Thimble teaches kids STEM skills with robotics kits combined with live Zoom classes

Parents with kids stuck learning at home during the pandemic have had to look for alternative activities to promote the hands-on learning experiences kids are missing out on due to attending class virtually. The New York-based educational technology startup Thimble aims to help address this problem by offering a subscription service for STEM-based projects that allow kids to make robotics, electronics and other tech using a combination of kits shipped to the home and live online instruction.

Thimble began back in 2016 as Kickstarter project when it raised $300,000 in 45 days to develop its STEM-based robotics and programming kits. The next year, it then began selling its kits to schools, largely in New York, for use in the classroom or in after-school programs. Over the years that followed, Thimble scaled its customer base to include around 250 schools across New York, Pennsylvania, and California, who would buy the kits and gain access to teacher training.

But the COVID-19 pandemic changed the course of Thimble’s business.

“A lot of schools were in panic mode. They were not sure what was happening, and so their spending was frozen for some time,” explains Thimble co-founder and CEO Oscar Pedroso, whose background is in education. “Even our top customers that I would call, they would just give [say], ‘hey, this is not a good time. We think we’re going to be closing schools down.”

Pedroso realized that the company would have to quickly pivot to begin selling directly to parents instead.

Image Credits: Thimble

Around April, it made the shift — effectively entering the B2C market for the first time.

The company today offers parents a subscription that allows them to receive up to 15 different STEM-focused project kits and a curriculum that includes live instruction from an educator. One kit is shipped out over the course of three months, though an accelerated program is available that ships with more frequency.

The first kit is basic electronics where kids learn how to build simple circuits, like a doorbell, kitchen timer and a music composer, for example. The kit is designed so kids can experience “quick wins” to keep their attention and whet their appetite for more projects. This leads into future kits like those offering a Wi-Fi robot, a little drone, an LED compass that lights up, and a synthesizer that lets kids become their own D.J.

Image Credits: Thimble

While any family can use the kits to help kids experience hands-on electronics and robotics, Pedroso says that about 70% of subscribers are those where the child already has a knack for doing these sorts of projects. The remaining 30% are those where the parents are looking to introduce the concepts of robotics and programming, to see if the kids show an interest. Around 40% of the students are girls.

The subscription is more expensive than some DIY projects at $59.99/per month (or $47.99/mo if paid annually), but this is because it includes live instruction in the form of weekly 1-hour Zoom classes. Thimble has part-time employees who are not just able to understand teach the material, but can do so in a way that appeals to children — by being passionate, energetic and capable of jumping in to help if they sense a child is having an issue or getting frustrated. Two of the five teachers are women. One instructor is bilingual and teaches some classes in Spanish.

During class, one teacher instructs while a second helps moderate the chat room and answer the questions that kids ask in there.

The live classes will have around 15-20 students each, but Thimble additionally offers a package for small groups that reduces class size. These could be used by homeschool “pods” or other groups.

Image Credits: Thimble

“We started hearing from pods and then micro-schools,” notes Pedroso. “Those were parents who were connected to other parents, and wanted their kids to be part of the same class. They generally required a little bit more attention and wanted some things a little more customized,” he added.

These subscriptions are more expensive at $250/month, but the cost is shared among the group of parents, which brings the price down on per-household basis. Around 10% of the total customer base is on this plan, as most customers are individual families.

Thimble also works with several community programs and nonprofits in select markets that help to subsidize the cost of the kits to make the subscriptions more affordable. These are announced, as available, through schools, newsletters, and other marketing efforts.

Since pivoting to subscriptions, Thimble has re-established a customer base and now has 1,110 paid customers. Some, however, are grandfathered in to an earlier price point, so Thimble needs to scale the business further.

In addition to the Kickstarter, Thimble has raised funds and worked on the business over the year with the help of multiple accelerators, including LearnLaunch in Boston, Halcyon in D.C., and Telluride Venture Accelerator in Colorado.

The startup, co-founded by Joel Cilli in Pittsburgh, is now around 60% closed on its seed round of $1 million, but isn’t announcing details of that at this time.

 

 

 

Tappity raises $1.3M for its interactive and educational video library for kids

When kids today want to learn about a new topic they’re interested in, they’ll often turn to YouTube. But the quality of the educational content on the platform can be hit or miss, depending on what specific videos kids happen to come across. Tappity, a digital educational startup now backed by $1.3 million in seed funding, aims to offer an alternative. Its video library offers entertaining and interactive live-action videos kids enjoy, while also ensuring the content itself is aligned with current educational standards.

The two-year old startup was co-founded by CEO Chad Swenson, his brother and CTO Tanner Swenson, and CPO Lawrence Tran.

Image Credits: Tappity founders

As Chad explains, the idea for Tappity emerged from his interest in designing interactive learning experiences, which resulted in a senior project eight years ago where he created an interactive experience to help students learn about evolution. Over the years that followed, he began to experiment with different concepts in this area, but never planned for anything of venture scale.

However, Chad says he later realized there could be an opportunity to develop content based around the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) — the set of K-12 science content standards that were developed by a consortium of multiple U.S. states — whose adoption across the U.S. is now growing.

“A lot of parents were looking for healthier alternatives to YouTube,” Chad says. “And I really started to believe this is something that could be much bigger.”

He found also that the science-based topics kids are generally interested in are often those that are aligned with what the NGSS aims to teach — like space, dinosaurs, geology and others.

“A big inspiration was just looking at the most popular books on Amazon for kids,” Chad adds, noting that a large number of these books are focused on STEM-related subjects.

Chad met his co-founder Lawrence Tran when consulting for fintech startup Bill.com, and convinced him and his brother Tanner to work on the startup.

Over the course of a couple of years, Tappity has developed tools that make it easier and efficient to produce interactive, educational video content. Today, the library includes over 200 science lessons for kids ages 4 to 10, across thousands of videos.

While the video clips themselves are pre-recorded, they give the kids the feeling of having a one-on-one interaction with the character on the screen. For example, if the teacher is building something and needs a screwdriver, the kids can pass it to her in the app when she asks. But they’ll also have a lot of other fun options they can do instead, like passing her tape or even throwing pizza at her — and she’ll react. The teacher may also engage with kids in other ways, too, like responding to what they drew in the app, among other things.

