Technology world: Crawling into the cradle


Published — Friday 11 January 2013

Last update 11 January 2013 12:44 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

ONE is never too young to be connected.
The technology industry displaying its wares at the massive Consumer Electronics Show this week at Las Vegas included a variety of products and apps aimed at the youngest audiences, even those unable to walk.
The baby tech offerings featured accessories and apps marketed to parents as tools to help children learn at a very tender age.
Fisher-Price was showing a bright plastic object with teething rings that doubles as an iPhone case. That makes it possible for a six-month-old to use the smartphone.
"It's a great learning tool," said Julia Maher, marketing manager for infant toys at Fisher-Price, a unit of Mattel.
"We see moms passing back their devices to occupy babies all the time."
She said babies "like to turn pages" and can in fact interact with a mobile device.
For 18-month-olds, another device from the toymaker attaches to the iPad, giving toddlers another option to start a digital lifestyle.
A tablet designed specifically for young children was on display at CES from the French company Lexibook.
The colorful device, which can withstand the numerous drops expected from the young ones' heavy usage, is designed for children from four to eight years old "but kids have the ability to use this at age two," said sales representative Robert Manlin.
These gadgets come on top of others such as the "tabeo" from retailer Toys "R" US designed for children, and released last year.
Tactile screens make it a lot easier for kids to go mobile, but some experts worry about prolonged exposure to these devices.
Company officials argue, however, that parents know best the limits for their kids.
"When I was young, people asked if kids watch too much TV," said Bill Hensley, vice president for marketing at Wanderful, which was showing its apps and interactive books for kids at the CES in Las Vegas.
"Education is a big part of what we do."
The new technology "helps children not only to learn to read, but also to love stories. It's a gateway to real books," he said.
In some of the new interactive devices, children can find a word or image and figure out how to match them, or to make them move, part of key early learning skills, according to backers.
"If the app is used properly, there's no harm for kids to develop creativity or Internet skills early in the childhood," said Steven Chu, chief operating officer of Canadian child mobile app maker ToonBoom.
Others note that tactile screens and apps can be especially beneficial for children with disabilities.
Interbots has developed a system aimed at autistic children, allowing them to control a robot through a tactile screen. A therapist can also use the robot to speak, offering a new type of interaction for the children.
"Children with autism like working with touchscreens, they're a little more keen on interacting with a robot than with a parent or a therapist," said Interbots chief technical officer Michael Knight.
Are consumers ready for TV watching back?
In the new world of technology, television is not just for watching. It is also watching you.
So-called smart TVs being unveiled this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show offer technologies that watch the viewer, in an effort to offer more relevant programming.
The idea may sound eerie to those familiar with George Orwell’s novel “1984” but people in the industry say this is the next step in the evolution of TV viewing.
Chinese manufacturer TCL unveiled at the show a new TV and set-top box to be sold later this year in the US using the Google TV platform which recognizes who is watching in order to suggest potential programs.
The new TV developed with Marvell Technology Group uses sensors and voice recognition to determine who is viewing and can offer streamed or live programs which appear to appeal to an individual or family.
“We have developed many innovations to personalize the viewing experience,” said Haohong Wang, general manager in the US for TCL, a major global manufacturer which has made TVs under the RCA and Thomson brands.
This offers a “game-changing entertainment experience for consumers around the world that will drive the smart TV market forward at a rapid pace,” said Weili Dai, co-founder of Marvell.
Panasonic also used CES to show its new Viera smart television which can recognize users and create a home screen allow programing tailored for each.
Other manufacturers are working on similar technology which take advantage of television over Internet.
This new interactivity opens up possibilities for advertisers who will be able to develop more targeted pitches, but raises some of the same privacy concerns of data collection on the Web.
“The concept is not so much Big Brother as Big Marketer,” says Thomas Coughlin of the data consulting firm Coughlin Associates, who is attending the Las Vegas gathering.
“This could be creepy to some of us because it is making use of data in a way that has been done before.”
Coughlin said consumers will want to know where the data is and how it might be shared, and says there also may be questions about security of the data in the cloud.
Rob Enderle, an analyst and consultant with Enderle Group, said this model will become the norm as television gravitates to Internet platforms.
“Increasingly, TVs will know who is watching them and I expect advertisers will know shortly thereafter. This should result in shows and commercials you like more and even better products, but far less privacy.”
Stu Lipoff, a fellow at the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, said TV on mobile devices will have similar characteristics, with considerable amounts of data which can be gleaned about viewers.
“The website not only knows you are interested in Chevy, but knows where you are,” he said.
James McQuivey at Forrester Research said consumers will accept these privacy tradeoffs if they see an advantage to the new style of television.
“If you ask people, of course they will say no,” McQuivey told AFP, while noting that millions have accepted this type of tracing by connecting their TVs to Xbox consoles with Kinect motion detection where “the camera is tracking you all the time.”
“This tells me Orwell got it wrong,” he said. “Orwell’s camera did the bidding of the state and these cameras do your bidding.”
But he said companies should be prepared to develop privacy policies to avoid government intervention.
TCL’s Wang says, meanwhile, the TV makers are not interested in tracking people and will allow them options.
“We are an equipment company. What we want is to give a good user experience,” he said. And if viewers feel uncomfortable with being monitored they don’t have to use those features, he said: “They can just turn it off.”

