A Computing Pioneer Says It’s Never Too Early to Teach Kids to Code

Dame Stephanie Shirley, one of the UK’s most respected pioneers in computing, says that children as young as two should be introduced to the basics of coding. Shirley’s company sold software in the 1960s — among the first businesses to do so. She told The Guardian that it is essential to engage very young children, especially girls, before negative stereotypes take hold. To do so, she believes, helps to foster a love of problem-solving and puzzles.

“I don’t think you can start too early,” Shirley told The Guardian, adding that research indicates it’s ideal to introduce simple coding activities to children by the time they are two to seven years old. “Most successful later coders start between five and six. In a sense, those years are the best for learning anything … and means that programming [hasn’t] become set in your mind as geeky or nerdy.”

Shirley’s comments have a special salience in light of the UK’s A-level results released last week, which revealed the ongoing gender divide in computing: only 9.8 percent of students who took computing at A-level were girls.

Shirley also called for tech companies such as Facebook and Google to help address the lack of female programmers by introducing anonymous recruitment. Google’s diversity statistics are about average in the industry, with only about 20 percent of Google engineers being female. One recent report revealed that male founders are almost twice as likely to win venture capital funding as their female counterparts.

One person who was likely unsurprised by the report’s findings would be Stephanie Lampkin, the mind behind Blendoor, an app and platform designed to help tech companies fix their diversity problem. She understands the issues, not just because of Blendoor, but through first hand experience: despite Lampkin’s achievements, she has been turned away in Silicon Valley more than once. She was a full-stack web developer by age 15 and holds an engineering degree from Stanford University, as well as an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Yet as a black woman, she has been turned down for a software engineering position because — as she was told — her background wasn’t “technical enough.”

The point, according to Lampkin, is to get more girls and people of color involved in technical pursuits early — and not just so they are prepared and engaged upon entering the industry. This will also change the broader perception of what technical people, deserving VC funding, look like. Lampkin told Moguldom, “When I walk into a room to pitch a VC, even if [the VC] is a black gay woman, there is no data in their brain to pull from to fairly and accurately gauge my competency as a founder — because there has never been a black woman engineer to create software with international exposure worth billions of dollars. Never. I don’t fit the type.”

Blendoor works to anonymize the hiring process in a way much like what Shirley is calling for. Women like Lampkin and Shirley see the perpetuation of the same patterns and want to break the mold by helping children begin learning — and even loving — to code early on. “Once you have an imbalance, the leaders of today define the leaders of tomorrow,” Shirley told The Guardian. “It’s instinctive to recruit in your own image. I think some of this will continue until we actually learn to anonymize some of our relationships and computers help in that.”

Of course this entire conversation takes place in the wake of the Google internal memo about the gender gap — an incident which merely underscores the issue. In her early days running a business, Shirley used the name “Steve” professionally in order to win contracts more easily. This was in the 1960s, but now, nearly 60 years later, Lampkin points out how difficult it still is for female run companies to win VC funding. Maybe teaching coding to children at a very young age will teach them not only to code and think computationally, but also to see the tech industry — and the world — as diverse.

Your Cell Service Might Cut Out During The Eclipse

So you’re staking out a spot somewhere along the Aug. 21 solar eclipse’s belt of totality, where the moon will block the sun to create a two-minute-long night in the middle of the day. But what if you need to meet someone in the crowd or keep friends updated?

The eclipse itself won’t interfere with communications here on Earth, but the huge crowds of people and devices gathering within the path of totality could overload networks. Cell service providers are hoping that between their existing networks and portable equipment being sent to the eclipse path, they’ll be able to handle the huge spike in bandwidth needs.

AT&T started planning a year and a half ago, according to Paula Doublin, an executive within the company’s construction and engineering department. Currently, she and her team are targeting nine locations near the path of totality to receive mobile support, although they’ll be watching crowds to see if they should adjust their plans. They also moved up network improvements that had been slated for later in the year.

To decide where to send mobile units, they studied their current infrastructure, then calculated how many people they expected to arrive for the eclipse and its festivities. That means NASA viewing sites, like Carbondale, Illinois, and Madras, Oregon, are getting an extra boost.