Image Credits: Tappity

Currently, Tappity’s teacher Haley the Science Gal (Haley McHugh), a childhood entertainment expert with over 10 years of experience, is leading the lessons which span topics like space, life science, earth science and physical science.

In addition to the video lessons, kids are engaged with an in-app points system for completing activities. The app also offers follow-up emails for parents so they can track what kids are learning and further engage them.

Due to the COVID pandemic, and the resulting screen fatigue that comes from virtual schooling, Tappity adapted some lessons to include offline activities — like drawing with paper and pens, for instance. And on Sundays, Tappity offers more involved activities parents and kids can do together — like baking cookies that you turn into Pangea or making a volcano.

Tappity expects to have over 1,000 hours of video content by the end of next year, and over 4,000 hours by the year after, Chad notes.

When the team of three applied to startup accelerator Y Combinator, Tappity was small but profitable, thanks to its in-app subscription tiers that average around $9 per month. Today, the company has over 5,000 paying customers and over 20,000 weekly active users who have collectively completed 30 million lessons to date.

The company has now raised a seed round of $1.3 million from Y Combinator, Mystery Science founder Keith Schacht, Toca Boca founder Björn Jeffery, Brighter Capital (Yun-Fang Juan), former Spotify CTO Andreas Ehn, and others.

In the near-term, Tappity is working to expand its team and bring its lessons — that today are only available on iOS — to the web. Over time, the company’s goal is to create a large library of interactive educational content.

While the COVID pandemic has inspired VCs to invest in more edtech startups, the longevity of some of these businesses in the post-COVID world remains to be seen. Where Tappity is different from many of these remote learning startups or those designed for the classroom, is that its focus is not on selling into the school system.

“Teachers have picked it up organically — we give it away free to schools right now,” Chad explains. “But we’re not dedicating any resources to it because we’re focused on the parents’ and kids’ needs, which are quite a bit different,” he says.

Tappity’s app is available iOS, and includes some free content outside of the subscription.

Streamers, including Netflix and CBS All Access, roll out new family-friendly features

As competition in the streaming service market heats up, services are looking for ways to differentiate their offerings. One area of increased interest — especially in light of fierce competition from newcomer Disney+ — is how to make their services more family-friendly. On this front, Netflix today announced the rollout of new features for families, the Kids Activity Report and Family Profiles, while CBS All Access added a Kids Mode and other updates aimed at families.

Streamers for years have marketed their services toward families with children, not only because these customers will often pay for higher-priced tiers offering more simultaneous logins, but also because strong kids’ entertainment offerings helps to keep subscribers loyal.

Netflix has led on this front with investments in children’s programming and longtime support for parental controls, a “Kids” profile and more.

Today, the company says it’s testing new features to better improve the Netflix experience.

One is a new Kids Activity Report that provides parents with information about what their kids are streaming on Netflix.

Image Credits: Netflix

This includes information about the child’s recently watched shows and interests, as well as suggested conversation topics and activities — like coloring pages or jokes — that parents can use to engage kids further. This could help those families where parents may not be clued in as to how kids are spending their time on Netflix — like those where the kids often watch independently or on their own device, for example.

It also arrives at a time when families are stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited the options for kids’ entertainment, leading to increased screen time. A feature that turns something parents worry about — too much screen time — into offline activities for family engagement could help this increased Netflix usage been seen in a more positive light.

Image Credits: Netflix

Netflix says the report, which is sent via email, is being tested globally in select markets.

Another test involves a Family Profile, which focuses on helping family members find programming they can all watch together. Like other profiles, the Family Profile would be accessed from the main screen with its own icon and maintain its own recommendations and watch lists, separate from an individual’s own profile.

Image Credits: Netflix

Unlike a kids’ user profile, which has a specific age range depending on the settings, the Family Profile would feature a selection of titles that extend up to PG-13 for movies and TV-14 for shows.

This content can still be surprisingly hard to find these days, as much of what some streamers consider “family” viewing are titles that are actually aimed at little kids — titles that are often painful for full-grown adults to sit through, that is. Family-friendly profiles could instead include less of this preschool fare, perhaps and more of popular family titles like the recent hit, “Enola Holmes.”

Netflix suggested you also might find titles like the upcoming animated short “Canvas,” animated special “A Trash Truck Christmas” or live action family movie “We Can Be Heroes,” on a Family profile.

Image Credits: Netflix

This test is also running globally, but only on the TV, Netflix says.

The Verge first reported on the tests.

“We’re always looking for new ways to improve the Netflix experience for members of all ages,” a Netflix spokesperson told TechCrunch about its new features. “We run these tests in different countries and for different periods of time — and only make them broadly available if people find them useful,” they said.

Of course, new family features could also help Netflix overcome some of the customer backlash against its service following the “Cuties” scandal earlier this year.

The French film and award winner was meant to be social commentary on the hypersexualization of children, but was condemned for exploiting children instead, possibly even denting Netflix subscriber growth. (The controversy was heavily tied to the QAnon #SavetheChildren conspiracy, too, though not all customers objecting to the film knew they were participating in the broader movement driven by QAnon.)

Netflix was not the only streamer to launch family-friendly features today.

In addition, CBS All Access today announced the rollout of new family-friendly features of its own. However, it’s playing catch-up with other streamers with its launches.

Image Credits: CBS All Access

The company says it will add a new feature that allows families to create up to six profiles per account and manage those using a “Kids Mode” option. This allows parents to create profiles that limit content to younger and older children based on content ratings. In addition, the service’s existing parental controls (the PIN-based controls) will also be available across these new profiles.

The features arrived alongside the addition of nearly 800 more episodes of kids’ content, including Nick Jr. favorites like “Paw Patrol,” “Blaze and the Monster Machines,” “Blue’s Clues,” “Bubble Guppies,” “Dora the Explorer,” “Shimmer and Shine,” and others. The service already had more than 1,000 episodes of children’s programming before the new shows arrived, including “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “Danger Mouse,” “Lassie,” “George of the Jungle” and “Mr. Magoo.” A SpongeBob spinoff, “Kamp Koral,” will arrive next year, along with “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.”

In related news, a top streaming platform, Fire TV, is also looking to better serve multi-person households and families with its latest changes.

Image Credits: Amazon

Fire TV today offers a platform for engaging with streaming apps, games and other content, but organizes this into an interface complete with tailored recommendations and other features. Its redesign, first announced in September, rolls out starting today.

