Coming Soon: A Harry Potter Wand That Teaches Kids to Code

Kano
Kano

If you've ever wanted to learn how to code but couldn't focus long enough to finish an online tutorial, then you might want to try something a little more … magical. As spotted by Fast Company, the London-based startup Kano has partnered with Warner Bros. to develop a Harry Potter Coding Kit, which comes with a programmable wand that lets you code your own spells.

It won't make your furniture float or turn your enemies into ferrets, but it will equip you with some fundamental computer coding skills that may come in handy later. While the kit is perfect for children as young as 6 years old, it's also suitable for Harry Potter-loving adults who are new to coding.

Using a computer or tablet, players use code to navigate six areas of the Wizarding World, including Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and the Forbidden Forest. Sensors inside the wand track users' hand movements and let them cast spells, all while using a block-based coding interface and JavaScript inspector to provide a fun introduction to programming.

Here's what that looks like:

The wand pairs with the Kano app and the software is compatible with iOS, Android, Mac, and PC. Speaking about the inspiration behind the coding kit, Kano CEO and co-founder Alex Klein said in a statement, "We're surrounded by technology in our homes, workplaces, and pockets, yet only a small percent of people, less than 1 percent of 1 percent, understand the happenings behind the screen."

Kano is backed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who has described the company's child-friendly coding products as "a way for anyone to stumble onto their affinity and passion for computer technology."

The Harry Potter Coding Kit, priced at about $100, is available for preorder on Kano's website and will be sold in stores starting October 1.

[h/t Fast Company]

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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