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Main article: Dash

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 48

Amazon launches a Dash Smart Shelf for businesses that automatically restocks supplies

17:00 | 21 November

Amazon may have stopped selling its Dash buttons for consumers, but it’s not done with dedicated Dash hardware: The company is launching its new Amazon Dash Smart Shelf today. Aimed at small businesses rather than individuals, the Dash Smart Shelf is also even more automated than the Dash buttons, as it uses a built-in scale to automatically place an order for re-stocking supplies based on weight.

Available in three different sizes (7″x7″, 12″x10″ and 18″x13″), the Dash Smart Shelf is just 1″ tall and can basically be placed under a pile of whatever stock of supplies you commonly run through while operating a business. That could mean printer paper, coffee cups, pens, paper clips, toilet paper, coffee or just about anything, really – and Amazon’s replenishment system can either be set to automatically place an order when it detects that on-hand supply has fallen below a certain weight, or you can just have it send someone in your organization a notification if you’d rather not have the order happen automatically.

The Dash Smart Shelf connects via built-in Wi-Fi, and can be powered either connected by cable to a power outlet, or via four AAA batteries, providing flexibility as to where you want to put it. Using the web or the Amazon app, you then sign in with your Amazon Business account and just pick what product you’re using on the scale that you want to top up. And if you find that your staff doesn’t like the coffee selection, for instance, you can easily change up the brand or product your’e re-ordering from your account, too.

Dash Smart Shelf isn’t available immediately for anyone to purchase directly, but instead Amazon is going to be working with select small businesses in a trial pilot this month, with the plan being to open up general availability to any Amazon Business customers that have a registered U.S. business license beginning next year. If people are keen on getting Smart Shelf into their business, they can sign up directly with Amazon to be noticed about availability.

 


0

Amazon makes it easier for smart home devices to alert customers to low supply levels

17:38 | 26 September

Alongside all the new Alexa-powered consumer devices Amazon introduced yesterday, the company also unveiled a new set of tools for the makers of smart home device skills that will allow them to tap into Alexa to re-order their supplies. Think — things like printer ink, air filters for smart thermostats, detergent for washing machines, or anything else that has replaceable parts.

This is an area Amazon has focused on before, by way of the Dash Replenishment Service, or DRS. Devices that use the service’s APIs can automatically re-order their supplies, after a customer sets up their account and selects the product they’ll want to be shipped when they run low.

The new set of tools is an extension to that earlier service, as it will allow the device makers to alert their customers they’re low on necessary supplies by way of Alexa’s skills.

This will work by way of a new set of inventory sensors, due to launch soon, in Amazon’s Smart Home Skill API. There are three different types of sensors to choose from, depending on the device’s needs.

DARTpic.png. CB452512254

The first to arrive sometime later this year is the Alexa.InventoryLevelSensor. This will address the needs of devices where the consumable product is stored internally — like the batteries in smart cameras or printer ink, for example.

Next year, two other sensors will launch. The Alexa.InventoryUsageSensor will work when the product is not stored internally, but the device can determine when a certain amount of consumable inventory is used. In this case, good examples would include a smart coffee pot, washing machine, or dishwasher.

The third, Alexa.InventoryLevelUsageSensor, can be used when the consumable product is stored internally, and the device can report on its usage rather than its current state. For example, a smart thermostat could report the fan time to let customers know it’s time to change the air filter. Or a vacuum cleaner could alert customers to replace a dust bag.

By using these APIs, Alexa can help the customers manage their household supplies, by letting them know they’re low or helping them to set up automatic re-orders in the Alexa app. If the customer chooses to set up smart re-ordering, that’s when the Dash Replenishment Service will kick in. Unlike Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” shopping feature, these smart home supply re-orders will only be placed when the consumable item is running low.

The benefit of this design is that it can help nudge smart home device users to place orders — from Amazon, the company hopes, just by having Alexa remind them. And it can also work even if the customer doesn’t want to set up automatic re-ordering for some reason — perhaps because they shop for supplies locally or want to comparison shop online.

Amazon says August, Blink, Ring, Schlage, and Yale are already working on including inventory sensors to report battery levels from their skills, and Coway is working to report the usage of air filters.

