On Friday October 21, 2016 the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) released three policy statements regarding health recommendations on media use by children. A review of these policy statements shows the AAP has referenced 190 different research papers and articles to support their position. Almost 30% of the papers were made available in 2015 and 2016, and generally reference a large body of helpful information regarding screen use by American youth. Over 75% of the referenced research can be downloaded for free. In an effort to help advance the interests of researchers, educators, and industry here is a collection of all of the AAP referenced research in an Excel spreadsheet with links to easily access and download all of the material.
Archive for the 'Age 13-15/Grade 9-10/Young Teens' Category
In the final weeks of 2014, I spent a lot of time reviewing all of the kidtech product I had seen throughout the year. In part, taking stock of the past year’s digital playthings was related to providing recommendations as a judge for the KAPi Awards (KAPi meaning Kids at Play Interactive.) The KAPi’s are an industry award for innovation and outstanding design in children’s interactive media. While you can find the complete list of KAPI award winners here, there were a handful of products that didn’t make the list that are worth mentioning. The product may have been too old for kids, or was not digital, or was simply a book. I thought it might be helpful for others to see some of these additional products that, in this reviewers opinion, are deserving of high praise for moving the interactive industry forward in 2014.
Here’s my list…
The first item on my list is not an app. It does not require batteries, and no assembly required. It’s a children’s book. Buy it, find a four or five year old child to read it to, and let the fun begin. If you don’t have a young child send it as a gift to someone who does. As an adult, don’t over analyze why this book works for young children. It’s silly, appropriately speaks to its target audience, and it just works. I call this book out because of the disruption it’s caused in the children’s book world, and because it can help teach app developers to think about alternative approaches to content creation. Break outside of self-imposed barriers to creating content in any medium.
I fell in love with this app earlier in 2014. The artwork is absolutely beautiful, the Escher-esk puzzles are fun and challenging. It did win a KAPi Awards for best app for older kids, but teens and adults will greatly enjoy it as well. It’s only flaw is that the app eventually ends. It’s a game you wish would go on forever. But fear not, the makers of Monument Valley released an additional content download late in the year to extend the challenge with additional levels of play. This app sets the bar very high for the rest of the industry. Currently it’s the yardstick I use to measure against all other apps.
Here’s one you won’t find on any kids list. The game of Fibbage is rated T for Teen, and is a major hit at parties for adults young and old. They’re many things to say about this game. First, do you remember the You Don’t Know Jack titles from years ago? Well, Fibbage was developed by the same creative folks! The game uses a series of fill in the blank phrases, and audience members try to give a response, or a lie, that throws others into voting for your answer. After a short number of rounds the player with the most votes wins. It’s easy to learn, and the humor grows as more people play. But here’s what I really appreciate about this game. In an age of over the top 3D graphics, and deep story lines, and super slick characters and properties, Fibbage is incredibly simple console game, and in a sense a minimalist approach to game play that beats all other games it competes with. It’s also designed to work easily with any kind of smartphone, and you don’t have to be in the same room to play with others. You can have team members from around the world compete with you! Be forewarned there’s crude humor and fart noise throughout. If you can put that aside you will be amazed at how much fun this game is. As a developer, you will appreciate the beauty and simplicity of it’s design.
Interactive products that successfully marry together fun interactivity software with physical objects can be counted on just one hand. The industry is littered with virtual and digital product combination failures. Osmo, another KAPi Award winner, stands as one of the shining example in this category. The product can be purchased at most Apple retail stores, and comes bundled with physical pieces to play three games, along with the three apps you download for free to play those games. There’s a fun and challenging tangram puzzle, single or multi player spelling games, and a drawing game where you control the direction of falling virtual balls based on what you draw. It’s a clever set of games and I can’t wait to see what new products this company announces in 2015.