Other networks have made similar plans, according to emails from their representatives. Verizon is fairly confident its network will hold up, but will send out a few mobile bandwidth support units, just in case. Sprint is following a similar strategy and hopes users will turn off their updates and plan to text rather than make phone calls in particularly crowded areas. T-Mobile, too, is augmenting its existing network in a few locations.

“Both personally and professionally, I am really excited about this eclipse,” Doublin said. This will be her second solar eclipse, after she watched one pass over Africa. But for AT&T, it will be a serious test of the network. “It’s like having a major sport week, with a major championship on the line, going on for essentially five or six days,” but spread across 3,000 miles instead of clustered in one city, she said.

If all goes well, you shouldn’t notice anything unusual during the eclipse — so charge up those batteries and be ready to go.

Facebook Begins Rolling Out its Television Content

Facebook is entering a transformative new era. Mark Zuckerberg recently revealed that the platform is set to become “video-first,” and now it’s actually happening: The changes he teased begin rolling out on Thursday. Get ready for some awesome television content, folks.

Coming to you are new television shows produced exclusively for Facebook by the likes of BuzzFeedMashableRefinery29ThrillistATTNTastemade (disclosure: Inverse is also participating). Episodes will appear on a new “Watch” section in the video tab of Facebook’s mobile app, as well as on its desktop version.

“Watch is a platform for all creators and publishers to find an audience, build a community of passionate fans, and earn money for their work,” Daniel Danker, Facebook’s Director of Product, announced on Wednesday. “On Facebook, videos are discovered through friends and bring communities together. As more and more people enjoy this experience, we’ve learned that people like the serendipity of discovering videos in News Feed, but they also want a dedicated place they can go to watch videos.”

Facebook users already watch an average of 100 million hours of video on the platform every day; up until now, they’ve just been viewing Facebook Live streams, videos shared by friends, and original video series that appear on news feeds and the mobile app’s video tab.

But that was just the beginning. Soon video will be Facebook’s main event, and its episodic shows will even include scripted programs and reality content.

Participating publishers have been preparing for this moment for quite a while, and Facebook’s video push has been a big story in the media world. “Facebook, like it or not, is the biggest opportunity in video,” one publisher told Mashable.

Finally, Facebook’s ongoing transformation will start seriously impacting the lives of consumers, too. “Watch” will begin rolling out for users in the United States on Thursday and will then be gradually added for all other users.

Buying Your Groceries Online Can Curb Impulse Buying & Ultimately Weight Gain

For people who just can’t seem to pass up the candy in a supermarket checkout line, perhaps grocery shopping online could help reduce these impulse purchases, a new study suggests.

In the study, college students who were asked to shop for groceries online made similar food choices to one another, regardless of how impulsive the individuals were.

The findings are preliminary, and more research is needed to confirm the results, but the study suggests that online grocery shopping could help people stick to a healthy diet, said lead study author Jaime Coffino, a public health researcher at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

Previous research shows that people who are more impulsive may be less healthy than less impulsive people, Coffino told Live Science. In a grocery store, that impulsiveness could lead to a shopping cart filled with junk food.

The new study looked at 60 college students who filled out questionnaires that assessed their levels of impulsiveness as well as how they respond to the presence of food. The students were then told they had $48.50 for grocery shopping, and were asked to fill an online shopping cart with “nutritious, affordable and tasty” foods.

When Coffino calculated the nutritional value of all the food in each person’s online shopping cart, she found that there was no link between the foods a person chose and how impulsive the person was.

“It didn’t matter how impulsive a person was,” Coffino said. “The nutritional outcomes didn’t vary.”

Online grocery shopping could one day serve as a type of dietary intervention, Coffino said. Often, when people buy groceries online, they need to search for each item they want, as opposed to strolling through a store and saying, for example, “Oh, those chips look good.” Online, more planning and thought is needed. In addition, online grocery shopping makes people more aware of how much money they’re spending, which could deter them from adding impulsive picks to their carts, Coffino said.

She noted that the study has limitations — for example, no control group was used — and much more research is needed. Future studies could compare online grocery shopping to in-store grocery shopping, she said.