In addition to helping their customers manage their household, the new feature will also enable smart home kill developers to establish recurring revenue streams associated with their devices. When a customer signs up for Dash Replenishment, Amazon pays out a one-time referral fee. And then as the re-orders come in, developers will earn a revenue share on all the orders placed — even if ordered manually following an Alexa notification. Of course, if the device maker is selling its own manufactured products, they’ll earn even more.

Amazon says all U.S. developers will be able to use the new inventory sensors soon.

 


0

Elon Musk: Spotify is “coming” to Tesla vehicles in North America

18:31 | 15 August

Tesla owners in the U.S. and Canada may finally get that free Spotify Premium integration they’ve been asking for.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted late Wednesday night that Spotify premium integration is “coming.” Musk, who has promised Spotify to owners in North America before, did not provide a timeline. In other words, the music streaming service could be integrated next week or a six months from now.

But still, it’s a moment of celebration for many Tesla owners who have complained about Slacker Radio, the streaming music service integrated into all vehicles in the U.S. and Canada. Owners in Europe, Australia and Hong Kong have had Spotify Premium in their vehicles since late 2015.

Slacker Radio, which launched in 2007, has customizable radio stations based on the listener’s personal music tastes. The free and subscription-based service also tried to differentiate itself from the likes on Spotify and Pandora by using DJs to curate programs and at one time, even sold a portable music player. Despite its efforts, Slacker has been overshadowed by Spotify, which had 232 million monthly active users and 108 million paying subscribers at the end of June 2019.

Slacker was acquired in 2017 for $50 million in cash and stock by the LiveXLive, an entertainment and streaming service that focused on live music performances.

Last year, LiveXLive announced a partnership with Dash Radio, a digital radio broadcasting platform with more than 80 original live stations. Under the deal, Dash channels will be available across Slacker Radio a move meant to bring more live radio on the streaming service.

 


0

Amazon is killing off the Dash button later this month

01:45 | 2 August

The idea seemed simple: if you find yourself regularly ordering the same thing from Amazon — coffee, laundry detergent, whatever — why not replace the whole ordering process with a button you put somewhere in your house? Push a button, get a thing.

And from that, Amazon’s Dash Button was born. Announced one day before April Fools’ 2015, people weren’t sure if it was actually real.

It was! But now it’s dead.

Amazon stopped selling the Dash button earlier this year; now they’re ending support for them all together. In an email to Dash users, Amazon says that Dash button devices will cease to function as of August 31st, 2019.

Why? They’re not selling any more of them, and too few people are using the ones that still exist. An Amazon rep told CNET that usage of the buttons “had significantly slowed” over the last few months.

“Virtual” dash buttons (the same push-button concept, but digitized and tucked into Amazon’s app) will continue to work, as will devices that tie into Amazon’s “Dash Replenishment Service” — think washing machines that have a button to order detergent, or coffee makers that can order their own beans. Just the dedicated, physical, standalone buttons are going dark.

While the Dash button program may not have ever taken off, people found their own fun uses for the hardware since launch. After Amazon started selling re-purposable, hackable Dash buttons that could be used to fire off custom scripts on the Internet, one modder built a button that automatically placed his favorite Starbucks order as he was walking out the door.

If you’ve still got a Dash button around the house and don’t know what to do with it after the end of the month, Amazon is encouraging people to send the buttons into its recycling program (which covers the costs shipping/disposal.)

 


0

Glitch is bringing remix culture back to the web with a $30 million Series A round

16:00 | 9 July

Building apps and tools on the web shouldn’t just be for the technically inclined. In the early days of the web, it was easy to make your MySpace account, for example, unique to your personal aesthetic. Glitch is doing that for the modern era.

Glitch, formerly known as Fog Greek Software, is an online community where people can upload projects and enable others to remix them. Dash likens coding on Glitch to working together inside Google Docs.

“The biggest thing I see is the creative impulse for recreating the web never went away,” Glitch CEO Anil Dash told TechCrunch. “There was a latent desire, so we didn’t need to do much.”

Glitch started inside Fog Greek Software as Gomix, which similarly aimed to democratize app building. In March 2017, Gomix became Glitch and has since ballooned into a community that has created more than 2.6 million remixed apps. These apps range from tools to tidying up your Twitter timeline to randomizing who is forced to take notes or do other tasks during the meeting to creating animations using CSS, and much more.

Screen Shot 2019 07 08 at 12.24.39 PM

This 2.6 million-plus remixed apps milestone is notable, Dash said, because Glitch crossed 1 million apps just one year ago. It shows that “people are building stuff all day, every day.”

