TECH

Next Great Apps are from Kids!

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Are kids these days really as hopeless and self-absorbed as we claim? Perhaps not.

The next wave of tech extraordinaires seem to get younger and younger, and the app-creating students mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg.

Check out the apps below from impressive, pint-sized developers, who’ve accomplished much more before high school than most people more than twice their age.

Chow Checker,

New Hampshire’s Hampstead Academy is a strictly peanut-free zone due to the relatively high number of students with nut allergies.

This inspired the school’s eighth graders to create the cleverly named Chow Checker app, which identifies food allergens to determine if certain foods, from grocery stores or restaurants, are safe to eat.

You can create a profile and select up to 12 allergens, and then search for a product name or scan a barcode. Either option pulls up a list of ingredients in that food, as well as nutritional content.

The app taps into the daily updated Nutritionix food database, which includes more than 300,000 food items. You can add notes about the food for future reference.

Hampstead students worked with the MIT Media Lab to write the app, which was a Verizon Innovative App Challenge winner in 2013.

Available for free on Android.

Bubble Ball,

When he was 14 years old, Robert Nay’s physics-based puzzle game, Bubble Ball, unseated the seemingly indomitable Angry Birds for the iTunes App Store’s top spot in January 2011. Not bad for someone who created his first website in third grade and already owns his own company, Nay Games LLC.

Nay wrote Bubble Ball with Corona tools from Ansca Mobile. It took him roughly 4,000 lines of code.

The app capitalizes on players’ creativity, prompting you to set up lengths of wood and metal, and activate various power-ups to manipulate your bubble for the sake of reaching the goal.

There are 144 official levels, and because anyone can create a new level, the game is constantly evolving. There are already more than 200 community-created levels to explore.

Available for free on iOS and Android.

Back Door,

David Singer’s app, Backdoor, removes a key component of communication — identity.

Backdoor, which launched in July 2013, is an anonymous messaging app that lets you reach your friends by signing in through either Facebook or Google+. The app gives you clues to learn more about the sender’s identity. In-app purchases provide additional clues, such as gender, likes, interests and more.

Cashing in on people’s desperation and curiosity? Color us impressed.

Singer, who considers himself primarily a UI designer, was 13 years old when he wrote the app. He’s the same kid behind YouTell, the popular website that allows you to post questions and solicit anonymous feedback.

Available for free on iOS.

Things To Thing About,

Second through fifth graders from Jackson County, Mich., worked with two high schoolers in the same district to create iPad app Things to Think About.

Its premise is to jumpstart and foster children’s interest in writing and critical thinking, as well as encourage dialogue about challenging ideas and issues.

The app asks kids to dream big, think through “what would you do” scenarios and expands horizons past kids’ environments.

The students brainstormed 100 writing prompts in 12 categories, including Friends, Family, School, Fun and Feelings. A student’s original hand-drawn illustration and the option of a child’s short voice narration accompanies each prompt.

Available for free on iOS. An Android version is under process.

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Google’s Contact Lens is Now With You

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Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world.

VISIT ALSO:Now Your Classes into Google Glasses

Today, we’re looking at three particularly interesting stories. Google is fighting the good fight against diabetes in true Google style. The company announced a smart contact lens project on its official blog, and even included a photo of the prototype device. According to a report onRe/code, Twitter could be launching an attack on e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay. And, according to 9to5Mac, Apple is making it easier and less expensive for users to have their broken iPhone screens repaired.

Check out the video above for more on these stories.

Web Apps to Hike Your Drawing Skills

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Drawing and sketching were once activities limited to pencil and paper, but for budding artists in the digital age, there’s a wealth of online, browser-based tools to let your creativity run wild.

It doesn’t just have to be a hobby or pastime, though — drawing is useful for brainstorming and problem-solving, and these web apps can aid in any profession.

VISIT ALSO: 3 Tools to Build Your Mobile Apps

We’ve picked 12 of the best drawing and sketching apps to suit any level of artist, ranging from professional-grade applications to simple tools for doodling. They’re all free, and since they’re all online, they can be accessed from anywhere.

Sketchpad,

Sketchpad is a browser-based drawing and image editor built in HTML5, combining WebGL effects with vector editing. Its rich, flexible feature set means you can create almost any image you want. It’s super simple to save your work — just click the disk icon in the top right of the screen, and the program displays your image as a PNG, which you can then save to your desktop.

The drawing tools include text, brush, shape, pencil, paint bucket, stamp, spirograph, calligraphy, marquee, crop, eraser and color-picker. Sketchpad also supports gradients, and the History palette allows you to review previous revisions.

PencilApp,

PencilApp is a recently released, simple, browser-based pencil application that is perfect for quick sketches and drawings. It features a minimalist interface with just a pencil, eraser and a text-typing tool. You can change the size of the text and choose from one of the five pre-defined colors.