The findings were presented here Aug. 4 at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting. The research is part of a larger study that looks at how public health researchers can use online grocery shopping as a tool to encourage healthy eating. The findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

This Smart Ring Will Replace Everything In Your Pocket in the Near Future

Rummaging to find the right necessity in your pocket will soon be a thing of the past. Thanks to Token‘s minimal smart ring, our lives are about to get easier. The ring incorporates Bluetooth and NFC (Near Field Communications) pairing that aims to replace items such as your wallet, keys, transit cards, passwords and more. Within its internal workings is a fingerprint and optical sensor that locks and unlocks when you put it on or take it off. Its two-week battery life allows users to avoid constant charging while out and about unlocking your home, starting your car, paying for goods, and more.

The Token Smart Ring retails for $249 USD and is offered in three color options of Brush, Black Rhodium, and 14K Rose Gold, with the latter two being an extra $50 USD. Add-ons such as DoorLock and CarLock are $100 USD each.

Currently, its December pre-orders for this year have sold out. Stay tuned for additional information regarding a potential re-release, and let us know your thoughts on the Token Smart Ring.

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IKEA Is Now Selling Solar Panels & Batteries for Your Home

IKEA never fails to offer must-have essentials for your home, as the Swedish multinational furniture company is now selling solar panels and home batteries.

Exclusive to customers in the U.K. for now, IKEA has partnered with solar firm Solarcentury to make the sale possible.

“We’re committed to helping homeowners reap the benefits of going solar and our business partnership with Ikea is a significant step forwards for the renewable energy industry,” said Susannah Wood, head of residential solar at Solarcentury in a statement. “The cost of solar installations has dropped considerably in recent years and is in fact 100 times cheaper than it was 35 years ago.”

With prices for solar battery storage starting at around $3,970 USD — the home batteries are designed to work with existing solar panels, or as part of a new combined home solar panel / battery storage system that IKEA is selling.

The batteries will allow users to store electricity generated by the sun from their solar panels, and use it when they want. IKEA says that an average UK home with solar panels will typically consume around 40 percent of the solar electricity it generates, although, using storage, an average home can double its solar electricity usage to 80 percent, while electricity bills can be cut by up to 70 percent.

Also, the company recently unveiled a cookable “Easy Recipe Series” book to encourage more creativity in the kitchen.

Elon Musk’s First Tesla Solar Roof Is Here, and It Looks Awesome

Elon Musk’s house runs on solar. The Tesla CEO made the announcement during Wednesday’s second quarter 2017 earnings call, where he revealed that both himself and Jeffrey B. Straubel, the company’s chief technology officer, have installed solar roof tiles on their houses.

“We have installed and working the Solar Roof tiles,” Musk told investors during the conference call.

Tesla started taking pre-orders for the textured black and grey smooth tile styles back in May, with U.S. orders expected to start shipping this year. Unfortunately, those that didn’t order immediately have a long wait on their hands: the tiles sold out until next year in just 16 days. The company is expected to start taking orders for the remaining Tuscan and slate styles in November, with deliveries starting next year. International orders are expected to start shipping next year.

The solar roof tiles are offered at a competitive price point. Tesla has priced them at an average of $21.85 per square foot, bringing them down to below the cost of a normal roof.

Musk is one of the first to have the tiles up and running. When he first announced the tiles in October, he laid out a vision of a future house with a Tesla Model 3 in the garage, a Powerpack lithium-ion battery on the wall, and a roof made of solar tiles. The tiles would provide energy to the Powerpack, which would provide a steady stream of power to the car and house at all times of day. With the Powerpack already available and Model 3 shipments starting last month, the tile was the last missing piece of his vision.

“I want to emphasize that there’s no Photoshopping on the roof,” Musk said. “That is actually how it looks, and it wasn’t taken by some… ‘it was take some pics with your phone and send them over.’ That’s what we’re talking about here, not some special lighting conditions, pro-photographer situation. And this is version one, and I think this roof’s going look really knockout as we just keep iterating.”