Hitting this milestone is partly why Glitch waited to announce its $30 million Series A round from Tiger Global, Dash said. The round — the first-ever institutional investment for the 19-year-old company — closed in November 2018, but Dash said he wanted to be able to show people that the company did what it said it would do: grow the team, which has doubled in size in the last year, and grow the community.

“We wanted to show people that you can judge us by what we did over the last year,” Dash said. “If anything, we have only gotten more outspoken and thoughtful about how we grow.”

As Glitch has grown the team, Dash says the company has been pushing hard to set the bar around diversity and inclusion, as well as tech ethics.

On the D&I side, 47% of the company identifies as cisgender women, 40% identify as cisgender men, 9% identify as non-binary/gender non-conforming/questioning and 4% did not disclose. On the race and ethnicity front, the company is 65% white, 7% Asian, 11% black, 4% Latinx, 11% two or more races and 2% did not disclose. Meanwhile, 29% of the company identifies as queer and 11% of people reported having a disability. These numbers are pretty good.

[gallery ids="1853068,1853071,1853072,1853073"]

 

“[Diverse representation] is not impossible,” Dash said. “It’s not science fiction. It’s not this thing that exceeds your grasp, and you can do it while going through massive growth in the community and on the team.”

On the ethics side, Dash says the company thinks deeply about privacy and ensuring school kids, for example, never have to log in in order to use it. While Glitch is free to the masses, it does charge companies who are looking to reach developers, like Slack and Google. Google, however, has been under heavy scrutiny as of late for a variety of reasons pertaining to ethics. Dash, himself,

.

“We talk about it a lot internally,” Dash said. “On one level, there’s the very pragmatic conversation of how do you be in it but not of it. The filter we’ve used is are we enabling what our community seriously wants to create.”

Glitch specifically works with the team at Google focused on the open web, open frameworks and web standards. But as Glitch moves toward products like Tensor Flow, an open source artificial intelligence library, the company makes sure every example includes education around responsible use of technologies, Dash said. Ultimately, it’s hard to completely discount Google from the experience because of how core its technologies have become.

“You can’t be credibly showing people how to make tools for their work or learning to code and not show them some of Google’s technologies,” Dash said. “For better or worse, that’s the web we live on. I think everyone engages with that on a real authentic level…The hard part is how do you strike the balance of being as ethical as you want to be while still existing in the ecosystem we’re in. We’re going to be a for-profit capitalist company until the revolution comes. But within that framework, can we be something that proves all the things people say about recruiting, business models, diversity — that those constraints they imagine are not true.”

 


0

Amazon stops selling stick-on Dash buttons

13:56 | 1 March

Amazon has confirmed it’s retired physical stick-on Dash buttons from sale — in favor of virtual alternatives that let Prime Members tap a digital button to reorder a staple product.

It also points to its Dash Replenishment service — which offers an API for device makers wanting to build Internet connected appliances that can automatically reorder the products they need to function — be it cat food, batteries or washing power — as another reason why physical Dash buttons, which launched back in 2015 (costing $5 a pop), are past their sell by date.

Amazon says “hundreds” of IoT devices capable of self-ordering on Amazon have been launched globally to date by brands including Beko, Epson, illy, Samsung and Whirlpool, to name a few.

So why press a physical button when a digital one will do? Or, indeed, why not do away with the need to push a button all and just let your gadgets rack up your grocery bill all by themselves while you get on with the importance business of consuming all the stuff they’re ordering?

You can see where Amazon wants to get to with its “so customers don’t have to think at all about restocking” line. Consumption that entirely removes the consumer’s decision making process from the transactional loop is quite the capitalist wet dream. Though it does need to be careful about consumer protection rules as it seeks to remove all friction from the buying process.

The ecommerce behemoth also claims customers are “increasingly” using its Alexa voice assistant to reorder staples, such as via the Alexa Shopping voice shopping app (Amazon calls it ‘hands free shopping’) that lets people inform the machine about a purchase intent and it will suggest items to buy based on their Amazon order history.

Albeit, it offers no actual usage metrics for Alexa Shopping. So that’s meaningless PR.

A less flashy but perhaps more popular option than ‘hands free shopping’, which Amazon also says has contributed to making physical Dash buttons redundant, is its Subscribe & Save program.