While there’s no “undo” command, you can choose the eraser tool and edit out something you’ve drawn. The Save function allows you to save your artwork as an image.

PencilApp is built using HTML5, CSS3 and the (jQuery) jqScribble plugin.

AWW,

AWW (which stands for A Web Whiteboard) is an online whiteboard and drawing app that allows for basic collaboration with a group of people using a variety of devices. The simplistic nature of the interface and controls means there is a low learning curve and you can get started straight away.

It features a choice of seven colors, three sizes of pencil, an eraser and a text tool. To invite others to collaborate, just send them a link to your drawing board and they can join the project. You can save the drawing as a PNG image and upload, share or send through email.

You can embed AWW on your own site using the plugin or API.

Sumopaint,

Sumo Paint is a fully featured image editing and painting app, which at first glance feels like a browser-based version of Adobe Photoshop. You can edit existing images or start with a blank canvas, with a wealth of advanced features to make use of, including layering tools, blending modes, blur tools and the ability to make finite adjustments to an image to improve the quality.

Other options include contrast, color balance, brightness and more. Once you’ve finished your creation, you can save the image to your desktop in PNG or JPG format, or as a SUMO file that you can open and edit at a later time.

QueekyPaint,

QueekyPaint is a unique online drawing tool that allows you to create videos of your work while you’re painting. You can create your own speed paint artwork, or visit the galleries to learn from the creation process of other artists. It also offers you the ability to edit your photos, publish your artwork and collaborate in projects and groups to meet artists with similar interests. You can even create your own group for a specific topic and invite others to join.

Save artwork to your desktop or Queeky account, or export it as a JPG, GIF or PNG. You can edit images using the suite of tools provided, which includes generic tools, layer effects, filters and adjustment options such as contrast, brightness and more.

Pencil Madness,

Pencil Madness is a simple app that lets you draw and publish images to the Pencil Madness gallery. You can save Images to your desktop as JPG or SVG files once you’re finished. The app features a number of brushes and brush effects to draw whatever you choose, along with a range of colors. You can change the size and opacity of the brush, use the eraser, zoom in and out, and even undo and redo actions. Extract colors from an image to create a color palette to use within your drawing.

The app is also available on the Amazon App marketplace to use on your Android mobile device.

Sketch.io,

Sketchpad is a fun, feature-rich drawing application written in HTML5. It’s non-destructive and doesn’t limit itself to just drawing and sketching — you can even sign PDF documents and export them to your desktop, which is much more efficient than downloading, printing, filling in, scanning and so on. It features an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface with many tools, including text, paintbrush, pencil, calligraphy, stamp, spirograph, crayon, arrows and more.

You can undo, redo and erase any part of your creation, and even take images using your computers in-built camera.

Sketch & Paint,

Sketch & Paint allows you to get creative and get started quickly. Its simple interface and variety of sketching tools include a paintbrush, color kit, zoom view, eraser and opacity. You can set the dimension of the canvas, set your color and brush properties (such as size, pressure, diffusion, scatter and shake). Multi-level undo and redo is included, and every line you draw is treated as an individual object and can be dragged and deleted separately.

Keyboard shortcut functionality is provided, which makes it easy to select and adjust tools and settings.

Draw Island,

Draw Island is a simple web-based tool for creating drawings and GIF animations, with the option of various canvas sizes, and featuring pencil and paintbrushes. You can increase the brush size and opacity level, or choose between the shapes available to create your drawing. There’s an undo and redo function, as well as an eraser to remove any unwanted parts of your artwork. You can use the color wheel to pick any color you want, or you can enter your own Hex code.

You can import images, easily create a GIF, control the animation delay, and add text to any drawing.

Slimber,

Slimber is a browser-based app that allows you to draw, replay and save your artwork. It’s easy to get started — just choose your canvas dimensions and begin creating. A palette of tools is provided, which includes a pencil, brush, line, shapes, paint bucket, eraser and color-picker. You can choose the size, spacing, shape, overlay and flow of your paintbrush and specify your preferred RGB color.

Once you’re finished, you can click “play” and it will rerun your artistic process. Then you can save and write a description of your artwork. Submit your piece to the gallery to see your creation and receive the URL address or embed code to share.

deviantArt Muro,

deviantArt Muro is an online HTML5 drawing application, released in 2010 as a celebratory offering for deviantArt’s 10th birthday. It’s perfect for both hobbyist doodlers and professional artists. Your work is saved automatically (to your Sta.sh account) from your first brush stroke, and you can share your creative process to be replayed, published and shared. There are more than 20 brushes to choose from, and you can specify brush opacity, size and fill opacity. You can add or remove layers and adjust brightness and contrast. Filters include blur, sharpen, high pass, emboss, noise and more.

