This Build-Your-Own Touchscreen Computer Will Help Your Kid Learn to Code

Kano
Kano

Though most people rely on computers and smart phones every single day, many of us have almost no clue how these machines work. The coding education startup Kano hopes to change that by showing kids how to assemble their own computers with step-by-step instructions. And now, it’s teaching kids how to put together touchscreens.

Kano’s new Computer Kit Touch lets you build a touchscreen computer that you can use to play Kano's coding games. It comes equipped with a 10-inch screen that you hook up to a Raspberry Pi computer, as well as a separate keyboard with a trackpad.

Like the rest of Kano’s products, putting together the computer is simple enough. You just need to follow a streamlined set of illustrated directions akin to what you’d get if you were putting together a set of LEGOs. In the process, kids can learn the basics of computing without getting too overwhelmed by tech specs.

A disassembled touch computer kit
Kano

Once assembled and booted up, the computer runs on Kano’s custom educational operating system. Kids can add apps like YouTube and Whatsapp, play Kano’s coding games, making art projects, and explore Kano World, the social learning community where users share the cool things they’ve come up with using their own kits. The touchscreen kit is essentially a revved-up version of the original computer kit, adding in the ability to draw and gesture with the touchscreen as part of its coding games and challenges, while still allowing you to use a keyboard if you want to.

It seems obvious that a kid-focused company like Kano would want to get into the touchscreen game. Many children love tablets and other touchscreens, much to the chagrin of parents and education experts who worry that so much screen time might be harming their development. In 2017, Common Sense Media reported that 42 percent of kids between the ages of 0 and 8 had their own tablet at home. Parents who are concerned about their kids spending an unhealthy amount of time with touchscreens might feel more at peace giving them something like Kano, which combines the fun parts of an iPad—i.e., access to YouTube—with games and challenges that are specifically tailored to helping kids learn.

Kano launched its original computer kit on Kickstarter in 2013, and has recently been expanding its offerings beyond the computers themselves. Earlier this year, the company came out with a Harry Potter wand kit, and prior to that, the company debuted a motion sensor, a camera, and a light-pixel array, among other gadgets, all designed to help kids learn coding skills.

The touchscreen kit sells for $279.

Smart HVAC Systems Promise the Perfect Temperature—and Energy Bill Savings

Alea
Alea

Smart home technology is often touted as a luxury convenience. What if you could turn on your lights with your voice, or see who’s knocking at your door using your phone, or play online quizzes in your kitchen while you cook? But smart home technology has the potential to do far more than just give us new gadgets to mess around with. It can help save energy and solve some of the issues that have plagued homeowners for decades. Like, for instance, the problem of an air conditioning system that works better in some rooms than others. Alea Air, a new smart HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system, does just that, as Fast Company reports.

Keeping your environment at just the right temperature in every room isn’t exactly a sexy issue, but it’s one that touches just about everyone. Try to find an office that stays at a comfortable temperature throughout the day, year-round, in both conference rooms and cubicles. You probably can’t, because there are so many factors that go into keeping a building with many rooms—like an office, apartment building, or house—at just the right temperature. Variables such as how many vents there are, where they’re placed, how much sun the windows get, how big the room is, and how many people are in that room can all affect how much heating or cooling power a particular area needs.

A black vent sits on the floor before installation.
Alea

Whereas most HVAC systems only have one temperature sensor to track the environment of the whole house, Alea Air features WiFi- and Bluetooth-connected smart vents that can be installed in every room to track temperature, air quality, room occupancy, and other factors to keep houses at the right temperature no matter what room you’re in. The vents have 11 sensors to track air conditions, including infrared temperature sensors, humidity sensors to track the real-feel of the temperature, air quality sensors, UV and ambient light sensors, audio sensors that can detect if your system is emitting those loud whooshing sounds, and more.

That means the system can tell that your kitchen with its giant south-facing windows and active oven is always way too hot, or that your guest bedroom never has anyone in it. You can use the app to adjust your bedroom to be cooler than the rest of the house, so you can snuggle up under your giant comforter at night, but still keep your home office toasty enough that your fingers don't freeze while you work.

Screenshots of the Alea app showing temperature monitoring and adjustment functions
Alea

You don’t have to install a totally new heating and cooling system. If you have a central heating or heating/cooling system, you can replace your old vents with the Alea Air vents and plug into your old system. You can use your existing smart thermostat, too.

Though you will no doubt save money on your energy bill with your newfound ability to micromanage your household heating and cooling, there’s a hefty pricetag that comes with being an early adopter—especially if your house has more than three rooms. A kit of three vents and one Airhub costs $379, with additional vents starting at $119 each.

The vents come in black or white and are available for pre-order here.

[h/t Fast Company]

Italian Scientists Created a Robot Toddler and It's Kind of Terrifying

Oli Scarff, Getty Images
Oli Scarff, Getty Images

Scientists have already given us creepy headless dog robots and robots that squirm around like eels. Now, Futurism has spotted a different kind of robot to haunt our nightmares. Meet iCub, a humanoid machine that's designed to look and move like a toddler.

Created by scientists at the Italian Institute of Technology, iCub was designed as a tool for researching child development. It's made to study embodied cognition, the theory that cognitive function is directly influenced by our physical experiences. In particular, iCub can help researchers study how interacting with the physical world can influence how children's brains develop.

With iCub, researchers can recreate the motions of a toddler in a controlled environment. The first prototype of the robot debuted in 2009, but recently, researchers developed a technique that lets them control iCub's movements and see through its eyes in virtual reality [PDF]. (You can see it at work in the video below.)

The science sounds intriguing, but to a layperson, iCub looks like a bit of a horror show. It walks with outstretched fingers and an awkward gait that's more zombie than toddler. The face, which has a huge set of eyes but lacks a mouth, also fits snugly in the uncanny valley.

iCub's design is open source, so if any roboticists out there think they can tweak the design to make it less unsettling, they're welcome to do so.

Behold the nightmare in action:

[h/t Futurism]

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