This “lets customers automatically receive their favourite items every month”, as Amazon puts it. It offers an added incentive of discounts that kick in if the user signs up to buy five or more products per month. But the mainstay of the sales pitch is convenience with Amazon touting time saved by subscribing to ‘essentials’ — and time saved from compiling boring shopping lists once again means more time to consume the stuff being bought on Amazon…

In a statement about retiring physical Dash buttons from global sale on February 28, Amazon also confirmed it will continue to support existing Dash owners — presumably until their buttons wear down to the bare circuit board from repeat use.

“Existing Dash Button customers can continue to use their Dash Button devices,” it writes. “We look forward to continuing support for our customers’ shopping needs, including growing our Dash Replenishment product line-up and expanding availability of virtual Dash Buttons.”

So farewell then clunky Dash buttons. Another physical push-button bites the dust. Though plastic-y Dash were quite unlike the classic iPhone home button — seeming temporary and experimental rather than slick and coolly reassuring. Even as the end of both points to the need for tech businesses to tool up for the next wave of contextually savvy connected devices. More smarts, and more controllable smarts is key.

Amazon’s statement about ‘shifting focus’ for Dash does not mention potential legal risks around the buttons related to consumer rights challenges — but that’s another angle here.

In January a court in Germany ruled Dash buttons breached local ecommerce rules, following a challenge by a regional consumer watchdog that raised concerns about T&Cs which allow Amazon to substitute a product of a higher price or even a different product entirely than what the consumer had originally selected. The watchdog argued consumers should be provided with more information about price and product before taking the order — and the judges agreed. Though Amazon said it would seek to appeal.

While it’s not clear whether or not that legal challenge contributed to Amazon’s decision to shutter Dash, it’s clear that virtual Dash buttons offer more opportunities for displaying additional information prior to a purchase than a screen-less physical Dash button. So are more easily adapted to meet any tightening legal requirements in different markets.

The demise of the physical Dash was reported earlier by CNET.

 


0

Amazon Dash buttons judged to breach consumer rules in Germany

18:04 | 11 January

Amazon’s Dash buttons have been found to breach consumer ecommerce rules in Germany.

The push-to-order gizmos were debuted by Amazon in 2015, in an attempt by the ecommerce giant to shave friction off of the online shopping process by encouraging consumers to fill their homes with stick-on, account-linked buttons that trigger product-specific staple purchases when pressed — from washing powder to toilet roll to cat food.

Germany was among the first international markets where Amazon launched Dash, in 2016, along with the UK and Austria. But yesterday a higher state court in Munich ruled the system does not provide consumers with sufficient information about a purchase.

The judgement follows a legal challenge by a regional consumer watchdog, Verbraucherzentrale NRW, which objects to the terms Amazon operates with Dash.

It complains that Amazon’s terms allow the company to substitute a product of a higher price or even a different product in place of what the consumer original selected for a Dash push purchase.

It argues consumers are also not provided with enough information on the purchase triggered when the button is pressed — which might be months after an original selection was made.

Dash buttons should carry a label stating that a paid purchase is triggered by a press, it believes.

The Munich court has now sided with the group’s view that Amazon does not provide sufficient information to Dash consumers, per Reuters.

In a press release following the ruling, Verbraucherzentrale NRW said the judges agreed Amazon should inform consumers about price and product before taking the order, rather than after the purchase as is currently the case.

It also expressed confidence the judgement leaves no room for Amazon to appeal — though the company has said it intends to do so.

Commenting on the ruling in a statement, Verbraucherzentrale NRW consumer bureau chief, Wolfgang Schuldzinski, said: “We are always open to innovation. But if innovation is to put consumers at a disadvantage and to make price comparisons more difficult, then we use all means against them, as in this case.”

Amazon did not reply to questions about how it intends to respond to the court ruling in the short term, such as whether it will withdraw the devices or change how Dash works in Germany.

Instead it emailed us the following statement, attributed to a spokesperson: “The decision is not only against innovation, it also prevents customers from making an informed choice for themselves about whether a service like Dash Button is a convenient way for them to shop. We are convinced the Dash Button and the corresponding app are in line with German legislation. Therefore, we’re going to appeal.”

 


0

The Kardashian apps are dead

00:52 | 22 December

In this app-laden world, there is now a void. One so large, it will be difficult to fill. Perhaps, the Kardashians will reconsider.

