A Dad Invented an App That Lets Parents Freeze Their Kids' Phones Until They Text Back

iStock.com/FatCamera
iStock.com/FatCamera

Parents, are you sick of being ignored by your own offspring? Worried that their lack of response to your text messages means something terrible has happened? British dad Nick Herbert was, which is why he designed ReplyASAP, an app that locks kids out of their phones until they respond to their parents’ messages.

ReplyASAP was born of a common problem: Herbert’s son Ben keeps his phone in silent mode and either doesn’t hear or ignores incoming messages from his dad. Herbert looked for an app that would override the silent function and demand Ben’s attention. That app didn’t seem to exist, so Herbert decided to create his own.

Users open the app, type out a message, and send it. When the message arrives at the other end (recipients must also have the app on their phones), it sounds a loud alarm and locks the screen, unlocking it only when the recipient responds.

Ben was happy to add the app to his phone. "It gives him the freedom to keep his phone on silent,” Herbert told Good Housekeeping in 2017, “but with the knowledge that I can get a message to him if necessary."

It’s free to send messages on the app, but Herbert says his family reserves it for urgent situations. “There is a mutual understanding that using ReplyASAP is only for important things,” he wrote on the app’s website, “and not because [Ben] needs new batteries for his Xbox controller.”

Herbert notes that while he designed the app for families, his friends quickly envisioned “grown up” ways they could use it themselves. “Their suggestions ranged from changing your order when your friend is getting the drinks in at the bar, to finding your phone when you've misplaced it at home, to work situations when you need to get hold of work colleagues quickly.”

The app is currently available for Android users in the U.S. Herbert is hoping to add an iPhone version soon.

An earlier version of this story appeared in 2017.

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.

Watch Ford's Sweaty-Butt Robot Put a Car Seat to the Test

iStock.com/gargantiopa
iStock.com/gargantiopa

Buyers tend to look at price, safety, and gas mileage when shopping for a car; a question that rarely comes up at the dealership is how well a car seat stands up to years of butt sweat. But even if it isn't a priority for car owners, the vehicle testers at Ford work to ensure the cars that leave the factory can accommodate the sweatiest passengers.

The secret to Ford's durable seats is a device called the Robutt. This video from the car company shows a Kuka robotic arm pushing a buttocks-shaped cushion into a car seat. To replicate a person sitting in the car after exercising, the dummy butt is heated to approximately human body temperate and pumped with half a liter of water. The average person produces about 0.7 to 1.5 liters of sweat in one hour of intense exercise, and people who are especially fit perspire 1.5 to 1.8 liters in the same time.

The sit test is repeated 7500 times over three days—simulating one decade of someone driving their sweaty behind home from the gym. If the surface of a car seat can make it through all that abuse without any wear and tear, the design is good enough for a Ford vehicle. Robutt-approved seats were first introduced in the 2018 Ford Fiesta and are now being built into all Ford vehicles in Europe.

You can watch the messy process play out below. Here are some more robots that, like the Robutt, were designed for oddly specific tasks.

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