It may be the last thing parents want to hear, but wearables for kids have arrived. Gaming watches have been around for a while, and sensors to keep track of kids' whereabouts have been alienating young people since GPS made it big.
Now there's a DIY-inspired wristband called Mover Kit from the UK, and while it won't win over kids-and-tech hardliners, its creators have taken an innovative and hands-on approach.
Mover Kit, which had an impressive opening day on Kickstarter, raising $30,000, is a wearable that kids make and code themselves. The kit comes from the London startup Technology Will Save Us, a design-led children's tech firm whose products are a mainstay at museum shops in MoMA in New York and The Science Museum in London.
But not everyone is happy about DIY tech toys, nor is everyone convinced they're educational. I've gotten into less-than-productive Twitter battles on the subject (lemme know what you think: @gcnichs), and some vocal parent and teacher groups have come out against the use of tech as effective education aids. In one study, 14 percent of surveyed parents in London believed children learn best without technology, and in another 77 percent of parents expressed fear that the misuse of tech can be harmful to their children's development.
Of course there's plenty of reason to be cautious about what kinds of tech is being introduced to kids, especially in schools, where lucrative district contracts have led some technology developers to aggressively pursue implementation, often while placing teachers' needs second. Los Angeles Unified is still scarred from Pearson's substandard iPad platform, which the district paid millions for.
But outside the classroom, at least, parents seem to be embracing tech, and particularly DIY projects, as a productive play-tool for kids. Companies like littleBits and sparkfun sell circuitry and project boards that allow kids to create and code simple computers for lots of tasks, and robotics platforms like Vex and Dash and Dot add elements of movement and robotic control theory to programming and hardware tasks.
The Technology Will Save Us wristband is a wearable device built from a kit of components, including brightly-colored LEDs, printed circuit board, and rechargeable battery. There's a snap band that allows kids to attach the finished product to their wrist, their scooter, or even the dog.
To accompany the wearable, Technology Will Save Us has also created an educational 'Make' platform with projects that help kids invent and code with their Mover Kit. Its functions are designed to encourage healthy activities in the real world, such as making running more fun or bringing some joy to teeth brushing or creating a flashing light sword.
"We ... tap into the hobbies and passions we love to create toys that kids make, code, and invent with," explains Bethany Koby, co-founder and CEO of Technology Will Save Us. "We designed Mover Kit alongside children and tested prototypes with over 300 kids. They showed us that they were most excited about technology that they could wear and that responded to activities and we've been delighted with the response to the finished product."
The product will ship fall 2016, and the Kickstarter campaign seems headed for success.