Attention all parents: Disney, the company that wants to absorb all childhood happiness, both past and present, is planning to replace you with robots. Unsatisfied with the secondary love and attention they receive from controlling your favorite characters and cartoons, Disney means to spend quality time with the world’s children in an attempt to feel what it’s like to have a child of its own. (No, having subsidiaries like ABC and ESPN doesn’t count.)

Although the Mom-and-Pop-a-Tron 5000 isn’t ready to hit the street yet, Disney’s making serious progress. For example, the robotics experts at Disney’s lab in Pittsburgh have created a humanoid robot that can play a game of catch.

When I say “play a game of catch”, I don’t mean it an ultra-efficient robot kind of way. This guy can lob a ball to you and, when you throw it back, can find, register, and catch it. The robot uses a Kinect to sense and track the trajectory of an object thrown directly at it, adjusting so that it can catch it with one hand.

The creepy part? When the robot catches the ball, it looks down at its hand, as if it were tracking the ball with its eyes. If it misses the catch, the robot will react, looking around for the ball or shaking its head in dismay. The robot is very attentive: It has sensors to track and follow the direction of whomever it’s playing with, so it will turn and face its partner if they move out of the way.

This may not seem remarkable at first glance — most robots do things better than most people — begging the question: Why would you bother making it? The answer is, of course, that Disney means to get in on the time-honored American pastime of catch between parent and child.

This article originally published at Geekosystem

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/25/disney-robots-catch/

Top-5-apps-your-kids-will-love-this-week-28a9f514e5Chris Crowell is a veteran kindergarten teacher and contributing editor to Children’s Technology Review, a web-based archive of articles and reviews on apps, technology toys and video games. Download a free issue of CTR here.

Top 5 Kids Apps of the Week

Top-5-kids-apps-of-the-week-28a9f514e5Chris Crowell is a veteran kindergarten teacher and contributing editor to Children’s Technology Review, a web-based archive of articles and reviews on apps, technology toys and video games. Download a free issue of CTR here.


Netflix has moved its “Just for Kids” section to tablet territory, launching the section in the Netflix app for Apple’s iPad.

The new section, aimed at kids aged 12 and under, lets users choose shows to watch from a grid of icons. Clicking a button in the Netflix app will take users right to the section, explained the company in a blog post. Kids can also search for shows by character or genre; when they find something interesting, they can start watching by double tapping the icon.

Shows such as Bob The Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine, Curious George, SpongeBob, Power Rangers and others are available.

The app is available for the iPad 2 and the new iPad, but Netflix promises to release a version for the original iPad and Android tablets “later.”

Netflix launched its “Just for Kids” section in August 2011, bringing it to PlayStation 3 in March 2012. It is also available for PC and Mac, Nintendo Wii, Xbox and Apple TV.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/01/netflix-just-for-kids-ipad/


Existing research on the impact violent video games, television shows and movies have on children is outdated, according to a new report released this week.

The report was released by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group that advocates for children and families with a focus on media. It analyzes the current information and studies done in recent years relating violence in the media to its effect on children. After looking at the data available, Common Sense Media determined that this information hasn’t kept pace with rapidly changing content.

“The presence of violent images in advertising seen by children has barely been studied, comprehensive research on TV violence is nearly two decades old, video game research hasn’t kept pace with current modes of gaming or tracked the content most consumed by youth, and studies of online exposure are nearly nonexistent,” the report states.

For instance, two studies about media violence and its impact on children are cited in the report to demonstrate how varied findings are on this particular topic. Both studies are from 2012. The first one shows a link between aggressive behavior in children and media violence, while the other shows no evidence of a link between violent video games and aggressive behavior in children. A possible reason for these polar results could be that studies monitoring media have “widely varying” standards for what constitutes violence, the report says. Also, studies examining media can be costly, time consuming and difficult to design, which could also account for the variance.

There are some other details that need more research, too, like what type of violence children are exposed to (gruesome versus slapstick). This can depend on which genre of television or movies they watch. More research also needs to be poured into the effect of violence in advertising on children, since the report states this is an area that is often ignored.

But what’s certain is that children are exposed to violence through the media. A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation from 2010, cited in the report, shows children and teens consume an average of seven hours of screen time per day. From other research, CSM concludes that 90% of movies include some scenes of violence, as do 68% of video games, 60% of TV shows, and 15% of music videos. Whether that has an impact on children’s behavior remains to be determined for certain.

“However, the research that is available does allow us to think about violent media as a ‘risk factor’ to violence — one variable among many that increases the risk of violent behavior among some children,” writes Julia Plonowski, communications manager for Common Sense Media.

It’s possible we could see some new and more in-depth research about the effect of media on children in the future. President Obama recently called for $10 million in funds to be directed toward this type of research during a speech about gun violence shortly after the recent shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Do you think any particular media is more harmful to children than others? What effect do you think violence in media has on children and teens, if any? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, alvar

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/02/14/research-needed-effect-violent-media-children/


Are your kids eager to get their hands on a tablet device?

Your kids may love their video games, but a recent survey shows the popularity of tablets is surging faster than video game consoles. Although families love gadgets of all types — the survey also showed that households with kids ages 4-14 own an average of 10 different devices, with kids using an average of five of those devices.

This new survey released by market research company, The NPD Group titled Kids and Consumer Electronics: 2012 Edition, shows new trends and stats for families and their mobile devices.

Video game console usage rates for children ages 4-14 are still higher than tablets, but this past year saw a strong increase in tablet usage among that age group: with a 13% increase in usage rate in 2012 vs. only 3% in 2011. Tablet usage is most popular among younger children — perhaps no surprise considering how many videos there are on YouTube of babies playing with tablets. The survey concludes that it would be wise for tablet makers to construct devices to be simple enough for even a baby to use.

Kids are using tablets to game, watch movies and TV shows, read books and listen to music-even occasionally for taking pictures- so they have embraced the utility of these devices quite rapidly,” Russ Crupnick, senior vice president, industry analysis, The NPD Group said in a statement. “Older kids also use the tablets for social media and communication, which squarely places these devices at the center for discovery and evangelism of new services and applications, as well as for brands and entertainment of all sorts.”

Portable digital music players (like the iPod) have declined in popularity this past year. Just 35% of households contacted for this survey own those devices, compared to 48% in 2011.

Attention advertisers: Gaming systems and portable entertainment devices topped the list of devices over which children will have the most influence on future device selection. And when considering a new purchase, “the type of technology and features offered by a new device is nearly as important as low price and good value,” the survey noted.

The online survey was conducted March 6-21, 2012, to a representative sample of 3,235 male and female adults ages 23 and over whom are members of NPD’s online panel and have children ages 4 to 14 in the household.

What do you think of this survey’s data? Do you identify with these answers? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, aperturismo.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/14/popularity-of-tablets-rising/