Tuesday, 21 September 2010

3 year old buying iPad apps - and what it means for the future

A couple of days ago I saw something back home in Australia that really piqued my interest. It was an article about a three year old toddler that had managed to purchase over $50 (AUD) worth of Apps via her iPad (given to her by her parents as a learning tool). For the purposes of this article, lets try withhold any judgment on if a three year old ‘should’ have an iPad or not.

Back to the story. As her mother describes it:
"It turns out that after you buy one app, which I had bought for her, it doesn't ask for the password straight away, so she's then not played the game I bought for her, [but instead] decided that 'I'm going to go into the app store and buy a whole lot of apps.'"

There are a number of interesting things going on here:

1.A three year old toddler is technically savvy enough to navigate the app store and download apps that interest her.
2.The app store is user friendly enough for a three year old toddler to download apps that interest her.
3.The app store is insecure enough for a three year old toddler to download apps that interest her.

Of course a combination of all of the above created the situation but truth be told, the most fascinating part of the article for me was something that occurred further down.
The toddler’s mother, Leigh, states;
"She's not really good with the [computer] mouse, which is why the iPad is so good. I got the iPad and now she's trying to touch the screen on my computer but that doesn't really work."

This simple statement set off a lightbulb for me. This three year old toddler is already so ingrained in gesture based interaction, via a touch screen, that mouse based interaction does not compute. Simply fascinating.

It doesn’t stop here. We could hypothesise that her older sibling may have an Xbox, and may have pre-ordered Microsoft’s new gesture based gaming device the Kinetic (one of many gestural interaction devices arriving in your home imminently). When this device arrives we suddenly have a three year old child actively engaging with computers in ways that were previously not possible with traditional interaction devices – the mouse or joypad.

Computing until now has required us to control a device (mouse, keyboard, touch-pad) while visually focussing on another point in space, the screen. This is fundamentally unnatural. No other interaction in our world acts in this way. Now that we have changed the way we interact with technology to mirror how we interact with our world stories like this may become commonplace.

For our three year old, not only does this open up a whole world of possibilities from a learning standpoint, e.g. interactive games as teaching aids with the Kinetic, but beautifully demonstrates how the next generation become so natural with new technology. By the time she is old enough to understand how it was done before; she most likely will not have to.

Posted by Stephen Neville, ZenithOptimedia International

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