There are two things I really admire together; great design and insightful articles about the interactive industry. This beautifully designed online book includes both! It’s a free, informative guide for developers, complete with excellent interviews from leading children’s product developers like the BBC, Ravensburger, and Toca Boca. Interactive media designers, play designers, and print designers can learn a lot about making successful products and great designs for kids from this book. Another must read for product producers. For me, it was one of the best finds of 2014. Now download a copy and enjoy, but do know the book is also available in a limitedprint run.
Regardless of what you may think of this deal, the world of virtual reality took a giant step forward in 2014 with the acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook. What many people may not be able to see is just how fast the VR space is moving. Google Cardboard is a great example of that breakneck speed. Cardboard is an innovative, low cost solution to experience virtual reality. Folding together a pre-perfed cardboard mailer and sticking your Android compatible phone in the back allows anyone access to a compelling VR experience. The idea itself suggests that a lot can be done with VR in short, affordable bursts. The Google Cardboard initiative is definitely thinking outside the box. Watch for many copycats in the coming months.
The Moff Band is a set of two flexible wrist bands that communicate motion activity of your arms back to an Apple tablet or smartphone. That motion drives a simple sound effects app. Ever play air drums and wish you could enhance the experience with the perfect set of well orchestrated rhythm effects? Ever have a wooden spoon and needed the audio support to make you feel like you dueling with Zorro? Or maybe a princess’ magic wand is more your style, complete with sparkle sounds? The Moff Band provides a great audio backdrop to your pretend play. The product was a huge Kickstarter success in Japan earlier in the year, and is now just making its way to the US. Watch for it in 2015.
I’ll end my list with another children’s book. Press Here is not just another great children’s book, it’s an excellent example of how to capture the spirit of great interactivity. In a sense it’s a new breed of books, one the feels like the author spent a lot of time studying the world of successful kids apps and theater of the mind, and folded the two into the book’s pages. Anyone working in the industry must experience this book with a child. This is not simply a book for techie wonks. Kids love it. You will love it. It’s a great addition to a young child’s library as well as your professional library.
Have you used any of the above products? Have you read any of these books? Have thoughts about other products that should be added to this list? Leave a comment below to share with others!
Where do you go to stay smart in the kids interactive industry? What conferences keep you on top of your craft, while also helping you grow your network? What events are vital to attend to learn the latest trends? There are so many conferences these days which ones are right for you? Look no further, here’s a compiled conference list to get you started! It covers areas of the children’s interactive media business like toys, eBooks, video games, children’s television, apps, play, research, consumer products, and more. The list below covers most of the big US and international shows in 2015, and just a few important smaller events.
You can download a PDF copy of this list here. Let us know what you think. Which events do you attend? What speakers draw you to an event? If there’s an event that’s not on this list, and you think it’s important, please let us know in the comments below.
|#||Conference w link||Location||Date(s)||Focus|
|1||Consumer Electronics Show (CES)||Las Vegas, NV||1/6-9/15||Hardware, tech|
|2||Kids@Play||Las Vegas, NV||1/7/15||KidTech|
|3||Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair||Hong Kong||1/12-15/15||Toys|
|4||Digital Book World||New York, NY||1/13-15/15||eBooks|
|5||FETC||Orlando, FL||1/20-23/15||Ed tech|
|6||PAXsouth||San Antonio, TX||1/23-25/15||Gaming|
|7||Nuremburg Toy Fair||Nuremburg||1/28-2/2/15||Toys|