Images can be exported as PNG, layers or saved to your Sta.sh account.

FlockDraw,

FlockDraw is a seamless collaborative drawing and painting tool that makes it easy to draw in real-time with other people (or simply create your own art). To begin, click “Create your session” and start drawing, and invite others to join by providing them with your unique URL.

Use shapes, text, lines, the brush tool and the provided color palette to create your own drawing. You change the size of your brush, and save your image to the gallery or share it on social media or via the unique URL.

 

Ask Professional; For Designer/Developer Roadmap

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Developing apps requires many people, so it’s crucial to establish a workflow to organize the parties involved.

The latest video in our Ask a Dev series looks at ways developers and designers can collaborate. Android director Ajay Pall says teamwork and communication are key when developing applications.

“This ensures fleshing out of concerns from both developers and designers, which enables the team to deliver the application successfully,” he says.

The video, above, also looks at how developers can create links in their applications that open a second application. Pall explains that this function is handled with the intents system on Android.

Similarly, deep linking is another way to link to your app. In deep linking, search results that appear in Google Chrome on an Android device can be linked with a native application. For example, when searching for a movie online, a result using deep linking would automatically launch a movie app instead of its mobile web page.

The deep linking feature is new and available to only a small number of test developers. However, Pall recommends studying the system now, so developers can be ready to use the tool once Google rolls it out to a larger audience.

Our developer experts are from Mutual Mobile, a leading development and design firm that builds mobile strategies for top companies such as Audi, Google and Citigroup. The team is eager to answer your questions about mobile, so ping us with your top queries on Twitter, using the hashtag #AskaDev. Don’t forget to check out our Ask a Dev YouTube channel and subscribe.

Get Ready for your Tech Startup Jobs

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From Berlin to Tel Aviv to San Francisco, it’s no secret that tech startups represent one of the few bright spots in the global and American job markets. For those already on the inside, finding your next stop is more or less straightforward.

VISIT ALSO: Make your Startup Business Standout from Crowd

But if you’ve been working at a bank or for a boutique hotel, it’s far more complicated to break in. Tech startups speak a different language (What’s a GitHub? Who’s Ruby?), the culture’s distinct, and it’s even hard to find the jobs. There’s also a perception that you have to know programming to work for a startup (of course, the reality is that startups hire marketers, accountants, and all sorts of others).

We run one of the largest tech startup hiring events in the U.S., called Uncubed (we’re entering Germany for the first time today), and it draws both insiders and those looking to get their first startup job. Here are 10 tips from our community for those on the move:

Start within arm’s reach,

Products and services that you already use and know are great places to begin your search.

Take the companies behind the apps in your phone. Some are one or two people; others have teams of hundreds with many open jobs. If you come from banking, start with the payments and finance startups. The ability to have a knowledgeable conversation about a company’s offerings is a surefire attention-grabber.

Skip the blind dates,

Really, really do your homework on each company before meeting or applying for a job with them. Scour their websites, blogs, social media presences, and articles written about them (or by their team members). This is much more important at startups than at large companies.

Don’t forget to tip,

Now that you’re well-versed on both the company and its offerings, come up with one great suggestion for how they can improve or one new feature you would add. Even if it’s not a world-changing idea, startups love this.

Link outside the box,

Building your digital presence through Twitter, blogging, Instagram, Quora, and skill-specific centers like GitHub (in addition to LinkedIn and Facebook) are mandatory at this point.

Blogging offers an outlet for your interests, thoughts, and writing; Quora exhibits your knowledge by allowing you to answer others’ questions (or ask your own); and GitHub connects developers around coding projects.

Start now. Even a little will make you far more desirable than someone who isn’t active at all.

Talk to strangers,

Involve yourself in local, professional communities through Meetups for entrepreneurs, startup enthusiasts, coders, designers, and others in your field of interest. Reach out to companies and professionals directly for coffee meetings and informational interviews. In no time, you’ll have a budding network in the startup space.

Take one a day,

Make it a goal and personal challenge to reach out to at least one new person or company each day. Through friends, professional connections, and referrals, your network will grow exponentially, opening doors to new professional opportunities.

Stack the deck,

You don’t need a job to have business cards. Here are some thoughts on how to stand out amid all the card swapping.

Do it yourself,

Bulk up your résumé, skills, network, and confidence in the off hours. Freelance work, passion projects, volunteering, competitions, and classes are all great ways.

Bookmark these pages!

The search continues for the holy grail of an updated and highly curated startup job board for all fields. In the meantime, you can bet that every city of scale has a great local resource and then most skillsets have their own board, such as Careers 2.0 for programmers and Behance.net for designers.

