The Vatican Will Host Its First-Ever Youth Hackathon

Franco Origlia, Getty Images
Franco Origlia, Getty Images

The Vatican is a place steeped in tradition, but that doesn't mean it can't foster technological innovation as well. This March, the city-state is hosting its first-ever hackathon, WIRED reports.

Hackathons are opportunities for coders to gather in one place to achieve a common goal with just their computers and a little programming know-how. The coding often takes place in the span of a few days, so participants are required to work marathon-style to build new software. While the events are nothing new—they've become popular around the world as a way to come up with creative new tech ideas, fast—this is the first time one has infiltrated the holy headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

For the 36-hour event, called VHacks, 120 college students of different faiths from around the world were chosen to code software tools that can promote social inclusion, interfaith dialogue, and assistance for migrants and refugees—three global issues the church is committed to tackling.

A modern hackathon may seem like an odd choice for an organization that's the same in many ways today as when it formed nearly 2000 years ago, but it's part of a broader push from the Catholic Church toward embracing new technology.

In 2017, Pope Francis made a surprise appearance at the annual TED conference in Vancouver, Canada. "How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion," he said during his speech. VHacks was designed with this idea in mind, asking young people to tackle serious social issues through programming.

The pope has been outspoken about bringing the church into the 21st century since he took the papal throne in 2013. While he has warned of the perils of using technology frivolously, Pope Francis is also a big proponent of using it for good. He is active on social media and once referred to the web as "a gift from God."

VHacks kicked off at the Vatican on March 8 and will conclude on Sunday, March 11. At the end of the event, a panel of judges from the Vatican and from various tech companies will judge the teams on their creativity, innovation, and the potential impact and feasibility of their projects.

[h/t WIRED]

The Pigzbe Wallet Teaches Kids How to Budget and Save Money

Pigzbe
Pigzbe

Fiscal responsibility isn’t the most exciting topic in the world, especially when you’re in elementary school. But, as Fast Company reports, Primo Toys is hoping to make the concept more child-friendly. The company’s new Pigzbe wallet works like a digital piggy bank to teach kids age 6 and older how to earn, budget, and save money by managing the cryptocurrency they receive from their parents.

Pigzbe connects to a smartphone app, which parents can use to set chores and tasks for their kids to complete, such as making their bed or washing the dishes. They can set a schedule for these chores (every Tuesday, for example) as well as monetary rewards in the form of Wollo, a “family-friendly” cryptocurrency developed by Primo Toys.

Tasks will be sent directly to the Pigzbe device, and once they have been completed, kids will receive their hard-earned Wollo tokens. The Pigzbe app helps kids visualize their earnings and how much they’ll need to save to get the items they want. "It’s a design that feels childlike, sure, but in a fun, self-aware way, almost like a Tamagotchi," Fast Company notes.

Although Wollo isn’t technically “real money,” the tokens can be used to purchase toys and other items from Pigzbe’s app. Parents can also order a specialized Visa card that will let them buy items using Wollo. Other family members can also send gifts and allowances to any Pigzbe user, no matter their geographic location.

The goal is to teach kids about financial responsibility at an early age, when they’re just beginning to form habits that will stick with them well into adulthood. “We believe that financially curious children become financially literate adults, and we designed Pigzbe to achieve just that,” Primo Toys, the maker of the Pigzbe wallet, writes in its Kickstarter campaign. The product has already exceeded its $50,000 fundraising goal, with more than 550 backers on board.

Backers who pledge $79 or more before the campaign ends on January 25, 2019 will receive the Pigzbe wallet at a 40 percent discount.

[h/t Fast Company]

Aquarium Points Out Anatomical Error in Apple's Squid Emoji

iStock.com
iStock.com

When an inaccurate image makes it into Apple's emoji keyboard, the backlash is usually swift. But the squid emoji had been around for more than two years before the Monterey Bay Aquarium pointed out a major anatomical error on Twitter. As The Verge reports, the emoji depicts a squid with a siphon on its face—not on the back of its head, where it should be.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium dragged Apple for the misstep on Wednesday, December 5. "Not even squidding the siphon should be behind the head," the aquarium tweeted, "rn it just looks like a weirdo nose."

A squid's siphon serves some vital purposes. It pumps water over the gills, allowing it to breathe, and it blasts water away when the squid needs to propel through the sea. It's also the orifice out of which waste is expelled, making its placement right between the eyes in the emoji version especially unfortunate.

Emojis have incited outrage from marine biology experts in the past. When the Unicode Consortium released an early design of its lobster emoji earlier this year, people were quick to point out that it was missing a set of legs. Luckily the situation was rectified in time for the emoji's official release.

Apple has been known to revise designs to appease the public, but getting the squid's siphon moved to the other side of its head may be a long shot: Until the most recent backlash, the emoji had existed controversy-free since 2016.

[h/t The Verge]

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