|8||NY Toy Fair||New York, NY||2/14-17/15||Toys|
|9||Digital Kids Conference||New York, NY||2/15-17/15||KidTech|
|10||Kidscreen Summit||Miami, FL||2/23-26/15||Broadcast, Children’s TV|
|12||Game Developers Conference (GDC)||San Fran, CA||3/2-6/15||Gaming|
|14||SXSWedu||Austin, TX||3/9-12 2015||Education|
|15||SXSW Gaming Expo||Austin, TX||3/13-16/15||Gaming|
|16||SXSW Interactive||Austin, TX||3/13-17/15||Interactive|
|17||SXSW Music||Austin, TX||3/17-22/15||Music|
|18||Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD)||Philadelphia, PA||3/19-21/15||Research|
|19||Sandbox Summit||Cambridge, MA||3/22-24/15||Play|
|20||Dust or Magic Masterclass||Bologna||3/25/15||eBooks|
|21||Bologna Children’s Book Faire||Bologna||3/30-4/2/15||Books|
|22||Early Education & Technology for Children (EETC)||Salt Lake City, UT||3/15||Early ed, edtech|
|23||London Book Fair||London, UK||4/14-16/15||Books|
|24||Games for Change||New York, NY||4/21-23/15||Serious games|
|25||Dust or Magic eBook Retreat||Honesdale, PA||4/15||eBooks|
|27||Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA)||San Fran, CA||5/3-5/15||Ed tech|
|28||Maker Faire Bay Area||San Mateo, CA||5/16-17/15||Maker|
|29||Book Expo America (BEA)||New York, NY||5/27-29/15||eBooks|
|30||AppCamp||Pacific Grove, CA||5/30-6/2/15||Children’s Apps|
|31||“Content in Context (CIC, AAP)||Wash DC||6/1-3/15||Ed publishing|
|32||NAEYC Professional Development conference||New Orleans, LA||6/7-10/15||Early ed|
|33||Licensing Expo||Las Vegas, NV||6/9-11/15||Licensing|
|34||Digital Media & Learning (DML)||LA, CA||6/11-13/15||Ed tech|
|36||Interaction Design & Children (IDC)||Medford, MA||6/21-24/15||Research|
|37||International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)||Philadelphia, PA||6/28-7/1/15||Ed tech|
|38||Children’s Media Conference (Professional)||Sheffield, UK||7/1-3/15||Broadcast|
|39||Playful Learning Summit||Maddison, WI||7/7/15||Serious games|
|40||Games, Learning & Society (GLS)||Maddison, WI||7/8-10/15||Serious games|
|41||ComicCom||San Diego, CA||7/9-12/15||Entertainment|
|42||International Reading Association (IRA)||St. Louis, MO||7/17-20/15||Education, reading|
|43||Serious Play||LA, CA||7/15||Serious games|
|44||Casual Connect||San Fran, CA||8/11-13/15||Gaming|
|45||Burning Man||Black Rock Desert, NV||8/29-9/5/15||Art, mind|
|46||Digital Kids Summit||San Fran, CA||9/15||KidTech|
|47||World Congress of Play||San Fran, CA||9/15||Toys|
|48||Maker Faire New York||New York, NY||9/26-27/15||Maker|
|49||MIP Jr.||Cannes, France||10/2-4/15||Children’s television|
|50||MDR EdNet||Atlanta, GA||10/4-6/15||Ed tech|
|52||Fall Toy Preview||Dallas, TX||10/6-8/15||Toys|
|53||Meaningful Play||East Lansing, MI||10/15||Serious games|
|55||Dust or Magic||Lambertville, NJ||11/1-3/15||Kidtech, children’s apps|
|56||NAEYC Annual Conference||TBA||11/15||Early ed|
|58||SIIA Education Business Forum||New York, NY||12/15||Ed tech|
|59||Star Wars Episode VII release||US||12/18/15||Entertainment|
NOTE: Items highlighted in red indicate specifics about an event that have yet to be announced as of 11/10/2014.
The following is an article I wrote that appears in the November 2014 issue of Children’s Technology Review.
If we look at the amount of time a child has to enjoy being a child, it works out to something like 6,753 days, or 157,680 hours. Every hour of childhood is important, as is every second. Who knew, but milliseconds seem to matter as well. Engaging a child successfully in an interactive experience can boil down to what happens within a fraction of a second.
While working in the children’s interactive industry for many years, there’s one question I’m asked more than any other: “What is the single most important thing needed to successfully engage a child in an interactive experience?” In today’s world that means successful engagement through tablets and apps, of which there are many things to consider. Engaging characters, compelling stories, a strong game mechanic, lots of user testing, a willingness to change something for the better when developing, an understanding of child development and child related research. But that’s not where I start. These are all “must have” components of a successful interactive experience. So what’s the one item that will make or break your app? Responsivity.