The Kardashian sisters, specifically Kim Kardashian West, Khloé Kardashian, and Kylie Jenner are shutting down their apps in 2019. Kendall Jenner stopped updating her app and website last year.  The apps and accompanying websites were provided through Whalerock Industries.

“We’ve had an incredible experience connecting with all of you thorough our apps these past few years but have made the difficult decision to no longer continue updating in 2019. We truly hope you’ve enjoyed this journey as much as we have, and we look forward to what’s ahead,” the statement from Kim Kardashian West said. Kourtney Kardashian issued a similar statement, adding a note to subscribers to follow her on Instagram.

kim kardashian app statement

It was a wild run for the Kardashian apps, at least in the beginning.

Kim Kardashian West made her debut in the iTunes App Store with “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” game, which may have grossed the star and development partner $200 million in annual revenue, according to some reports at the time.

In 2015, the whole family got involved. Kim Kardashian West, Khloé Kardashian, Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner launched their own subscription apps in September 2015 — all of which shot up into the App Store’s top charts.

The apps, which charge customers $2.99 per month for a peek inside their lives, seemed poised to generate millions in annual gross revenue if growth rates and retention numbers could be sustained.

It appears that by 2018, the apps started tanking, and badly. According to App Annie, the apps don’t even make the overall ranking, which means they’re somewhere lower than #1500.

Kim Kardashian app annie stat

 

If only there was another way to a follow their lives.

 


0

The ultimate guide to gifting STEM toys: tons of ideas for little builders

00:30 | 7 November

The holiday season is here again, touting all sorts of kids’ toys that pledge to pack ‘STEM smarts’ in the box, not just the usual battery-based fun.

Educational playthings are nothing new, of course. But, in recent years, long time toymakers and a flurry of new market entrants have piggybacked on the popularity of smartphones and apps, building connected toys for even very young kids that seek to tap into a wider ‘learn to code’ movement which itself feeds off worries about the future employability of those lacking techie skills.

Whether the lofty educational claims being made for some of these STEM gizmos stands the test of time remains to be seen. Much of this sums to clever branding. Though there’s no doubt a lot of care and attention has gone into building this category out, you’ll also find equally eye-catching price-tags.

Whatever STEM toy you buy there’s a high chance it won’t survive the fickle attention spans of kids at rest and play. (Even as your children’s appetite to be schooled while having fun might dash your ‘engineer in training’ expectations.) Tearing impressionable eyeballs away from YouTube or mobile games might be your main parental challenge — and whether kids really need to start ‘learning to code’ aged just 4 or 5 seems questionable.

Buyers with high ‘outcome’ hopes for STEM toys should certainly go in with their eyes, rather than their wallets, wide open. The ‘STEM premium’ can be steep indeed, even as the capabilities and educational potential of the playthings themselves varies considerably.

At the cheaper end of the price spectrum, a ‘developmental toy’ might not really be so very different from a more basic or traditional building block type toy used in concert with a kid’s own imagination, for example.

While, at the premium end, there are a few devices in the market that are essentially fully fledged computers — but with a child-friendly layer applied to hand-hold and gamify STEM learning. An alternative investment in your child’s future might be to commit to advancing their learning opportunities yourself, using whatever computing devices you already have at home. (There are plenty of standalone apps offering guided coding lessons, for example. And tons and tons of open source resources.)

For a little DIY STEM learning inspiration read this wonderful childhood memoir by TechCrunch’s very own John Biggs — a self-confessed STEM toy sceptic.

It’s also worth noting that some startups in this still youthful category have already pivoted more toward selling wares direct to schools — aiming to plug learning gadgets into formal curricula, rather than risking the toys falling out of favor at home. Which does lend weight to the idea that standalone ‘play to learn’ toys don’t necessarily live up to the hype. And are getting tossed under the sofa after a few days’ use.

We certainly don’t suggest there are any shortcuts to turn kids into coders in the gift ideas presented here. It’s through proper guidance — plus the power of their imagination — that the vast majority of children learn. And of course kids are individuals, with their own ideas about what they want to do and become.

The increasingly commercialized rush towards STEM toys, with hundreds of millions of investor dollars being poured into the category, might also be a cause for parental caution. There’s a risk of barriers being thrown up to more freeform learning — if companies start pushing harder to hold onto kids’ attention in a more and more competitive market. Barriers that could end up dampening creative thinking.