The update brings a brand-new look-and-feel to Fire TV, which now reorganizes the navigation and improves how it makes recommendations. But one of the bigger changes is that Fire TV users — including kids — will now each get their own profile for a more personalized experience.

All the updates are rolling out starting today. Netflix’s tests, however, won’t reach all users at this time.

A tween tries Apple’s new ‘Family Setup’ system for Apple Watch

With the release of watchOS 7, Apple at last turned the Apple Watch into the GPS-based kid tracker parents have wanted, albeit at a price point that requires careful consideration. As someone in the target demographic for such a device — a parent of a “tween” who’s allowed to freely roam the neighborhood (but not without some sort of communication device) — I put the new Family Setup system for the Apple Watch through its paces over the past couple of months.

The result? To be frank, I’m conflicted as to whether I’d recommend the Apple Watch to a fellow parent, as opposed to just suggesting that it’s time to get the child a phone.

This has to do, in part, with the advantages offered by a dedicated family tracking solution — like Life360, for example — as well as how a child may respond to the Apple Watch itself, and the quirks of using a solution that wasn’t initially designed with the needs of family tracking in mind.

As a parent of a busy and active tween (nearly 11), I can see the initial appeal of an Apple Watch as a family tracker. It has everything you need for that purpose: GPS tracking, the ability to call and text, alerts, and access to emergency assistance. It’s easy to keep up with, theoretically, and it’s not as pricey as a new iPhone. (The new Apple Watch SE cellular models start at $329. The feature also works on older Apple Watch Series 4 or later models with cellular. Adding on the Apple Watch to your phone plan is usually around $10 per month more.)

I think the Apple Watch as a kid tracker mainly appeals to a specific type of parent: one who’s worried about the dangers of giving a younger child a phone and thereby giving them access to the world of addictive apps and the wider internet. I understand that concern, but I personally disagree with the idea that you should wait until a child is “older,” then hand them a phone and say “ok, good luck with that!” They need a transition period and the “tween” age range is an ideal time frame to get started.

The reality is that smartphones and technology are unavoidable. As a parent, I believe it’s my job to introduce these things in small measures — with parental controls and screen time limits, for example. And then I need to monitor their usage. I may make mistakes and so will my daughter, but we both need these extra years to figure out how to balance parenting and the use of digital tools. With a phone, I know I will have to have the hard conversations about the problems we run into. I understand, too, why parents want to put that off, and just buy a watch instead.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

After my experience, I feel the only cases where I’d fully endorse the Apple Watch would be for those tech-free or tech-light families where kids will not be given phones at any point, households where kids’ phone usage is highly restricted (like those with Wi-Fi only phones), or those where kids don’t get phones until their later teenage years. I am not here to convince them of my alternative, perhaps more progressive view on when to give a kid a phone. The Apple Watch may make sense for these families and that’s their prerogative.

However, a number of people may be wondering if the Apple Watch can be a temporary solution for perhaps a year or two before they buy the child a smartphone. To them, I have to say this feels like an expensive way to delay the inevitable, unavoidable task of having to parent your child through the digital age.

Given my position on the matter, my one big caveat to this review is that my daughter does, in fact, have a smartphone. Also, let’s be clear: this is not meant to be a thorough review of the Apple Watch itself, or a detailed report of its various “tech specs”. It’s a subjective report as to how things went for us that, hopefully, you can learn from.

Image Credits: Apple

To begin, the process of configuring the new Apple Watch with Family Setup was easy. “Set Up for a Family Member” is one of two setup options to tap on as you get started. Apple offers a simple user interface that walks you through pairing the Watch with your phone and all the choices that have to be made, like enabling cellular, turning on “Ask to Buy” for app purchases, enabling Schooltime and Activity features, and more.

What was harder was actually using the Apple Watch as intended after it was configured. I found it far easier to launch an iPhone app (like Life360, which we use) where everything you need is in one place. That turned out not to be true for Apple Watch Family Setup system.

For the purpose of testing the Apple Watch with Family Setup, my daughter would leave her iPhone behind when she went out biking or when meeting up with friends for outdoor activities.

As a child who worked her way up to an iPhone over a couple of years, I have to admit I was surprised at how irresponsible she was with the watch in the early weeks.

She didn’t at all respect at the multi-hundred dollar device it was, at first, but rather treated it like her junk jewelry or her wrist-worn scrunchies. The Apple Watch was tossed on a dresser, a bathroom counter, a kitchen table, on a beanbag chair, and so on.

Thankfully, the “Find My” app can locate the Apple Watch, if it has battery and a signal. But I’m not going to lie — there were some scary moments where a dead watch was later found on the back of a toilet (!!), on the top of the piano, and once, abandoned at a friend’s house.

And this, from a child who always knows where her iPhone is!

The problem is that her iPhone is something she learned to be responsible for after years of practice. This fooled me into thinking she actually was responsible for expensive devices. For two years, we painfully went through a few low-end Android phones while she got the hang of keeping up with and caring for such a device. Despite wrapping those starter phones in protective cases, we still lost one to a screen-destroying crash on a tile floor and another to being run over by a car. (How it flew out of a pocket and into the middle of the road, I’ll never understand!)

But, eventually, she did earn access to a hand-me down iPhone. And after initially only being allowed to use it in the house on Wi-Fi, that phone now goes outdoors and has its own phone number. And she has been careful with it in the months since. (Ahem, knocks on wood.)

The Apple Watch, however, held no such elevated status for her. It was not an earned privilege. It was not fun. It was not filled with favorite apps and games. It was, instead, thrust upon her.

While the iPhone is used often for enjoyable and addictive activities like Roblox, TikTok, Disney+, and Netflix, the Apple Watch was boring by comparison. Sure, there are a few things you can do on the device — it has an App Store! You can make a Memoji! You can customize different watch faces! But unless this is your child’s first-ever access to technology, these features may have limited appeal.

“Do you want to download this game? This looks fun,” I suggested. pointing to a coloring game, as we looked at her Watch together one night.

“No thanks,” she replied.

“Why not?”

“I just think don’t think it would be good on the little screen.”

“Maybe a different game?”

“Nah.”

And that was that. I could not convince her to give a single Apple Watch app a try in the days that followed.