It’s usually at this point the person asking the question says “Huh? What do you mean? Responsivity?” Even if the app includes all the must have items mentioned above, if the app does not respond immediately to a child’s request, usually in the form of a tap on a screen, your product is dead. It won’t be used. End of story. The time you have to successfully respond to a child’s request can be measured in milliseconds.
Let me share a recent article to help crystallize just how little time you have. I’ll reference a technology advance outside of the children’s industry. There have been some amazing discoveries in the virtual reality space in the last year. You know, those crazy headsets that cover your eyes and ears to deliver an otherworldly experience, be it on Oculus Rift or Morpheus.
The vision of this technology might one day deliver a mind blowing, life changing, “real” experience. Part of recent successes in this industry boil down to this:
a.) If a user makes a request through the technology (input),
b.) and the display in front of the person updates as quickly as possible (output),
c.) the more believable and enjoyable the experience.
However, with a slow update, the user will feel nauseous. Literally. This performance, or latency, can actually be measured. A response time longer than 30 milliseconds will make someone sick.
For years the virtual reality industry has been unable to break a performance speed below 60 milliseconds, and in the process of trying, has made a lot of virtual reality testers sick. The breakthrough is this industry will be when they bring the performance issue down to about 15 milliseconds, which some say is now within reach.
In reaching that goal, virtual reality designers have had to look at everything that causes latency: Computer processing speed, software, cables, accelerometers, display screens,… everything. (See background info in Wired for more)
Let’s put that in context to an interactive experience for a child. What are the ingredients that make up the response time of an app? Just like the discoveries found with the virtual reality example above, the same components are equally important here. Interactive responsivity can be simmered down to what hardware and software combinations you use.
Lets start with the hardware. We’re talking about tablets. Are all tablet technologies created equal? If you look at the responsivity of just the hardware component of a tablet surface alone, though the differences are small, it appears the response time of a tap is hardly equal across all devices. Have a look at how long a single tap takes to register through the hardware of a tablet:
|Tablet||Response time (in milliseconds)|
|Apple iPad Mini||75 milliseconds|
|Apple iPad (4th generation)||81 milliseconds|
|Microsoft Surface RT||95 milliseconds|
|Amazon Kindle Fire||114 milliseconds|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab||168 milliseconds|
(Note: A shorter response time is better. Source)
Okay, no big deal, right? We’re talking just a fraction of a second, and we’re not even measuring hardware latency from devices specifically targeted to children in toy stores, which by the way use cheaper (AKA slower) chips and tablet surface components.
Now we need to add in latency that is introduced from software. What software tools are being used to create apps for children? Most app-based software tools fall into one of two categories; native apps and non-native apps.
Native apps tend to be written with programming code that is “compiled.” Compiled code is translated into something a computer can understand at a machine level. Languages like C and C++ are compiled languages that tend to execute quickly.
When a tap or a swipe is sent to a native or non-native app, we’re still talking about a fraction of a second for this instruction to execute. However, just to put this in perspective, generally speaking, runtime code can take up to ten times longer to execute than compiled code depending on the processor being used. This can mean the difference between 2 and 20 milliseconds for a small number of lines of code to execute before the user receives a response. (Source 1, 2)
By now you may be doing some math in your head. Keep in mind, we’re still talking best possible scenario here. On top of all this hardware and software latency there’s the need to load assets (graphics, sound, video) in and out of memory. How memory management is handled can also add a lot of latency to an experience, more so for apps that download its content at runtime from the web as opposed to apps that bundle all of its content within the app locally. This is often where the difference between an experienced developer and an inexperienced developer pays off. Creating lean yet appealing art, animation, and audio is an art form, one that often adds to the benefit of “perceived” performance, and ultimately the end user’s experience. A talented developer also will know how to “mask” some of this latency, in a way that makes both the tablet’s processor, and the end user, very happy from a performance perspective.