Ditch the tie; perfect your Ping-Pong serve,

The clichés of startup life are clichés for a reason. Scrap the corporate culture and dress code, and understand that even though they can .seem frivolous, startup trappings like the ping pong table serve a purpose.

Let your Instrument get Composed, Car Routed with Google Glass

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Google Glass’s voice commands could extend far beyond “OK Glass,” the device’s firmware suggests.

Android Police reviewed the latest firmware update and found a long list of potential new features, including voice commands such as “call me a car,” “translate this” and “tune an instrument.”

SEE ALSO: Now Your Classes into Google Glasses

Android Police explains that certain commands may work with specific applications, much like how Glass’ current “take a note” command allows a wearer to virtually jot down thoughts within Evernote.

For example, the newly discovered “find a recipe” command could be used with “KitchMe, an app that currently allows Explorers to send recipes to Glass,” Android Police writes. Likewise, the firmware includes a “play a game” voice command, which could be used with existing Glass apps and inspire more development for games in the future.

In total, Android Police found 19 new voice commands: add a calendar event, call me a car, capture a panorama, check me in, created a 3D model, find a recipe, learn a song, play a game, play music, record a recipe, remind me to, show a compass, start a bike ride, start a round of golf, start a run, start a stop watch, start a timer, translate this and tune an instrument.

In addition to new voice commands, the firmware features new eye commands, too.

“They’ve added a ‘double blink’ detector, potentially for control by blinking twice in rapid succession,” Android Police reports.

We’re not sure what utility a double blink would command, but Glass already allows users to take a photo by winking.

The review also shows an expanded emphasis on music. There’s now a layout for album art, album names, track names and artists’ names, which pairs nicely with the new “play music” voice command in the updated Glass firmware.

Why Success Is Overreckon

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Many of us are running a race we don’t even understand. We’re chasing after dreams created for us by society. We want the billion-dollar paycheck. We want the fame. Everyone is running around trying to be the star player and basking in the glory that comes with being at the top.

Somehow, the American Dream has evolved from the house in the suburbs with the white picket fence, two kids and the dog, to making a billion dollars, becoming famous, and twerking effortlessly.

Most of us go to college for degrees we’ll never even apply to that specific field of work. We’ll stay in jobs that are unfulfilling to pay our way. We’ll be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Vine a disproportionate amount of time. We’ll even use Hootsuite, Buffer, Klout or some other social media tool to manage our online presence. I’m not suggesting that social media is evil; in fact, it’s actually a good way of connecting with people.

VISIT ALSO: How to Launch a Successful Online Business

The unfortunate side effect is people tend to inadvertently and subconsciously compare their lives to others. While comparisons can be an excellent motivator to push you forward to achieving success, it can also influence your thoughts negatively. Think “Inception.” You might be chasing someone else’s dream.

Ask yourself what it means to be successful. In fact, ask yourself what you want. Do you want to be rich? Probably. Do you want to be famous? Maybe. Do you want to be your own boss? Yes, but do you know what that means? None of these pursuits are wrong. It is not wrong to want to be wealthy, or well known, or have the freedom to control your own paycheck. But how many of these goals were created as a byproduct of society?

We hear about the success stories on the news. We are exposed to our friends’ promotions, super awesome lives and life experiences through social media. And suddenly, what we have doesn’t seem so fulfilling. When you were a child and someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, was your answer rich, famous, or a boss?  Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of what we wanted to do and ended up doing what everyone else was doing.

Think about your answer. Is it enough to be a billionaire or a viral video sensation? Often times, the money and fame are byproducts of doing what you love. We look up to sports superstars, celebrities and industry leaders because they made it. They symbolize the small percentage of people who were lucky enough to have reached their dreams. However, many of them are broken.

A lot of people don’t realize that while money is necessary, it is insufficient for happiness. Just like with fame, it is better to have a sense of support than to be known within a community that doesn’t support you, or care about you.

When chasing dreams, remember what you are chasing and what you are leaving behind. You might fly too close to the sun and get burnt. In the pursuit of happiness, many forget to savor the pursuit and are disappointed with the outcome when they finally get to wherever they’re going.

Fame and money won’t make you happy. Don’t get me wrong, they are both enormous assets and change lives in wonderful ways, but they won’t be enough in the pursuit of happiness. Unless you’re giving it away for a better cause, no one cares how much money you have in the bank. People care about your life experiences, your humility, and your contribution to their lives.

At the end of the day, people care about the person behind the money and status. When you take away the money and the fame, would you still be someone you would want to spend time with?

I don’t have a blueprint to tell you what will make you successful or happy or fulfilled. Success is defined in individual terms but is often used to describe the rich and famous. It might be time to define your own success. Stop chasing someone else’s dream because, chances are, you won’t be happy when you finally reach it.

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