She didn’t even want to stream music on the Apple Watch — she has Alexa for that, she pointed out. She didn’t want to play a game on the watch — she has Roblox on the bigger screen of her hand-me down laptop. She also has a handheld Nintendo Switch.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Initially, she picked an Apple Watch face that matched her current “aesthetic” — simple and neutral — and that was the extent of her interest in personalizing the device in the first several weeks.

Having already burned herself out on Memoji by borrowing my phone to play with the feature when it launched, there wasn’t as much interest in doing more with the customized avatar creation process, despite my suggestions to try it. (She had already made a Memoji her Profile photo for her contact card on iPhone.)

However, I later showed her the Memoji Watch Face option after I set it up, and asked her if she liked it. She responded “YESSSS. I love it,” and snatched the watch from my hand to play some more.

Demo’ing features is important, it seems.

But largely, the Apple Watch was only strapped on only at my request as she walked out the door.

Soon, this became a routine.

“Can I go outside and play?”

“Yes. Wear the watch!,” I’d reply.

“I knowwww.”

It took over a month to get to the point that she would remember the watch on her own.

I have to admit that I didn’t fully demo the Apple Watch to her or explain how to use it in detail, beyond a few basics in those beginning weeks. While I could have made her an expert, I suppose, I think it’s important to realize that many parents are less tech-savvy than their kids. The children are often left to fend for themselves when it comes to devices, and this particular kid has had several devices. For that reason, I was curious how a fairly tech literate child who has moved from iPad to Android to now iPhone, and who hops from Windows to Mac to Chromebook, would now adapt to an Apple Watch.

As it turned out, she found it a little confusing.

“What do you think about the Watch?” I asked one evening, feeling her out for an opinion.

“It’s fun…but sometimes I don’t really understand it,” she replied.

“What don’t you understand?”

“I don’t know. Just…almost everything,” she said, dramatically, as tweens tend to do. “Like, sometimes  I don’t know how to turn up and down the volume.”

Upon prodding, I realize she meant this: she was confused about how to adjust the alert volume for messages and notifications, as well as how to change the Watch from phone calls to a vibration or to silence calls altogether with Do Not Disturb. (It was her only real complaint, but annoying enough to be “almost everything,” I guess!)

I’ll translate now from kid language what I learned here.

First, given that the “Do Not Disturb” option is accessible from a swipe gesture, it’s clear my daughter hadn’t fully explored the watch’s user interface. It didn’t occur to her that the swipe gestures of the iPhone would have their own Apple Watch counterparts. (And also, why would you swipe up from the bottom of the screen for the Control Center when that doesn’t work on the iPhone anymore? On iPhone, you now swipe down from the top-right to get to Control Center functions.)

And she definitely hadn’t discovered the tiny “Settings” app (the gear icon) on the Apple Watch’s Home Screen to make further changes.

Instead, her expectation was that you should be able to use either a button on the side for managing volume — you know, like on a phone — or maybe the digital crown, since that’s available here. But these physical features of the device — confusingly — took her to that “unimportant stuff” like the Home Screen and an app switcher, when in actuality, it was calls, notifications, and alerts that were the app’s main function, in her opinion.

And why do you need to zoom into the Home Screen with a turn of the digital crown? She wasn’t even using the apps at this point. There weren’t that many on the screen.

Curious, since she didn’t care for the current lineup of apps, I asked for feedback.

“What kind of apps do you want?,” I asked.

“Roblox and TikTok.”

“Roblox?!,” I said, laughing. “How would that even work?”

As it turned out, she didn’t want to play Roblox on her watch. She wanted to respond to her incoming messages and participate in her group chats from her watch.

Oh. That’s actually a reasonable idea. The Apple Watch is, after all, a messaging device.

And since many kids her age don’t have a phone or the ability to use a messaging app like Snapchat or Instagram, they trade Roblox usernames and friend each other in the game as way to work around this restriction. They then message each other to arrange virtual playdates or even real-life ones if they live nearby.

But the iOS version of the Roblox mobile app doesn’t have an Apple Watch counterpart.

“And TikTok?” I also found this hilarious.

But the fact that Apple Watch is not exactly an ideal video player is lost on her. It’s a device with a screen, connected to the internet. So why isn’t that enough, she wondered?

“You could look through popular TikToks,” she suggested. “You wouldn’t need to make an account or anything,” she clarified, as these details were would fix the only problems she saw with her suggestion.

Even if the technology was there, a TikTok experience on the small screen would never be a great one. But this goes to show how much interest in technology is directly tied to what apps and games are available, compared with the technology platform itself.

Other built-in features had even less appeal than the app lineup.

Image Credits: Apple

Though I had set up some basic Activity features during the setup process, like a “Move Goal,” she had no idea what any of that was. So I showed her the “rings” and how they worked, and she thought it was kind of neat that the Apple Watch could track her standing. However, there was no genuine interest or excitement in being able quantify her daily movement — at least, not until one day many weeks later when were hiking and she heard my watch ding as my rings closed and wanted to do the same on hers. She became interested in recording her steps for that hike, but the interest wasn’t sustained afterwards.

Apple said it built in the Activity features so kids could track their move goal and exercise progress. But I would guess many kids won’t care about this, even if they’re active. After all, kids play — they don’t think “how much did I play?” Did I move enough today? And nor should they, really.

As a parent, I can see her data in the Health app on my iPhone, which is the device I use to manage her Apple Watch. It’s interesting, perhaps, to see things like her steps walked or flights climbed. But it’s not entirely useful, as her Apple Watch is not continually worn throughout the day. (She finds the bands uncomfortable — we tried Sport Band and Sport Loop and she still fiddles with them constantly, trying to readjust them for comfort.)

In addition, if I did want to change her Activity goals later on for some reason, I’d have to do from her Watch directly.

Of course, a parent doesn’t buy a child an Apple Watch to track their exercise. It’s for the location tracking features. That is the only real reason a parent would consider this device for a younger child.

On that front, I did like that the watch was a GPS tracker that was looped into our household Apple ecosystem as its own device with its own phone number. I liked that I could ping the Watch with “Find My” when it’s lost — and it was lost a lot, as I noted. I liked that I could manage the Watch from my iPhone, since it’s very difficult to reacquire a device to make changes, once it’s handed over to someone else.

I also liked the Apple Watch was always available for use. This may have been one of its biggest perks, in fact. Unlike my daughter’s iPhone, which is almost constantly at 10-20% battery (or much less), the watch was consistently charged and ready when it was time for outdoor play.

