, lessons that were both boring and unengaging, and many, many chewed pens.

But the classroom of tomorrow will look very different. The latest advancements in technology and innovation are paving the way for an educational space that’s interactive, engaging and fun.

The conventions of learning are changing. It’s becoming normal for youngsters to use games like Minecraft to develop skills such as team working and problem solving, and for teachers to turn to artificial intelligence to get a better understanding of how their pupils are progressing in lessons.

Virtual reality is also introducing new possibilities in the classroom. Gone are the days of imagining what an Ancient Egyptian tomb might look like – now you can just strap on a headset and transport yourself there in a heartbeat.

The potential for using VR to teach history, geography and other subjects is incredible when you really think about it – and it’s not the only tech that’s going to shake things up.


As mentioned, virtual reality is already starting to have an impact on education, with headsets like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and HTC Vive helping to make learning more immersive and fun.

Toronto-based tech startup Discovr Labs is one of many firms that want to bring new opportunities to schools and colleges through the power of VR.

Founded in January 2015, it’s already created VR training solutions for healthcare education programs at several hospitals and universities in Canada, along with a tour guide app of King Tut’s Tomb for Gear VR and Steam.

Even in these early stages, the company has been noticing profound benefits when it comes to education. Based on the products it currently has in its portfolio – which also includes a VR training app for trainee doctors – Discovr says it has seen an 80% increase in subject retention when compared to more traditional teaching methods, such as reading from a textbook.


But this is just the start of great things for the firm, as it has even bigger ambitions for the future. With the aim of empowering instruction and discovery in VR, the Discovr team is currently developing a cross-device VR education platform where educators can create content and where students can access it. Still in creation, it’s expected to launch later this year.

Josh Maldonado, founder of Discovr Labs, sees VR as the future of education. He tells TechRadar: “VR is helping to bring the concept of experiential learning to the forefront. Prior to VR, experiential learning was an afterthought, a treat for students. Today, we can immerse students in the subject matter as opposed to having them to a detached from the content through lectures and readings.

“In addition to shaping the classroom for tomorrow, VR has the potential to be the classroom of tomorrow itself. Social VR in the context of education has tremendous benefits and offers a more intimate learning experience with subject matter experts around the world.”


“Imagine learning how to tune a car from an expert mechanic across the country but in the same virtual space, on the same virtual car.”

One of the main attractions of VR for learning is the fact that it increases student engagement, but as Maldonado points out, the potential is also big for teachers.

“From an educator’s perspective, teachers now have a greater degree in versatility and ability to personalize the learning experience. They believe it can help students improve understanding of learning concepts and collaborate in the classroom,” he says.

AI to the rescue

Artificial intelligence is already doing groundbreaking things in areas like robotics, computer science, neuroscience and linguistics, but now they’re now entering the world of education too.

London-based edtech firm Digital Assess has been working on an AI app that has the potential to revolutionise the way youngsters learn.

With the backing of the UK Government, the company has been trialling its web-based application Formative Assess in schools in England.

Using semantic indexing and natural language processing in a similar way to social networking sites, an on-screen avatar – which can be a rubber duck or robot – quizzes students on their knowledge and provides them with individual feedback on their work.

Educators are also engaged with the technology. Before the student actually uses app, a teacher has to log a number of tasks into the system. Once that’s done, it’ll automatically assign questions and concepts to the children.

The teacher is able to track their progress so they can step in if a student is struggling and needs additional support.

The firm has just finished the initial testing phase of the app and is reporting an 85% accuracy rate. It’s now working on an improved version of the AI, which will be rolled out to even more schools around the country.

Dan Sandhu, CEO of Digital Assess, explains that his company has been working with teachers directly to ensure it is able to work effectively in the classroom. He believes AI can unlock masses of potential in this area.

“Our team of researchers spent months in schools observing teachers’ questioning practice in order to model the best questions and responses in the adaptive framework,” he says. “FormativeAssess uses text processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence providing adaptive, personalised questions that intervene to shape an individual’s learning.