The solar roof works out as cheaper than a new roof even before the energy savings brought by using the roof. When those are factored in, the roof starts to pay for itself:

These tiles are tough. They’re made of tempered glass, which makes them about three times stronger than slate or asphalt. On top of that, the tiles are capable of defrosting by using a similar method employed by anti-ice wires used in windshields. All this means the tiles are capable of working through extreme conditions.

“Solar Roof is the most durable roof available and the glass itself will come with a warranty for the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first,” Tesla said in a May blog post.

Musk explained during the call that solar roof tile production should increase exponentially, in a similar fashion to Model 3 production. That means initial growth will be slow, followed by a sharp increase, ending with a plateau where Tesla produces a consistently high number of tiles per month. Even when production reaches its peak, though, it’s going to take a long time before every house has a solar roof.

“I think eventually almost all houses will have a solar roof,” Musk said during a May TED conference in Vancouver. “The thing to consider the timescale to be probably on the order of forty for fifty years. On average, a roof is replaced every 20 to 25 years but you don’t start replacing all roofs immediately but eventually if you were to fast forward to fifteen years from now it will be unusual to have a roof that doesn’t have solar.”

Beyond the tiles, Tesla’s solar operation has had big success recently. Last month, it was announced that Tesla will build the world’s largest battery in South Australia to solve the state’s energy woes. The 100 megawatt pack will store renewable energy for 30,000 homes. A storm last September left 1.7 million residents without power, and it’s hoped that Tesla’s solution will avoid a similar situation occurring again.

In the future, these technological breakthrough could transition the whole of the United States onto solar energy. Musk has laid out an ambitious plan that involves using rooftop solar panels, utility-sized power plants and localized power infrastructure.

“If you wanted to power the entire United States with solar panels, it would take a fairly small corner of Nevada or Texas or Utah; you only need about 100 miles by 100 miles of solar panels to power the entire United States,” Musk said during his keynote conversation at the National Governors Association event in Rhode Island last month. “The batteries you need to store the energy, so you have 24/7 power, is 1 mile by 1 mile. One square-mile.”

The solar roof could be the first step toward a major shift in energy production.

This Fitness App Plays Music That Changes Pace When You Do

Co-creator and co-founder of Google Maps, Lars Rasmussen and Elomida Visviki have recently launched a new music app Weav Music and fitness app Weav Run built on the progression of adaptive music.

Lars and Elomida have made technological advancements that will pair music to match your speed and steps while running. This goes further than the classic algorithm and genius technology because each song changes pace as you do, matching cadences and steps. Each song then acts as a motivational tool to push you forward and make runners reach new heights and increase their abilities. The songs will continuously change tempos to real-time making sure you are always on beat.

Weav Music has made partnerships with Sony Music, Warner Music, and many of their affiliated labels. Universal Music Group has given them permission to “experiment” with songs from their catalog to have a large and diverse choice of tracks for the listeners using Weav Run.

The creators say this is just the beginning of hyper music adaptation, and will soon become a part of video games, virtual reality, meditation, and dance apps. Having the ability to go from 60 to 240 bpm will give musicians more room to blend genres and sounds into each individual track, which could and will probably make a new genre of recorded music.

For those that love to run and jam, make sure to be apart of the high intelligent and groundbreaking app Weav Run, which is now available and can be downloaded for immediate use.

How Amazon Is Quietly Taking Over Your Living Room

From Sony vs. Microsoft, to Roku vs. Apple TV, to LG’s webOS vs. Android TV, there’s always some battle being waged to rule the TV and stereo in the room where families spend the brunt of their time. Well, Amazon is quietly working to beat everyone — and it’s okay if you didn’t notice. Most folks haven’t.

Obviously, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is already one of the biggest players in the digital assistant game, with an install base of millions and a sales trend expected to put the system at a mind-boggling 500 million global users by 2020. But in addition to controlling your light switches, playing Bluetooth audio and reminding you of the day’s date on occasion, Amazon has been adding “skills” to the system by the armload every week, and it now offers more than 10,000, ranging from smart home add-ons to flash news briefings.

Another area that’s been on the rise as of late? Television.