I liked that it was easier for her to answer a call on the Apple Watch compared with digging her phone out of her bike basket or bag. I liked that she didn’t have to worry about constantly holding onto her phone while out and about.

I also appreciated that I could create geofenced alerts — like when she reached the park or a friend’s house, for example, or when she left. But I didn’t like that the ability to do so is buried in the “Find My” app. (You tap on the child’s name in the “People” tab. Tap “Add” under “Notifications.” Tap “Notify Me.” Tap “New Location.” Do a search for an address or venue. Tap “Done.”)

Image Credits: TechCrunch

I also didn’t like that when I created a recurring geofence, my daughter would be notified. Yes, privacy. I know! But who’s in charge here? My daughter is a child, not a teen. She knows the Apple Watch is a GPS tracker — we had that conversation. She knows it allows me to see where she is. She’s young and for now, she doesn’t feel like this a privacy violation. We’ll have that discussion later, I’m sure. But at the present, she likes the feel of this electronic tether to home as she experiments with expanding the boundaries of her world.

When I tweak and update recurring alerts for geofenced locations, such alerts can be confusing or even concerning. I appreciate that Apple is being transparent and trying to give kids the ability to understand they’re being tracked — but I’d also argue that most parents who suddenly gift an expensive watch to their child will explain why they’re doing so. This is a tool, not a toy.

Also, the interface for configuring geofences is cumbersome. By comparison, the family tracking app Life360 which we normally use has a screen where you simply tap add, search to find the location, and then you’re done. One tap on a bell icon next to the location turns on or off its alerts. (You can get all granular about it: recurring, one time, arrives, leaves, etc. — but you don’t have to. Just tap and be alerted. It’s more straightforward.)

Image Credits: Apple

One feature I did like on the Apple Watch, but sadly couldn’t really use, was its Schooltime mode — a sort of remotely-enabled, scheduled version of Do Not Disturb. This feature blocks apps and complications and turns on the Do Not Disturb setting for the kids, while letting emergency calls and notifications break through. (Make sure to set up Shared Contacts, so you can manage that aspect.)

Currently, we have no use for Schooltime, thanks to this pandemic. My daughter is attending school remotely this year. I could imagine how this may be helpful one day when she returns to class.

But I also worry that if I sent her to class with the Apple Watch, other kids will judge her for her expensive device. I worry that teachers (who don’t know about Schooltime), will judge me for having her wear it. I worry kids will covet it and ask to try it on. I worry a kid running off with it, causing additional disciplinary headaches for teachers. I worry it will get smashed on the playground or during PE, or somehow fall off because she meddled with the band for the umpteenth time. I worry she’ll take it off because “the strap is so annoying” (as I was told), then leave it in her desk.

I don’t worry as much about the iPhone at school, because it stays in her backpack the whole time due to school policy. It doesn’t sit on her arm as a constant temptation, “Schooltime” mode or otherwise.

The Apple Watch Family Setup is also not a solution that adapts as the child ages to the expanding needs of teen monitoring, compared with other family tracking solutions.

To continue the Life360 comparison, the app today offers features for teen drivers and its new privacy-sensitive location “bubbles” for teens now give them more autonomy. Apple’s family tracking solution, meanwhile, becomes more limited as the child ages up.

For instance, Schooltime doesn’t work on an iPhone. Once the child upgrades to an iPhone, you are meant to use parental controls and Screen Time features to manage what apps are allowed and when she can use her device. It seems a good transitional step to the phone would be a way to maintain Schooltime mode on the child’s next device, too.

Instead, by buying into Apple Watch for its Family Setup features, what you’ll soon end up with is a child who now owns both an Apple Watch and a smartphone. (Sure, you could regift it or take it back, I suppose…I certainly do wish you luck if you try that!)

Beyond the overboard embrace of consumerism that is buying an Apple Watch for a child, the biggest complaint I had was that there were three different apps for me to use to manage and view data associated with my daughter’s Apple Watch. I could view her tracked activity was tracked in my Health app. Location-tracking and geofence configuration was in the Find My app. And remotely configuring the Apple Watch itself, including Schooltime, was found in my Watch mobile app.

I understand that Apple built the Watch to be a personal device designed for use with one person and it had to stretch to turn it into a family tracking system. But what Apple is doing here is really just pairing the child’s watch with the parent’s iPhone and then tacking on extra features, like Schooltime. It hasn’t approached this as a whole new system designed from the ground-up for families or for their expanding needs as the child grows.

As a result, the whole system feels underdeveloped compared with existing family tracking solutions. And given the numerous features to configure, adjust, and monitor, Family Setup deserves its own app or at the very least, its own tab in a parent’s Watch app to simplify its use.

At the end of the day, if you are letting your child out in the world — beyond school and supervised playdates — the Apple Watch is a solution, but it may not be the best solution for your needs. If you have specific reasons why your child will not get their own phone now or anytime soon, the Apple Watch may certainly work. But if you don’t have those reasons, it may be time to try a smartphone.

Both Apple and Google now offer robust parental control solutions for their smartphone platforms that can mitigate many parents’ concerns over content and app addiction. And considering the cost of a new Apple Watch, the savings just aren’t there — especially when considering entry-level Android phones or other hand-me-down phones as the alternative.

[Apple provided a loaner device for the purposes of this review. My daughter was cited and quoted with permission but asked for her name to not be used.]

Amazon rebrands FreeTime to Amazon Kids, expands paid catalog for Amazon Kids+

Amazon today announced it will rebrand its kid-friendly services formerly known as Amazon FreeTime and Amazon FreeTime Unlimited to Amazon Kids and Amazon Kids+. In addition to the name change, the services are being redesigned to include a new homescreen experience, Amazon Echo integrations, and will introduce an expanded catalog of music and video content.

To date, the services have offered families a way to use parental controls to limit screen time and children’s access to unapproved content and, for paid subscribers, Amazon offers access to a catalog of over 20,000 books, movies, audiobooks, games and Spanish-language content. This paid tier costs $2.99 per month for a single child, or $6.99 per month for a family, if Prime subscribers. Those prices jump a bit to $4.99 per month and $9.99 per month, if non-Prime customers. Discounts for longer time commitments are also available, as with the $69 annual family plan for Prime customers.

