Category Archives: blog

Kids & Computer

I gifted a computer to my son on his 9th birthday and tried to guide him on what all he can do with it. After a few months, I made an interesting observation – he obviously loves playing games and he does that often, but he has also developed genuine interest in doing other stuff with computer because he finds it equally exciting as well. This helped me realise that if kids are encouraged and taught to use computers productively, they won’t be really using them only for thing s like gaming, social-networking and other things any parent won’t like them doing.

I thought this can help everybody having young kids or grand-kids at home so I am sharing a few tips from my experience here:

Learning to Type  – The first thing I told my son was that he should know how to properly type using all his fingers from both hands and not just use 2 fingers to type. I told him to visit -  www.typeonline.co.uk and take typing lessons there. It’s a free website and very useful for anybody who wants to learn proper typing sitting at home. So after a month he was able to type properly and you know what kept him interested in doing it – Speed Test. Website offers a speed test to know your typing speed and he loved to regularly test himself and do better everyday. He is doing 25 WPM right now which I think is a pretty good start.

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DIY Projects – One day son asked me how he can learn juggling and I searched and showed him a video on Youtube which teaches juggling step-by-step. He tried doing that but lost interest after a few days. But he remembered how to use youtube after that. One day when I came home from office, he was making paper aeroplanes and other origami stuff watching their videos on Youtube. There are DIY (Do It Yourself) videos for practically everything on web and you can learn anything watching them. Recently I am trying to get him interested in a very good website dedicated to Kids DIY and it is called www.diy.org.

This site is a community for children where they can learn to make various things like cardboard birdhouses, soda bottle safety glasses, duct tape wallets and toothbrush robots that scurry across a desk like alien life-forms. All these projects allow children to earn virtual badges, which will appear on the site. Kid’s account is also linked with parent’s account so that you can monitor your kid’s activities on the website.

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Learn Programming -  What I love about programming is that even kids can learn and do it effectively, that’s why we keep reading about so many 10-13 yr old programming wiz kids and now there are various websites which teach programming in very effective manner. My son learned HTML, CSS and basic website development on www.codecademy.com which is a free website and teaches you programming like a game. You have to progress through various stages and while doing so you earn points and badges to show off on your profile. Contrary to what many of you think, programming can actually be quite fun. Check out video on www.code.org to see why rock stars and athletes are learning to program these days. Check out this, this, this & this for more resources on teaching kids to program.

I hope you find these suggestions useful and practical with kids in your homes. Let me know what do you think in comments.

Google Moonshots

Immortality

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Photo by Jason Tester

Who won’t like to live forever? Although it looks impossible today, you have to take notice, when a company like Google starts pursuing something. Google has just formed an independent Biotech company called California Life Company (Calico for short), headed by Apple Inc and Genentech Chairman Art Levinson, to develop technologies to tackle health issues related to aging.

“While this is clearly a longer-term bet, we believe we can make good progress within reasonable timescales with the right goals and the right people,” says Google CEO Larry Page.

Driverless Cars

Google has been working on self-driving cars for 5 years now and their 3rd car model called GX3200 has been approved for commercial use in USA. Fully electric GX3200 can seat 4 passengers and can travel 750 miles on a single charge. It also has its own wifi for passengers. Global Taxi Company Uber, which just launched in Bangalore and Delhi, has already committed to purchase 2500 cars from Google.

Balloon Powered Internet for everyone

Official website for Project Loon says – “Many of us think of the Internet as a global community. But two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access. Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.”

Google Glass

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Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that is being developed by Google with a mission of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer. Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format and can communicate with the Internet via natural language voice commands. Google Glass was made available to developers earlier this year and will be launched for general public next year.

List of moonshots Google is currently working on also includes Google Fibre, which is a 1000 Mbps Internet infrastructure and flying wind turbines to tap into airborne wind energy.

If you want to check out more similar Moonshot projects you can visit www.solveforx.com and give your inputs and discuss existing projects. You can also recommend a moonshot project of your own there.

Crowd-funding Craziness

Ok, first let me mention that I am using craziness as a positive trait, as made famous by ‘Think Different’ Apple ad. Once we have that out of the way let’s talk about some crazy ideas from crazy people and some crazy and not so crazy people supporting them. I am talking about crowd-funding. Crowd-funding brings together large no. of individuals who contribute small sums of money and collect huge funds to back or support a unique project. This usually happens via internet and 2 of the most famous websites where you can be part of crowd-funding revolution are Kickstarter & Indiegogo

Check them out and you will find lots of interesting projects and you can choose to support any project. If somebody is creating a unique product, you can support such projects and be among first ones in the world to get hands on the new product and that too at a discounted rate. There are also goodies like T-shirts, stickers, wristbands etc., if you want to support but don’t want to commit full funds needed for the product. Let me talk about a few recent projects to get you more interested.