You know the first part of the equation. The company’s Trojan horse has been the wildly successful Fire TV Stick (currently the No. 1 selling Electronics item on Amazon) and the Amazon Fire TV (which comes with a few extra features, including 4K video), both of which are basically Amazon’s beachhead against products like the Roku and Apple TV in your entertainment center. Amazon has sold millions of them, and the past several editions have included a killer feature that’s popping up in more and more devices these days. You guessed it: Alexa. The voice command button takes up a piece of prime real estate on the remote control, and cuts out the middle man when it comes to menus and searching. It’s a handy feature that sets Amazon’s line apart, and a brilliant (if not obvious) way to leverage all the time and energy the company has put into Alexa. Amazon is already a key player in the set-top box market, and they’ve been weaving Alexa into its DNA for years — and now it’s time for the next phase to begin.

Amazon has started cutting deals with TV manufacturers and satellite companies to make Alexa the easiest way to control your television — no remote control, or Fire stick, required. Sony recently announced some of its 4K TV lines would be adding Alexa functionality, while Westinghouse is also adding Alexa to its features list. Looking beyond the out-of-the-box experience, Amazon has also worked with Dish Network to add Alexa functionality to its higher-end satellite receivers, which allows the system to change channels, retrieve recorded content, and pause with nothing more than a few words. I tested the Dish skill myself, and there’s something freeing and truly geeky about being able to tune to ESPN, or pause the TV for a beer run, without fishing the remote out from between the couch cushions. Just say it, and it’s done. It also worked surprisingly well and fast, with straightforward commands that were just as snappy as manually pushing the button.

Putting Alexa into Amazon’s own streaming box is one thing, but now those skills are getting baked into devices and tech that make them more and more useful for all the Echos and Echo Dots already littering end tables and desks all over the world. Amazon is adding skills to Alexa on a daily basis, and with that tech showing up in a first wave of living room devices, Amazon continues to build its living room lead on Google and Apple’s AI offerings. If you’re trying to decide between an Apple HomePod, Echo or Google Home, learning your brand new TV — or the satellite or cable service you’re locked into a contract on — works with Alexa could easily be the deciding factor when it comes to platform choice. And Amazon knows it. More TV manufacturers will almost certainly join Sony and Westinghouse, and it stands to reason other cable and satellite providers won’t let Dish hold onto this advantage when the next iteration of their set-top boxes start rolling out.

Amazon is on the verge of changing the way we watch TV, and the “trick” has been to just put Alexa into everything and make it work well. Or at least well enough. Make it so convenient that you just use it because it’s always there — and at that point — why would anyone look to a competitor when they already have the feature set built-in, no add-ons required? If your satellite service, TV and streaming box all just work with the Echos already in your house, would you ever seriously consider a different platform? Not likely.

Amazon is winning the battle for the living room by making its ecosystem so wide-ranging and accessible that you might not even realize you have it. The company is already a leader for smart home early adopters thanks to the low buy-in cost (Dots can typically be snagged for between $30-40 when a sale is on) and expansive feature set, and if you’re already using Alexa to turn the lights on, isn’t the next step just firing up the TV and turning on some Fixer Upper?

Reddit Is Redesigning to Look More Like Facebook

For some, Reddit’s pared-back design is part of the charm. But for others, it’s an instant turnoff. After raising $200 million in new venture funding, the news aggregator says it’s ready to catch up with the rest of the internet by undergoing a polished redesign.

The money has been donated by a number of Silicon Valley firms and individual investors, meaning the company’s overall value currently sits around the $1.8 billion mark. Reddit launched in 2005 and has remained much the same in terms of appearance, but co-founder Steve Huffman has confirmed the site will now undergo a full aesthetic overhaul.

“We have a lot of perception debt,” Huffman told Recode. “Reddit feels old. We don’t want to be associated with old.”

“We want Reddit to be more visually appealing,” he continued. “So when new users come to Reddit they have a better sense of what’s there, what it’s for.”

Recode then went on to claim that one of the early redesigns looks similar to Facebook’s News Feed or Twitter’s Timeline. In addition, the article claims that part of the money will be put towards beefing up its video operation to allow users to upload more easily.

Redditors – how do you feel about the plans to overhaul the site? Let us know in the comments below.