Before, kids would access FreeTime under their own profile on a Fire tablet or, for paid users, through a dedicated app for Android or iOS devices. Going forward, the Amazon Kids+ subscription will continue to work across a range of platforms, including Fire tablets, Fire TV, Kindle, Echo, iOS, Chrome OS, and Android devices.

With the update, the Amazon Kids experience for Fire tablets has been redesigned to feel more like a “grown-up” tablet, through a new profile option.

Here, Amazon Kids will organize its various sections  like “Educational,” “Apps & Games,” “Music,” “Videos,” “Books,” and more under colorful app icons. Below these are rows of image thumbnails offering more thematic groupings and recommendations, like a row of “top brands,” the child’s recently viewed content, or a row of suggested games, for example.

Amazon says this profile is best for children 8 and up, as it serves as more of a transitional step between the younger Kids experience and the jmore traditional tablet layout that parents use. Parents can enable the option under profile settings via the new “Adjust Age Filters and Themes” section in the Amazon Parent Dashboard.

Another new feature brings an Alexa feature to Amazon Kids. If kids have an Alexa device in their home, like an Echo smart speaker, they can use their tablet to broadcast a voice message to everyone in their home through the device’s “announce” feature. Because this feature means Amazon is listening to and processing the child’s voice, it will require parental consent.

Amazon says it’s also expanding its family-friendly content catalog to include hundreds more video titles for kids ages 6 to 12, including gaming playthrough videos plus PG and live-action titles from brands and characters like Angry Birds, LEGO, Transformers, Barbie, Carmen Sandiego, and others.

It has also added music stations from iHeartRadio directly to the Amazon Kids homescreen.

The rebranding is notable as it represents yet another company that’s adopting the “plus” symbol (+) to indicate a service offers premium content available upon subscription. We’ve already seen several streaming services use this same sort of branding, like Disney+, ESPN+, TiVo+, or Apple TV+, for example.

Amazon says the full rebrand will roll out over the next several months, but the new homescreen option and Alexa integration will become available within weeks.

 

Kinspire’s new app helps parents find screen-free activities for kids

A new startup called Kinspire wants to make it easier for parents to find activities to help keep kids occupied — away from a screen. The app, which launches with hundreds of activities vetted by parents and teachers alike, arrives at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has many families continuing to engage in social distancing, cutting kids off from regular playdates and other activities. Meanwhile, millions of schoolchildren are now spending long hours online, engaged in distance learning activities.

For parents, this rapid and dramatic increase in screen time has many looking for alternative ways to keep kids occupied and entertained, preferably offline.

Image Credits: Kinspire

“We needed Kinspire in our lives as parents, so we built it,” explains Rob Seigel, PhD, a father of two and Kinspire’s CEO and co-founder. “Before Kinspire, I found it stressful having to search for an activity on websites and social media, then pitch it to my kids. Inevitably after all that work, they’d say no. Kinspire is the one-stop shop where kids can choose what they want to do, not what looks fun to dad,” he says.

He also wanted the app to offer the convenience of having the instructions and the materials together in one place. When quarantine started in the U.S., Seigel put a team together and built it.

At launch, Kinspire features over 350 screen-free activities, including project-based STEAM activities from Tinkerclass, via NPR’s “Wow in the World” — a kids’ podcast designed to encourage kids to think and “tinker” with ordinary household items. None of this content, at present, is paid, we’re told.

The Kinspire community will source the activities going forward by using the app’s “add activity” feature, after first creating their profile. Seigel says the team moderates the content through a combination of an A.I. moderation service and human review.

When you first open the Kinspire app, you’ll see a vertical feed of images, similar to Instagram. But instead of artsy photos or memes, kids and parents can scroll through the activity suggestions to find something fun to do. Each activity card will feature a photo taken by the Kinspire community, which includes teachers, activity creators, as well as parents and caregivers.

Some of the initial creators participating in Kinspire include Nicole Roccaro of @naturallycuriouschildren, Kari McManamon of @entertainmytoddler, Viviana Maldonado of @makethingsbox_, and Kira Silvera of @totsonlock.

Parents can also filter the suggested activities by age, whether it’s designed for indoors or outdoors, prep time, how much parental involvement is needed, activity type, materials needed, and even the mess level involved. (Now that sounds like a parent built this!)

Image Credits: Kinspire

You can also save favorite activities you may want to try later.

As kids complete the activities in Kinspire, they earn in-app rewards as they accomplish things like doing a creative or scientific project, a nature exploration, engaging in pretend play, practicing cooking, math, music, mindfulness and more. Some of the in-app rewards turn into digital character badges for profiles. Rewards also deliver printable instructions to help kids build origami characters with paper from home.

The app could help homeschoolers, remote learners, and any other families who are struggling to come up with new ideas for kids after exhausting so many during the early days of the pandemic.

The company plans to generate revenue by adding a premium subscription that will allow parents to subscribe to individual content creators to receive exclusive, additional content within Kinspire. This also lets Kinspire’s creative content partners monetize, as they share in that revenue.

Kinspire is also working on shoppable activities, a top user request during testing. This lets parents easily purchase all the necessary materials for an activity directly in the Kinspire app, instead of having to go to Amazon or another store. Kinspire would take a commission on those purchases.

Denver and New York-based Kinspire was founded in May 2020, during the pandemic, by a team with backgrounds in tech and children’s play experiences.

Sara Berliner is on the founding team and is an advisor at YC-backed Hellosaurus, a new interactive video platform and creator tool. Before Kinspire, she co-founded children’s IP studio Star Farm (2002-2008), started and built the Kids & Family group at ScrollMotion, now Ingage (2008-2012), and was Chief Strategy Officer at Night & Day Studios, home of Peekaboo Barn, from 2012-2018. She’s also a mother of two.

Kinspire’s other co-founders Rob Seigel, Dave Tarasi, and Nate Ruiz, meanwhile, have a combined twenty years of experience at startups like HeadsUp, Nodin, SolidFire, and NetApp. CEO Seigel was previously co-Founder and CEO of HeadsUp, CTO at Nodin, and a software engineer at SolidFire/NetApp, in addition to being a father of two boys.

The startup is currently bootstrapped and raising a seed round.

The Kinspire app is a free download on iOS and Android in the U.S. and Canada.