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: For Moneera, a working Saudi woman, going from her home to the workplace took 10 times what it usually takes because of the rains that recently fell on Jeddah. The half hour it takes to reach her home, despite congestion on the road, was exte...
RIYADH: The flood situation in Buraidah remained grim on Saturday, two days after the rains stopped. The poor precautionary measures taken and the limited work done to avoid flooding of the main streets and neighborhoods paralyzed vehicular traffic a...
JEDDAH: Around 250,000 Umrah pilgrims have booked hotel rooms in Makkah and Madinah through the new “Sijjil” electronic system, Abdullah Qadi, deputy president of the National Committee for Haj and Umrah, has said.Reserving hotel accommodation throug...
JEDDAH: The director of the Health Department in Jazan, Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Sahli, has said that the Health Ministry will pay SR20 million to workers at hospitals in the southern borders, pointing out that these incentives had been promised by the...
JEDDAH: Abdul Rahman Al-Yahya, director general of the Passport Department, announced that plans to set up a one-stop border crossing post at King Fahd Causeway have been postponed.The plans were postponed because negotiations and the testing were de...
RIYADH: Top academics have called for a concerted drive against domestic violence in cases involving child abuse.Describing it as a global phenomenon, they called for raising public awareness and other means to protect children from abuse.The experts...
MAKKAH: An Umrah pilgrim was killed and 17 others, one of them critically, were injured when their bus hit a truck on the Madinah-Makkah highway early Friday morning. The bus, carrying 40 pilgrims from Eastern Province, rammed the truck from behind,...
JEDDAH: A seminar on energy efficiency in the automobile sector was held as part of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan, at Saudi Japanese Automobile High Institute (SJAHI) in Jeddah on Thu...
RIYADH: The real estate sector is upbeat about the recent Cabinet decision to impose a 2.5 percent tax annually on vacant land in urban areas, saying that the move will create investment opportunities and generate employment. Only a handful of big p...
RIYADH: Sir Syed Ahmed Khan truly inspires us showing the way for tolerance and unity in diversity by considering Hindus and Muslims as two eyes of India; and if one of them is hurt, the beauty of India is spoiled, Congress leader and actor Raj Babba...
JEDDAH: Recruitment visas in the private sector totaled 1.6 million in 2014, according to a Ministry of Labor report.At the same time, the recruitment of domestic workers involved 847,927 visas during the year, the report published by a local newspap...
DAMMAM: Aligarh Muslim University alumni of Alkhobar and Dammam celebrated the annual Sir Syed Day recently.Guest of honors and senior Aligarians shared the vision of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan on empowerment of Muslims through education.Cultural activities...
MAKKAH: A lawyer has been charged with holding a fake degree certificate and also getting a license for a clinic in Taif through fraudulent means. According to local media, the documentation of a doctoral dissertation in the Education Ministry reveal...
MOSCOW: Abdullatif Al-Othman, governor of Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), has stressed the depth of Saudi-Russian cooperation in the fields of development and investment.In a joint press conference on Friday with Russian Energy Mi...
RIYADH: Another wave of bad weather is likely to affect the Kingdom Tuesday through Friday.The Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) announced Friday that rains coupled with thunderstorms are expected to lash Hail, Qassim, Madinah, the Nort...

Events & Exhibitions

Stay Connected