At the same time (adult) consumers are becoming concerned about how much time they spend online and on screens. So pushing kids to get plugged in from a very early age might not feel like the right thing to do. Your parental priorities might be more focused on making sure they develop into well rounded human beings — by playing with other kids and/or non-digital toys that help them get to know and understand the world around them, and encourage using more of their own imagination.

But for those fixed on buying into the STEM toy craze this holiday season, we’ve compiled a list of some of the main players, presented in alphabetical order, rounding up a selection of what they’re offering for 2018, hitting a variety of price-points, product types and age ranges, to present a market overview — and with the hope that a well chosen gift might at least spark a few bright ideas…


Adafruit Kits

Product: Metro 328 Starter Pack 
Price: $45
Description: Not a typical STEM toy but a starter kit from maker-focused and electronics hobbyist brand Adafruit. The kit is intended to get the user learning about electronics and Arduino microcontrollers to set them on a path to being a maker. Adafruit says the kit is designed for “everyone, even people with little or no electronics and programming experience”. Though parental supervision is a must unless you’re buying for a teenager or mature older child. Computer access is also required for programming the Arduino.

Be sure to check out Adafruit’s Young Engineers Category for a wider range of hardware hacking gift ideas too, from $10 for a Bare Conductive Paint Pen, to $25 for the Drawdio fun pack, to $35 for this Konstruktor DIY Film Camera Kit or $75 for the Snap Circuits Green kit — where budding makers can learn about renewable energy sources by building a range of solar and kinetic energy powered projects. Adafruit also sells a selection of STEM focused children’s books too, such as Python for Kids ($35)
Age: Teenagers, or younger children with parental supervision


[inline-ads]


Anki

Product: Cozmo
Price: $180
Description: The animation loving Anki team added a learn-to-code layer to their cute, desktop-mapping bot last year — called Cozmo Code Lab, which was delivered via free update — so the cartoonesque, programmable truck is not new on the scene for 2018 but has been gaining fresh powers over the years.

This year the company has turned its attention to adults, launching a new but almost identical-looking assistant-style bot, called Vector, that’s not really aimed at kids. That more pricey ($250) robot is slated to be getting access to its code lab in future, so it should have some DIY programming potential too.
Age: 8+


Dash Robotics

Product: Kamigami Jurassic World Robot
Price: ~$60
Description: Hobbyist robotics startup Dash Robotics has been collaborating with toymaker Mattel on the Kamigami line of biologically inspired robots for over a year now. The USB-charged bots arrive at kids’ homes in build-it-yourself form before coming to programmable, biomimetic life via the use of a simple, icon-based coding interface in the companion app.

The latest addition to the range is dinosaur bot series Jurassic World, currently comprised of a pair of pretty similar looking raptor dinosaurs, each with light up eyes and appropriate sound effects. Using the app kids can complete challenges to unlock new abilities and sounds. And if you have more than one dinosaur in the same house they can react to each other to make things even more lively.
Age: 8+


Kano

Product: Harry Potter Coding Kit
Price: $100
Description: British learn-to-code startup Kano has expanded its line this year with a co-branded, build-it-yourself wand linked to the fictional Harry Potter wizard series. The motion-sensitive e-product features a gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer and Bluetooth wireless so kids can use it to interact with coding content on-screen. The company offers 70-plus challenges for children to play wizard with, using wand gestures to manipulate digital content. Like many STEM toys it requires a tablet or desktop computer to work its digital magic (iOS and Android tablets are supported, as well as desktop PCs including Kano’s Computer Kit Touch, below)
Age: 6+

Product: Computer Kit Touch
Price: $280
Description: The latest version of Kano’s build-it-yourself Pi-powered kids’ computer. This year’s computer kit includes the familiar bright orange physical keyboard but now paired with a touchscreen. Kano reckons touch is a natural aid to the drag-and-drop, block-based learn-to-code systems it’s putting under kids’ fingertips here. Although its KanoOS Pi skin does support text-based coding too, and can run a wide range of other apps and programs — making this STEM device a fully fledged computer in its own right
Age: 6-13



Lego

Product: Boost Creative Toolbox
Price: $160
Description: Boost is Lego’s relatively recent foray into offering a simpler robotics and programming system aimed at younger kids vs its more sophisticated and expensive veteran Mindstorms creator platform (for 10+ year olds). The Boost Creative Toolbox is an entry point to Lego + robotics, letting kids build a range of different brick-based bots — all of which can be controlled and programmed via the companion app which offers an icon-based coding system.