Google launches Google Kids Space, a ‘kids mode’ feature for Android, initially on Lenovo tablets

Streaming services have built-in kids’ profiles, so why not devices? Google today is responding to parents’ demand for a better way for their children to interact with technology with the launch of the new “Google Kids Space,” a dedicated kids mode on Android tablets which will aggregate apps, books, and videos for kids to enjoy and learn from. The feature will launch first on the Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD Gen 2, but Google aims to bring Kids Space to more devices in time.

The concept is somewhat similar to Amazon’s FreeTime, Amazon’s own well-built system for parental controls and access to approved and curated children’s’ apps and media. But in Google’s case, its new kids’ mode is building on top of the company’s earlier efforts focused on designing a safer, more controlled Android experience for families with children.

These efforts began with Family Link, a series of parental control features that’s now built into the Android OS. Family Link already allows parents to set screen time limits, engage content safety filters, set privacy controls, and more. Google then expanded into kids’ app curation with the launch of a Kids tab in Google Play where it can showcase “teacher-approved” mobile apps and games.

Image Credits: Google

The new Kids Space leverages Google’s earlier work in evaluating Android apps for its “Play” tab, and has expanded its curation to now include other types of quality content. For example, Google worked with publishers to make popular children’s books free of charge in Kids Space, and at launch offers over 400 free books in the “Read” tab for users in the U.S.

In the Kids Space’ “Watch” and “Make” tabs, Google is pulling in creative content from YouTube Kids that encourage off-screen activities.

Image Credits: Google

The feature is ultimately meant to be a selling point for Android devices and a way to lock families into the Google ecosystem. This differentiates it from Amazon’s FreeTime, which only partially has this aim. Amazon’s FreeTime is largely meant to a subscription offering, and it’s one that works across platforms — including Amazon devices like Fire tablets and Echo smart speakers, but also on iOS and Android devices. Google’s Kids Space, meanwhile, is only designed for Android.

Google Kids Space is initially available on on the Lenovo Tab M10 HD Gen 2. The company said it worked with Lenovo to ease the setup process for parents and to ensure that Kids Space is a pre-loaded feature. Google says it aims to bring Kids Mode to more Android tablets soon.

Microsoft’s new Family Safety app offers parental controls across phones, PCs and Xbox

Microsoft’s new screen time and parental controls app, Microsoft Family Safety, is today launching publicly on iOS and Android, following a preview of the experience which had arrived earlier this spring. The app is designed to help parents better understand children’s use of screen time, set limits and create screen time schedules, configure boundaries around web access, and track family members’ location, among other things.

The app competes with other parental control technologies, including those built into iOS and Android — the latter of which is also available as a standalone app, called Family Link. Like its competitors, Microsoft Family Safety will work best for those who have already bought into the company’s own ecosystem of products and services. In Microsoft’s case, that includes Windows 10 PCs and Xbox devices, for example.

Also like many screen time apps, Family Safety displays an activity log of how screen time is being used by kids. It can track the hours spent on devices, including Windows computers, phones, and Xbox, as well as across websites and apps. It can also show the terms kids are searching for online.

Image Credits: Microsoft

A weekly report is emailed to parents and kids, with the hopes of encouraging discussions around healthy use of screen time. This was already a complicated subject before the pandemic. But now, with kids attending school at home and filling summer downtime with hours in games while parents still try to work without childcare, it’s grown to be even more complicated.

Initially, parents may have just given up on screen time altogether, grateful for anything that allowed them that gave them moments of peace. But with staying at home becoming a new normal, many families are now reconsidering what amount of screen time is healthy and how much is too much.

With the new app, parents can set screen time limits that apply across devices — including Xbox. These limits can be narrowly configured to allow for access to educational apps that facilitate online learning, while limiting other types of screen time — like gaming, for instance. When kids run out of time, they can ask for more and parents can choose whether or not to grant it.

Meanwhile, the web filtering aspects of the new app take advantage of Microsoft’s newer browser, Microsoft Edge across Windows, Xbox, and Android. The app will allow parents to set search filters and block mature content. Other content controls will notify parents if the child tries to download a mature game or app from the Microsoft Store, as well.

Image Credits: Microsoft

 

Parents can also control purchases by granting approval to kids’ requests, so there won’t be surprise bills later.

Plus, the app’s built-in location sharing means families can skip downloading additional family locator apps, like Life360, for access to basic location tracking features — like those that show family members on a map and lets you save favorite locations, like “Home.”

Image Credits: Microsoft

Since its preview period, Microsoft has expanded the app’s capabilities to include a handful of new features, including one that lets you block and unblock specific apps, a location clustering feature, and an expanded set of options for granting more screen time (e.g 15 or 30 mins., 1, 2, or 3 hours, etc.). Accessibility options were also updated and improved, including improved visual contrast for low vision users and additional context for screen readers.

You’ll note, however, that some of Family Safety’s experience don’t fully extend to iOS and Android, like purchase controls and web filtering. On iOS, the app can’t even track screen time usage as Apple makes no API available for this, even after launching its own screen time service and shutting down competing apps.

That’s due to how other platforms have their own operating systems and ecosystems locked down to encourage customers to only buy and use their devices. Unfortunately, that means families that have devices from a variety of vendors — like iPhone users who also game on Xbox, or Android users whose computer is a Mac, for instance — don’t have simple tools that let them manage everything from one place.

Microsoft says it will soon roll out two new features to Family Safety following its launch. These include location alerts and drive safety (e.g. aimed teen drivers),, and will be a part of a paid Microsoft 365 Family Subscription.

The new Family Safety app is rolling out now for iOS and Android as a free download. You may not be able to immediately access the app due to its phased rollout, but should sometime this week.

Roblox launches Party Place, a private venue for virtual birthday parties and other meetups

The coronavirus pandemic and related government lockdowns have led to a surge in online gaming — particularly on social platforms where people can connect with real-life friends in a virtual venue. We’re already heard of Fortnite birthday parties, Roblox playdates, and Animal Crossing meetups taking place online amid the pandemic. Now, Roblox is launching a new feature called “Party Place” to directly cater to the growing demand among users for a dedicated, private place to host virtual events.

The company’s new “Party Place” venue is based on the technology the gaming company built to accommodate its own virtual events, including its 7th Annual Bloxy Awards and the One World: Together At Home concert, hosted in April in collaboration with Lady Gaga.