“Assessment is one of the fastest growth areas in education technology. Technology has the power to not only increase fairness, accuracy and reliability in the way pupils’ skills and competencies are assessed, but also to better enable teachers to support student learning.”


Professor Richard Kimbell, one of the researchers on the project, says the aim of the project is to get students thinking more carefully about their studies more and to open up their imagination. This, he believes, is groundbreaking for education.

“We seek to open up students’ thinking by posing questions that provoke them to stop and think. A framework of questions and student responses links together into a conversation and the intelligence is tuned to select the most appropriate next question,” he says.

“It won’t be one that channels them to any right answer, but rather one that opens up another possible line of thinking. We are using AI to stimulate students’ imagination and independence.”

The gaming route


When it comes to using technology as a tool to revolutionise learning, for many there’s a focus on creating experiences that students will find fun. The way they see it is, if students find their lessons boring, then they’re not going to want to learn at all. So gaming is an obvious solution, right?

Enter Minecraft. Having recently topped 100 million sales worldwide, it’s fair to say the game has proven to be a smash hit and with the average user aged between 11 and 15, you can see why educators are interested.

Since Microsoft bought Minecraft’s Swedish creator Mojang for $2.5bn (£1.8bn) in 2014, the game has gone on to be used in 7,000 classrooms around the world. Considering how high the demand is, last year the American tech giant went one step further and acquired MinecraftEdu from TeacherGaming, an independent developer based in Finland.

To unlock the opportunity here, Microsoft been making a host of improvements to the original MinecraftEdu app and has launched an official Education Edition. Available as a free early-access version for teachers, the full version of the game is poised to be released at some point in September.

New features include the ability for users to take photos of their progress, create notes and books and bring a free copy of the game home with them. There’s also an additional classroom user interface, which teachers can use to gain an insight into how their students are using the platform.


To add even more functionality, teachers can add mods. For example, Q Craft introduces students to the field of quantum physics, while ComputerCraft will teach computer programming. Galacticraft, meanwhile, lets users explore the solar system in a Minecraft spaceship. The possibilities are seemingly endless right now, and youngsters are able to have a lot of fun by customising the game.

YouTube : www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMpLMXnFzXU

“Much like the game Minecraft, Education Edition is designed to be a versatile and open platform, but in a way that can be used to teach all types of subjects, from math and physics to history and language arts,” Microsoft writes in its description of the game.

“By utilizing the digital platform and classroom experience, students can also develop skills in collaboration, problem solving, communication, digital citizenship, and more. There is no limit to what students can learn in the game, and no limit to how the game can extend classroom learning.”

With new technologies on offer, Education is in an exciting period of change. Teachers are using tech to make the learning process more interactive and fun for students, and the benefits are already showing.

Virtual reality is letting youngsters explore the world without leaving the classroom, while AI is helping teachers create more effective curriculums. Games like Minecraft, on the other hand, are inspiring creativity and teamwork. These may only be a few examples of new tech, but together, they’re creating a more modern, innovative classroom.

Source: TechRadar

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It’s okay for Pikachu to watch you — as long as you want it to

Uncategorized July 31, 2016

pokemon-eyes-watching Millions who downloaded the new Pokémon Go app are living in a brave, new, augmented reality world. For the early adopters (meaning apparently everyone you know) on iOS devices, it meant unknowingly granting Pokémon Go the permission to fully access their Google accounts. You’ve got to risk it all to catch ‘em all, right? Read More

Source: TechCrunch

139 total views, 0 today

In what contexts should messaging be the UI?

Uncategorized July 31, 2016

messaging-ui The current messaging hype is overstated. There are certainly some interesting and unique opportunities for messaging as an interface, but I contend the number of practical use cases is a fraction of what the current hype cycle suggests. Read More

Source: TechCrunch

153 total views, 0 today

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