Ikea collaborated with Medical Lab Mercene Labs to create an ad that doubles as a pregnancy test. Peeing on the marked area will show whether you’re pregnant. If you are pregnant, a discounted price will appear right on the ad. Peeing on an ad may be unconventional but it could also be the future of advertising.
Messenger Kids, Facebook’s new app designed to allow those under the age of 13 to more safely communicate thanks to parental controls, is today launching on Fire tablets. The service had originally debuted on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch in early December, but today’s launch will also see it arrive on the Amazon Appstore in the U.S., as well.
The app’s debut has not been without controversy.
The move comes at a difficult time for Facebook and for social media in general, where there are increasing concerns about social media’s ability to addict adults, and the impact that screen time has on children in particular.
Just this week, for example, Apple responded to investor concerns that the company needs to do more in terms of giving parents a way to limit children’s phone use. Apple said it would add new parental control features to its software.
Facebook, meanwhile, has been criticized across a number of fronts over the past year or so, from its ability to spread disinformation and create divides to how it’s able to hijack users’ brains to create an addiction of sorts. In that light, the launch of Messenger Kids has been criticized as the equivalent of cigarette marketers targeting underage smokers.
That said, as a parent myself, it’s one of those things that’s not as simple to dismiss as you might think.
The truth is, young kids are messaging each other anyway – through apps like Musical.ly, Snapchat and on iMessage. None of these have any tools for parental controls, which actually makes it harder to for parents who do try to monitor their children’s usage of devices and communication software when they’re young.
It’s very difficult today to help guide kids to the online world – and, yet, it’s still something that has to be done. Though we may not like it at times, the web is not going to go away, nor will people all of a sudden stop communicating and networking online.
Facebook, at least, has done something – even as the major tech companies, like Apple, have ignored parents’ concerns for years on this front.
Whether Facebook is the right company to aid in this matter, however, is a valid question. Its interests, after all, are about developing a new generation of users who become reliant on its platform, so it can continue to grow its ad business to the tune of billions.
The new Fire tablet version of Messenger Kids is here.
Wonderschool, a network of in-home daycare and preschools, plans to open 150 programs in New York City after raising $2.1 million in new funding. The capital comes from non-profit investment firm Omidyar Network, Be Curious Partners, Rethink Education, Edelweiss Partners and Learn Capital and brings the startup’s total raised so far to more than $4 million, including a seed round announced last summer.
Headquartered in San Francisco, most of Wonderschool’s programs, or about 140, are in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. The startup already has 16 programs in New York City, which suffers from a huge childcare shortage exacerbated by some of the highest tuition rates in the country. Wonderschool’s general manager there is Ben Newton, who was on the founding team of Avenues: The World School, an international system of private schools.
One of the reasons Wonderschool was created is because compensation rates in early childcare education are so low that many caregivers are not only priced out of the neighborhoods they serve, but eventually quit the field (sometimes because they, ironically, cannot afford childcare costs for their own kids on their salaries).
Part of Wonderschool’s value proposition for providers, which it screens based on credentials, experience and education, is efficiency. It not only provides its programs with support, but also helps them with licensing, creating a daily routine for kids, maintaining liability insurance, meeting health and safety standards and other time-consuming administrative tasks. The company’s tech platform lets carers manage their programs, communicate with parents and take payments online, while giving parents program, enrollment and tuition information. Wonderschool emphasizes in-home programs because it helps providers save further on costs (and lets them look after their own children, too) and monetizes by taking a percentage of monthly tuition fees.
In a statement, Isabelle Hau, the U.S. education lead at Omidyar Network, said “Wonderschool is responding with better quality and more flexible solutions to meet the needs of early learners, their parents and child care providers. By using Wonderschool’s technology platform, early learning educators get to focus on what they are best at, which is caring for and teaching young children.”
Wonderschool founder and chief executive officer Chris Bennett says city leaders have contacted the startup about launching in their communities, but it will focus first on growing its network in California and New York City. “Since we do build up waiting lists for programs that we support, it has been more of a focus to build density in areas where we already support programs, rather than starting in new areas, so that we can support the families that have already come to Wonderschool to find a program for their child,” he told TechCrunch.
Featured Image: Wonderschool
Parents know just how stressful and frustrating it is to get your kid to go to bed and sleep through the night. Don’t they understand that sleeping is the best?
Luckily, Suzy Snooze is here to improve your nighttime ritual. As a night light, baby monitor, and sleep trainer in one, Suzy Snooze is a sleep companion for kids of all ages. At bedtime, press down on Suzy’s hat to turn on the sleep sequence — 10 minutes of soothing lights and music. During the night, Suzy emits a dim light, which can be adjusted by twisting the hat. In the morning Suzy’s hat pops up, letting your child know that it’s time to wake up.