The venue itself doesn’t offer any activities or games itself, but rather serves as a private place for Roblox users to gather — for example, for a virtual birthday party, a remote learning activity with classmates, for virtual playdates, or anything else. From Party Place, the group can chat and hang out as they decide what Roblox game they plan to play next.

The product is in beta testing, according to the Roblox website, and has seen only around 45.3K visits since its launch last week. Likely, many of these visits were just from curious kids poking around in public area as you can today join the Party Place venue without a private server, if you want to just see venue. Roblox, however, says it’s making private servers available for free in Party Place, so parents and kids can create a place where only those friends they directly invite can join and play.

Roblox has been doing particularly well as the pandemic has forced children to stay at home under lockdown. The entertainment platform now has over 120 million active monthly players and, as of June, surpassed a milestone of $1.5 billion in lifetime player spending, according to a report from Sensor Tower. It hit the new record only 7 months after reaching its $1 billion milestone — a surge in consumer spend attributed directly to the global COVID-19 pandemic and the related growth in entertainment platforms and social gaming.

In March, Roblox revenue grew 28% month-over-month to $69.8 million, the report found. In April, revenue grew 34% to $93.2 million. And by May, sales hit close to $103 million.

Roblox had already begun catering to players’ interest in social gaming with its launch of its “Play Together” game sort in April, which made it easier for players to find those games where you socialize with others — like visiting a virtual shopping mall, going camping, or riding virtual water slides, for example. These games also offer an option for private servers VIP servers, often for a small fee paid in Roblox’s virtual currency, Robux, which renewed on a subscription basis until you canceled.

Of course, the company isn’t the only one developing products in response to user demand for online “hangout” spots in virtual worlds. Fortnite, for instance, introduced “Party Royale,” a game mode offering a weapons-free party island featuring mini-games and, sometimes, even live concerts. Its Travis Scott concert was hosted in the game, attracting 12.3 million concurrent players at its peak.

For today’s younger players — the COVID kids, so to speak — platforms like Fortnite and Roblox are becoming their own version of a social network. The kids don’t just go online to play. They socialize, chat, and hang out with a mix of real-life friends and virtual ones, blurring the lines between online and offline in ways that traditional social networks, like Facebook, do not.

 

FTC fines kids’ app developer HyperBeard $150K for use of third-party ad trackers

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today announced a settlement of $150,000 with HyperBeard, the developer of a collection of children’s mobile games over violations of U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA Rule). The company’s applications had been downloaded more than 50 million times on a worldwide basis to date, according to data from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower.

A complaint filed by the Dept. of Justice on behalf of the FTC alleged that HyperBeard had violated COPPA by allowing third-party ad networks to collect personal information in the form of persistent identifiers to track users of the company’s child-directed apps. And it did so without notifying parents or obtaining verifiable parental consent, as is required. These ad networks then used the identifiers to target ads to children using HyperBeard’s games.

The company’s lineup included games like Axolochi, BunnyBuns, Chichens, Clawbert, Clawberta, KleptoCats, KleptoCats 2, KleptoDogs, MonkeyNauts and NomNoms (not to be confused with toy craze Num Noms).

The FTC determined HyperBeard’s apps were marketed toward children because they used brightly colored, animated characters like cats, dogs, bunnies, chicks, monkeys and other cartoon characters, and were described in child-friendly terms like “super cute” and “silly.” The company also marketed its apps on a kids’ entertainment website, YayOMG, published children’s books and licensed other products, including stuffed animals and block construction sets, based on its app characters.

Unbelievably, the company would post disclaimers to its marketing materials that these apps were not meant for children under 13.

Above: A disclaimer on the NomNoms game website. 

In HyperBeard’s settlement with the FTC, the company has agreed to pay a $150,000 fine and delete the personal information it illegally collected from children under the age of 13. The settlement had originally included a $4 million penalty, but the FTC suspended it over HyperBeard’s inability to pay the full amount. But that larger amount will become due if the company or its CEO, Alexander Kozachenko, are ever found to have misrepresented their finances.

HyperBeard is not the first tech company to be charged with COPPA violations. Two high-profile examples preceding it were YouTube and Musical.ly (TikTok)’s settlements of $170 million and $5.7 million, respectively, both in 2019. By comparison, HyperBeard’s fine seems minimal. However, its case is different from either video platform as the company itself was not handling the data collection — it was permitting ad networks to do so.

The complaint explained that HyperBeard let third-party advertising networks serve ads and collect personal information in the form of persistent identifiers, in order to serve behavioral ads — meaning, targeted ads based on users’ activity over time and across sites.

This requires parental consent, but companies have skirted this rule for years — or outright ignored it, like YouTube did.

The ad networks used in HyperBeard’s apps included AdColony, AdMob, AppLovin, Facebook Audience Network, Fyber, IronSource, Kiip, TapCore, TapJoy, Vungle and UnityAds. Despite being notified of the issue by watchdogs and the FTC, HyperBeard didn’t alert any of the ad networks that its apps were directed towards kids, not to make changes.

The issues around the invasiveness of third-party ad networks and trackers — and their questionable data collection practices — have come in the spotlight thanks to in-depth reporting about app privacy issues, various privacy experiments, petitions against their use and, more recently, as a counter-argument to Apple’s marketing of its iPhone as a privacy-conscious device.

Last year, these complaints finally led Apple to ban the use of third-party networks and trackers in any iOS apps aimed at kids.

HyperBeard’s install base was below 50 million at the time of the settlement, we understand. According to Sensor Tower, around 12 million of HyperBeard’s installs to date have come from its most popular title, Adorable Home, which only launched in January 2020. U.S. consumers so far have accounted for about 18% of the company’s total installs to date, followed by the Chinese App Store at 14%. So far, in 2020, Vietnam has emerged as leading the market with close to 24% of all installs since January, while the U.S. dropped to No. 7 overall, with a 7% share.

The FTC’s action against HyperBeard should serve as a warning to other app developers that simply saying an app is not meant for kids doesn’t exempt them from following COPPA guidelines, when it’s clear the app is targeting kids. In addition, app makers can and will be held liable for the data collection practices of third-party ad networks, even if the app itself isn’t storing kids’ personal data on its own servers.

“If your app or website is directed to kids, you’ve got to make sure parents are in the loop before you collect children’s personal information,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement about the settlement. “This includes allowing someone else, such as an ad network, to collect persistent identifiers, like advertising IDs or cookies, in order to serve behavioral advertising,” he said.