Glowing Plant (Firefly + Plant):

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Idea here is to create plants which glow and while glowing plants will certainly look unique and cool, they can serve a higher purpose as well by becoming source of natural lighting without need for electricity. This looks sci-fi  but you can now pre-order glowing plants for yourself from their website. Such plants are basically a result of combining DNA of plant with DNA of a FireFly and all this is possible using Synthetic Biology and Free Genome Compiler Software.

ARKYD – A Space Telescope for everyone

The first publicly accessible space telescope! Take amazing photos of space or have your photo displayed above the Earth. Basically anybody can pay small amount and point this telescope to any space object and be an astronomer. For more info just visit planetaryresources.com

Canary & Piper are 2 really affordable, elegant and smart home-security and home-automation solutions for everybody. No need for extensive and expensive wiring and you can see and control your home using mobile Apps.

Beddit is an automatic sleep and wellness tracker, which turns your bed into a smart bed. The Beddit sensor tracks your sleep quality, heart rate, and breathing under the sheet while you sleep. The mobile app coaches you to improve sleep and performance.

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Rainbow Pencils are made from recycled paper and let you create beautiful paper rainbows every time you sharpen them.

SIGMO costs just $50 and lets you talk and understand in more than 25 languages!!

FABtotum is a multipurpose Open Source Low Cost Personal Fabrication device. Scan, 3D Print, Cut/Mill.

Sprayable Energy is a liquid you spray on your skin to get the energy you would from energy drinks.

Ubooly  is a smart toy that can listen to your kid and teach and coach him like a good friend. Needs an iPhone, iPad mini or Android phone to work.

Most of the Smart Watches which I wrote about sometime back, including the Pebble watch you will find wrapped around my wrist these days were either born on Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

It’s good to see some India specific crowdfunding websites springing up recently. I really like Ignite Intent but Catapooolt and Wishberry seem good as well. More like Pik A Venture and Fund a Peer are launching soon.

Not everything is just cool, gimmicky and sci-fi looking on these websites though; you can even do a great service to man-kind via some of these projects, one of which is developing a Cure for Black Bone Disease and you can donate as less as $11 to make this project see light of the day. Please do this right now as there are only 18 days left in the crowdfunding campaign of this project as of today.

I personally find browsing and backing projects like these both inspiring and addictive and hope you will also have the same experience. May be someday you will be launching a project of your own on one of these websites?

Till then, Think Different :-)

2 UX Tips to Bubbly

Bubbly is a voice based social network so instead of typing on your phone, you can record your voice and post it to share with rest of the world. Interestingly celebrities like Amitabh Bacchan, Priyanka Chopra, Salman Khan etc are using it so fans now have a great option to connect with them on a more personal level. You can also apply filters and effects to your voice before posting which is really cool. They already have more than 30 million users. Tech Crunch has a good article on them saying how they started as Twitter for Voice and later morphed into Instagram of Voice.

I was just playing with Bubbly iOS App and it occurred to me that they can make 2 simple changes to make user-experience even better so I am sharing my thoughts here:

1. Continuous Playback when navigating app

Now my biggest issue with the app is that voice playback stops if I navigate away to a different screen. Sometime I tap on a user and navigate to his feed while listening to voice post of another user. When I do that playback just stops suddenly. Even an accidental tap which takes you a different screen will stop playback. Now this is not a very pleasant experience and I think playback should continue until I stop it or it is done playing or I start listening to another post.

iTunes store app already has a good solution for it. As you can see in the image below, I am listening to a song while browsing another album. Current song is simply moved to top bar and rest of the screen shows the screen I navigated to. Something along these lines will be very helpful in Bubbly app as well.

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2. Pause option (May be even reverse/forward)

I would really love to jump to a certain playback position sometimes or may be go back a few seconds/minutes in playback at times. Also this will be really helpful in absence of continuous playback as suggested above. So even if I navigate away to a new screen, I can atleast comeback and don’t need to listen to same post from the beginning and can just jump to the section I haven’t listened already. May be I can just swipe along the playback circle to control this?

Bubbly

Also maybe the current stop button can be converted into a pause button instead? And may be even multiple posts can remain paused and I can choose to resume playing whichever I want, whenever I want?

So these were my 2 cents aka 2 tips :-)

However I would also like to point out that I really like the UI of the app, their pull-down-to-refresh animation is really cool and these are just 2 things which I would like to see improved, other than that I find their UI very innovative and usable.

I would like to leave you by sharing an interesting fact about Bubbly which is, it is headquartered in Singapore and CEO Thomas Clayton recently shared how he created a Silicon Valley caliber team in Asia and I think he was quite successful in doing that and their CTO Justin Mann is one proof of that.