Suzy Snooze pairs to an app, where you can adjust volume and brightness, set a wake-up time, and listen to the built-in baby monitor. You’ll also get a push notification if Suzy detects crying. Kids can tap Suzy to play the sleep sequence as well. The app tracks sleep data so you can see how deeply your child is sleeping and when they’re waking up.
The company that makes Suzy Snooze, BleepBleeps, worked with sleep-improvement program Sleepio to develop this product so that children can learn healthy sleeping habits. Here’s Oxford professor Colin Espie on what makes Suzy Snooze such an effective sleep tool.
Suzy Snooze was designed with both parents and kids in mind. Kids will love the cute face and colors and can easily interact with Suzy without messing up any of the settings. Parents will appreciate the connectivity and convenience. Rather than having to buy a night light, baby monitor, stereo, and clock, Suzy Snooze does it all. It’s also super easy to pack if you’re traveling or visiting family, and only needs a Wi-Fi signal to connect to your phone.
You can pick up a Suzy Snooze now for $249.99, but act fast — this product tends to sell out quickly.
Has your kid bugged you to let them download Sandbox Coloring? You’re probably not alone. The latest trend blowing up on the App Store is a new twist on the coloring book apps that have been popular for a couple of years. Now, instead of having users pick and choose their colors as before, this new group of coloring book apps – four of which recently snagged spots in the App Store’s Top 10 – are color-by-number books featuring retro-looking, pixel art designs.
Also unlike the previous lineup of coloring book apps, which were often marketed as “coloring books for adults,” the pixel art books appear to be an App Store trend driven by kids.
For starters, they’re coloring books – and while grown-ups have gotten in on that action in recent years, it’s a type of app that also largely appeals to children.
The pixel art coloring apps come up at the top of the App Store search results, when someone looks for keywords like “coloring” or “coloring book” – search terms kids are likely to enter.
More importantly, a signal the trend may be driven by a younger audience is that the new downloads appear to be coming from word-of-mouth, in many cases. This is mentioned repeatedly in the App Store reviews, where users say their friend told them about the app.
You can get a sense of the age of the user base by reading the App Store reviews, as well.
Clearly, a number of kids have shared their opinions on the matter of pixel art coloring, as in this sampling of reviews:
“My name is boobs I love boobs”
“Hello this is my favorite game I hope you make other games like this you guys are the best game makers”
“Have u ever had a McChicken”
“I love this game so much! I play it in school, at my house, in the car. What I thought you could add is where you can take a pucture and slide a bar from hard witch would have lots of number/blocks and easy witch less numbers/block. I love the new search bar. Plz add my idea”
“This app is so good you should get it rate it a 5555555 that’s what I did❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️it”
Just going out on a limb here, but these users are probably children.
And the kids can download.
According to data from Sensor Tower, the top four pixel art coloring apps have a combined 12 million downloads – half of which are from the U.S. alone – since the beginning of November. Roughly half of those downloads occurred this month.
While Sandbox Coloring may have started the trend, the app called Unicorn is in the lead for the month of December, narrowly beating Sandbox for the most downloads.
Also notable is that apps generate revenue through subscriptions, not one-time purchases as other “kid” apps have done in the past, when offering access to premium content for paying users. Instead, these apps offer options like weekly, monthly, and annual subscriptions. These promise features like the regular release of new images, ad removal, or the ability to unlock unlimited pictures, among other things.
We reached out to the app makers to confirm Sensor Tower numbers, but none responded. One of the published support emails didn’t even work.
Yep, that’s right – you’re not dealing with game makers like EA or Supercell here; but rather indie developers for the most part.
Sensor Tower estimates that Grigorkin has made over $500,000 this month alone from Sandbox’s in-app purchases.
Unicorn, from U.K. developer AppsYouLove, is in the lead by downloads at present, but not ranking. It made more than Sandbox in December – as much as $630,000, estimates Sensor Tower.
It doesn’t appear these developers are bothering with traditional social media marketing, thanks to their ability to ride the trend to get surfaced in App Store search, and from kids telling other kids. AppsYouLove’s Facebook Page, for example, has 3 Likes. That’s not a typo. Just 3. I guess the kids aren’t on Facebook.
Belarus-based Easybrain, which makes Pixel Art – Color by Number, hasn’t even bothered adding the app to its website or giving it a Facebook Page for it, the way it did with its prior success, Sudoku.
Only Color by Number seems to come from a larger company: TFG.co, a game developer in Latin America, with over 100 employees. (It’s also the maker of the popular coloring book for adults, Colorfy.) But Color by Number hasn’t made it to TFG.co’s site yet, either. It just has its own basic landing page.
Of course, App Store trends like these don’t always last. And in fact, the top four slipped a bit as of today, with only Sandbox retaining its top 10 ranking. Color by Number dropped to #12 and Unicorn is #17. Pixel Art, which was the #27 Top App yesterday, has moved over to the Top Games chart today, where it’s #8.
But these apps may again see a spike in a few days’ time – if kids unwrap new tablets and iPods at Christmas, that is.