Boost components can also be combined with other Lego kits to bring other not-electronic kits to life — such as its Stormbringer Ninjago Dragon kit (sold separately for $40). Ninjago + Boost means = a dragon that can walk and turn its head as if it’s about to breathe fire
Age: 7-12


littleBits

Product: Avengers Hero Inventor Kit
Price: $150
Description: This Disney co-branded wearable in kit form from the hardware hackers over at littleBits lets superhero-inspired kids snap together all sorts of electronic and plastic bits to make their own gauntlet from the Avengers movie franchise. The gizmo features an LED matrix panel, based on Tony Stark’s palm Repulsor Beam, they can control via companion app. There are 18 in-app activities for them to explore, assuming kids don’t just use amuse themselves acting out their Marvel superhero fantasies
Age: 8+

It’s worth noting that littleBits has lots more to offer — so if bringing yet more Disney-branded merch into your home really isn’t your thing, check out its wide range of DIY electronics kits, which cater to various price points, such as this Crawly Creature Kit ($40) or an Electronic Music Inventor Kit ($100), and much more… No major movie franchises necessary


Makeblock

Product: Codey Rocky
Price: $100
Description: Shenzhen-based STEM kit maker Makeblock crowdfunded this emotive, programmable bot geared towards younger kids on Kickstarter. There’s no assembly required, though the bot itself can transform into a wearable or handheld device for game playing, as Codey (the head) detaches from Rocky (the wheeled body).

Despite the young target age, the toy is packed with sophisticated tech — making use of deep learning algorithms, for example. While the company’s visual programming system, mBlock, also supports Python text coding, and allows kids to code bot movements and visual effects on the display, tapping into the 10 programmable modules on this sensor-heavy bot. Makeblock says kids can program Codey to create dot matrix animations, design games and even build AI and IoT applications, thanks to baked in support for voice, image and even face recognition… The bot has also been designed to be compatible with Lego bricks so kids can design and build physical add-ons too
Age: 6+

Product: Airblock
Price: $100
Description: Another programmable gizmo from Makeblock’s range. Airblock is a modular and programmable drone/hovercraft so this is a STEM device that can fly. Magnetic connectors are used for easy assembly of the soft foam pieces. Several different assembly configurations are possible. The companion app’s block-based coding interface is used for programming and controlling your Airblock creations
Age: 8+



Ozobot

Product: Evo
Price: $100
Description: This programmable robot has a twist as it can be controlled without a child always having to be stuck to a screen. The Evo’s sensing system can detect and respond to marks made by marker pens and stickers in the accompanying Experience Pack — so this is coding via paper plus visual cues.

There is also a digital, block-based coding interface for controlling Evo, called OzoBlockly (based on Google’s Blockly system). This has a five-level coding system to support a range of ages, from pre-readers (using just icon-based blocks), up to a ‘Master mode’ which Ozobot says includes extensive low-level control and advanced programming features
Age: 9+


Pi-top


Product: Modular Laptop
Price: $320 (with a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+), $285 without
Description: This snazzy 14-inch modular laptop, powered by Raspberry Pi, has a special focus on teaching coding and electronics. Slide the laptop’s keyboard forward and it reveals a built in rail for hardware hacking. Guided projects designed for kids include building a music maker and a smart robot. The laptop runs pi-top’s learn-to-code oriented OS — which supports block-based coding programs like Scratch and kid-friendly wares like Minecraft Pi edition, as well as its homebrew CEEDUniverse: A Civilization style game that bakes in visual programming puzzles to teach basic coding concepts. The pi-top also comes with a full software suite of more standard computing apps (including apps from Google and Microsoft). So this is no simple toy. Not a new model for this year — but still a compelling STEM machine
Age: 8+


Robo Wunderkind


Product: Starter Kit
Price: $200 
Description: Programmable robotics blocks for even very young inventors. The blocks snap together and are color-coded based on function so as to minimize instruction for the target age group. Kids can program their creations to do stuff like drive, play music, detect obstacles and more via a drag-and-drop coding interface in the companion Robo Code app. Another app — Robo Live — lets them control what they’ve built in real time. The physical blocks can also support Lego-based add-ons for more imaginative designs
Age: 5+


