Everything can be hacked, as a certain Overwatch character is fond of saying. That seems to be increasingly true of consumer electronics... including stuffed teddy bears and unicorns. According to security researcher Troy Hunt, a series of web-connected, app-enabled toys called CloudPets have been hacked. The manufacturer's central database was reportedly compromised over several months after stunningly poor security, despite the attempts of many researchers and journalists to inform the manufacturer of the potential danger. Several ransom notes were left, demanding Bitcoin payments for the implied deletion of stolen data.
LaunchPad Toys, an educational content app developer, was acquired by Google back in February of 2015, and one result of that acquisition is Toontastic 3D, a more animated version of the developer's loved and applauded Toontastic (check those Common Sense ratings).
The app is described by Google as a "digital puppet theater," but that's only scratching the surface. Kids can grab one of the many characters and settings provided, move them around, add a song, record their voice for dialogue, and generate a 3D video to keep and re-watch on their phone. And that's not all. There are 3D drawing tools to design characters from scratch, an option to add yourself or friends to the story by importing images, soundtracks, three different story arcs (short story, classic, and science report), and more.
If you've heard of Fuhu, you're either a parent, a tech news junkie, or both. The Los Angeles-based company makes the Nabi line of tablets, some of the first Android-powered devices to be made and marketed directly for children, and the forerunner of more widespread "kid" tablet variants from Samsung and Amazon. Android Police has reviewed several of its tablet designs. Fuhu announced that the company is being acquired by Mattel, famous makers of Barbie, Hot Wheels, and all manner of other children's toys and games.
Concurrently, Fuhu is also filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That's alarming, but according to the lengthy post on the official Nabi Facebook page, it's more of a procedural method than an actual decommission of the company as it currently stands.
Kids nowadays! They want their smartphones, their own Google accounts, and a way to purchase music and movies and books (well, hopefully) and magical coins for their new game because they can't try that stupid hard level again, they just want to skip it. If you're a parent, then you probably know the struggle between giving a child their financial independence to teach them how to manage their money, and keeping a close eye on their spendings to stop them from buying useless stuff or going over-budget.
Oink has been aiming to solve that issue by providing a middle ground: an app where parents can set their kids' allowance, check their funds, monitor their spendings, and freeze/unfreeze their accounts, and a debit card/wallet account that children can use to make their own online or in-store purchases and manage their money.
Connecting things to your phone using Bluetooth makes them smart. We know this buy now (by*, sorry, easy mistake). Tech companies have been feeding us this concept long enough for our bodies to digest it. And when they start to heat up from an adverse reaction, fortunately there's a smart gadget out there that can let us know. Blue Spark's TempTraq Bluetooth thermometer is now available for purchase. You can snag one for $25.
We've covered the TempTraq before, back when the product was still undergoing FDA review. Six months later, here we are. I should take this moment to point out that the TempTraq is hardly the first Bluetooth-connected thermometer.
You don't need an introduction to Fruit Ninja. You're probably playing it right now. It has attracted millions of players over the years, partly because swiping to cut things on a touchscreen is as intuitive as pressing A to jump.
So developer Halfbrick Studios has taken the same concept and adapted it for small people who are learning math for the first time. You don't just cut bananas, you cut the right amount of them. It's not enough to split a watermelon in half. You want to slice the one showing the correct answer.
Math problems at the top of the screen will inform you which way to swing your finger sword.
Google plans to roll out a new Google Play program that places an emphasis on family-focused (i.e. kid-friendly) apps and games. This initiative will display pre-approved content under an experience the company is calling "Designed for Families." The goal is to point parents in the direction of software from the likes of Crayola and PBS Kids without exposing them to the flood of less age-appropriate content on display in the Play Store.
One thing that Facebook has not been well-equipped to deal with is children. No, I don't mean teenagers. Most users are familiar with the barrage of photos that accompany each birth in the family of a Facebook friend, which often involves a mess of tagging of one or both parents in every baby photo. For parents themselves, they struggle sorting out photos of their sons and daughters unless they just dedicate albums to the children specifically. Now, Facebook is rolling out an optional set of features to make the process smoother for all involved.
Facebook is showing their devotion to inclusivity by even serving the children of iPhone owners.
Google has officially opened up the toy chest and taken out YouTube Kids, its gift to parents all over the US. The app searches YouTube for the content that's appropriate for the little ones and dishes it out to them in an easily navigable interface that places less of an emphasis on search, keywords, and spelling.
Google has revealed their intention to roll out a new YouTube app just for kids, starting next week. It will be aptly named YouTube Kids and is geared towards those 10 years old or younger. Perhaps most interesting for non-children is that the app, at least initially, will be released exclusively on Android.
Image by USA Today
It features a fairly dumbed-down user interface that will leverage Google's voice recognition rather than rely on the spelling abilities of young children. And, of course, it has the huge benefit (for parents) of filtering out inappropriate content, including denying searches that will obviously turn up bad results.