So, do slow performing apps make kids sick? Maybe not literally like the virtual reality example cited earlier, but, many theorize that it can influence how engaged a child is in the experience. An app that is responsive can mean the difference between successfully engaging a child or making them not want to interact with an app at all. It can also influence your rating in CTR, which measures responsivity of every activity.
If you design products for children, immediacy is vital. Sluggishness can make you feel sick, and contribute to the death of an app.
[The following is an article I wrote for the Feb. 27, 2014 issue of KidScreen.]
I’m not a betting guy. But if you asked me to wager that this year’s crop of tech toys would be compelling, playful and desirable, I probably would have bet against you.
Historically, tech and play have not co-existed so well together in the toy world. In the past, numerous tech toy misses resulted in large financial losses as the emphasis was often placed incorrectly on technology at the expense of play. This includes a large cohort of apps created by toy companies over the last two years. But this year was different. At this month’s New York Toy Fair, apps had greater play appeal, any accompanying physical element was better integrated into the play experience, the tech was not forced and focus was appropriately placed on fun.
Common elements of the most successful tech toys often included the use of a digital camera, numerous sensors and in some cases even effective use of augmented reality. Gone are the days of the “watch me” toy, which are animatronic, robotic toys that are just no fun to watch. Also gone are products that relied on confusing second screens. Tech play for tech’s sake has been replaced with the motto “fun first, tech second.”
With that in mind, the following three newcomers have the potential to be serious trailblazers in the year ahead:
WikiBear by Commonwealth Toy (Video link)
This was the talk of the show. One simple way to describe WikiBear is by the nickname it earned at the show, Siri Bear. Imagine a child talking to WikiBear, asking it endless questions. “How far away is the moon?” “Who is the current president of the US?” “Where is the nearest library?” Ask WikiBear a question, any question, and it will provide an answer by scouring the web for a response. Narration from the bear has a friendly conversational tone, not a cold and clinical response. WikiBear relies on speech recognition technologies (a major challenge with children’s voices) and requires a live wireless web connection. It also uses a lot of back-end language and conversation smarts. WikiBear will be available in the fall and a suggested retail price has yet to be confirmed. However, Commonwealth believes it will be somewhere between $59.95 and $69.95. At this price, adults could even use WikiBear as an inexpensive therapist.
Ozobot by Evollve (Video link)
Ozobot is a small roving robot, about the size of a lime. It has a built-in optical reader on its base that not only follows a drawn line path on paper, or on a tablet, but it can also interpret different colored patterns. One set of colored dots can make Ozobot spin, another make it go faster, or slower, or flash its lights. In a sense, there is a tiny bit of programming fun the user can create by drawing each path with different colored dots. Six free single player and multiplayer game apps will be available at launch, which will be in August for a cost of $59.95.
Spy Gear Video Glasses (Video link)
Can’t see past the $1,500 Google Glass price tag? Spin Master has released its own version called Spy Gear Video Glasses for just under $30. The device will let kids secretly capture up to 20 minutes of video or up to 2,000 photos. These specs look a lot less geeky than Google Glass, and they are already available in stores.
Other noteworthy tech toys that were the topic of conversation at the show were a number of game-based learning apps by a Silicon Valley startup called Tangible Play. So too were block-like, robotic construction kits called MOSS by Molecular Robotics, whose creations can be controlled through an app. Fun, playful and inexpensive digital dice by eDiceToys caught my eye, as did a compelling fashion designer creativity kit and app called My Virtual Fashion Show by Crayola.
Now that the toy industry is starting to get the upper hand on digital play, you won’t have to wait until next year’s Toy Fair to see advances with tech toys or apps. Unlike Toy Fair in years past, advances with digital play will start to appear more frequently. I predict you will start to see new, innovative, tech toy products and apps announced again as early as next month.