Root Robotics

Product: Root
Price: $200
Description: A robot that can sense and draw, thanks to a variety of on board sensors, battery-powered kinetic energy and its central feature: A built-in pen holder. Root uses spirographs as the medium for teaching STEM as kids get to code what the bot draws. They can also create musical compositions with a scan and play mode that turns Root into a music maker. The companion app offers three levels of coding interfaces to support different learning abilities and ages. At the top end it supports programming in Swift (with Python and JavaScript slated as coming soon). An optional subscription service offers access to additional learning materials and projects to expand Root’s educational value
Age: 4+



Sphero


Product: Bolt
Price: $150
Description: The app-enabled robot ball maker’s latest STEM gizmo. It’s still a transparent sphere but now has an 8×8 LED matrix lodged inside to expand the programmable elements. This colorful matrix can be programmed to display words, show data in real-time and offer game design opportunities. Bolt also includes an ambient light sensor, and speed and direction sensors, giving it an additional power up over earlier models. The Sphero Edu companion app supports drawing, Scratch-style block-based and JavaScript text programming options to suit different ages
Age: 8+


Tech Will Save Us

Product: Range of coding, electronics and craft kits
Price: From ~$30 up to $150
Description: A delightful range of electronic toys and coding kits, hitting various age and price-points, and often making use of traditional craft materials (which of course kids love). Examples include a solar powered moisture sensor kit ($40) to alert when a pot plant needs water; electronic dough ($35); a micro:bot add-on kit ($35) that makes use of the BBC micro:bit device (sold separately); and the creative coder kit ($70), which pairs block-based coding with a wearable that lets kids see their code in action (and reacting to their actions)
Age: 4+, 8+, 11+ depending on kit


UBTech Robotics

Product: JIMU Robot BuilderBots Series: Overdrive Kit
Price: $120
Description: More snap-together, codable robot trucks that kids get to build and control. These can be programmed either via posing and recording, or using Ubtech’s drag-and-drop, block-based Blockly coding program. The Shenzhen-based company, which has been in the STEM game for several years, offers a range of other kits in the same Jimu kit series — such as this similarly priced UnicornBot and its classic MeeBot Kit, which can be expanded via the newer Animal Add-on Kit
Age: 8+


Wonder Workshop

Product: Dot Creativity Kit 
Price: $80
Description: San Francisco-based Wonder Workshop offers a kid-friendly blend of controllable robotics and DIY craft-style projects in this entry-level Dot Creativity Kit. Younger kids can play around and personalize the talkative connected device. But the startup sells a trio of chatty robots all aimed at encouraging children to get into coding. Next in line there’s Dash ($150), also for 6+ year olds. Then Cue ($200) for 11+. The startup also has a growing range of accessories to expand the bots’ (programmable) functionality — such as this Sketch Kit ($40) which adds a few arty smarts to Dash or Cue.

With Dot, younger kids play around using a suite of creative apps to control and customize their robot and tap more deeply into its capabilities, with the apps supporting a range of projects and puzzles designed to both entertain them and introduce basic coding concepts
Age: 6+


 


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Product Hunt Radio: Online communities and the dark side of the web

16:00 | 19 September

Ryan Hoover Contributor
Ryan Hoover is the founder of Product Hunt and host of Product Hunt Radio.

In the second episode of the new Product Hunt Radio, I’m joined by two amazing community-builders based in New York, Anil Dash and Allison Esposito.

Anil is the CEO of Glitch, a friendly community where developers build the app of their dreams. You’ll find everything from AI-powered musical spinners to a multiplayer drawing game created on the platform. He’s also an adviser to Medium, DonorsChoose, Project Include and Stack Overflow.

Allison is formerly of Oyster, the Netflix for books, which was acquired by Google in 2015. Afterward she founded Tech Ladies, a community that connects women with the best jobs in tech.

In this episode we talk about:

  • The good ol’ days of IRC, Friendster, AIM and MySpace. A lot has changed since then, yet they continue to exhibit some of the same dynamics and challenges of today’s massive social networks.
  • The challenges of building a healthy community on the internet in a time when careers and reputations can be destroyed in an instant.
  • How online communities mirror offline interactions. Opening up an app has many parallels to walking into a social gathering in real life.
  • Some of the common misconceptions people have about creating communities online and what a founder’s goal should really be in starting a community.

Of course, we also cover some of our favorite products that you might not know about.

We’ll be back next week so be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Overcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

 


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