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Smart babies

Technology plays big role in kids’ development, parenting

POSTED April 26, 2011 10:12 p.m.

The intuitive Apple iDevices – the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch – have become surprise hits among the toddler set. The simple touch-screen technology is so straightforward that even children just a few months in age can navigate iOS – sometimes even better than their parents.

Companies such as Learning Touch are taking advantage of the ease-of-use, creating toddler-focused apps with an educational slant, such as “First Words: Animals.” The app leverages the technology to, essentially, make flashcards fun.

The addition of animation, bright colors, and music make educational apps seem like entertainment. Oftentimes, toddlers don’t even realize they’re learning.

The market segment has attracted the attention of social gaming gurus like Shukri Shammas, former co-founder of Facebook gaming pioneer Playfish, bought by Electronic Arts in a deal worth about $400 million in 2009. Shammas’s new startup, Mindshapes, focuses solely on developing apps for toddlers, including “Jellytoons Toddler Skills: Bobo’s Birthday Challenge.”

The app features mini-games of shape and color matching, counting, and simple logic puzzles, rewarding players with virtual stickers. Parents enjoy Mindshapes apps as well, as they feature charts to track children’s progress through the app.

The ability for parents to track their children’s progress is also a key feature of LeapFrog’s Leapster 2, a hand-held gaming platform focused solely on educational games. The system, intended for pre-school age children, connects to a website known as the Learning Path, showing how children are doing at games featuring licensed properties such as “Toy Story 3” and” Dora the Explorer,” learning language, reading, mathematics and science.

The iDevices will soon be of use even to parents with the smallest of children. While handheld, color video baby monitors have existed for a few years, some even featuring night-vision, the new Smart Baby Monitor from Withings will use the iDevices – and Android-based devices – as a monitor and remote control.

The Smart Baby Monitor, expected in September at Withings.com, will include a sound and motion detector, infrared night vision, temperature and humidity monitors, and personalized alarms when babies move or their temperature changes. The monitor can even alert users when babies are about to wake up, tracks babies’ sleep patterns, and even allows users to stream music through the monitor’s onboard speaker.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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