We need to talk about Apple's connected children

Enterprises must think about how augmented reality, artificial intelligence and robotics may impact the hopes and expectations of Generation Z.

Apple, iOS, iOS 11, digital transformation, AR, ARKit, Parker, Jamf, Bungie Foundation

Apple’s platform innovations are opening new frontiers in childcare and education, with iOS-friendly augmented reality (AR) toys and child-focused hospital systems showing the impact of digital transformation, from the cradle to the grave.

Blending real and virtual experiences

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” said the White Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

In tomorrow’s world, your children will also believe impossible things, as the boundaries between their real and virtual experiences dissolve.

Tech firms will need to work hard to convince the public that these new merged experiences can be trusted — take a look at reaction to Mattel’s Aristotle device, which prompted Jeff Chester, executive director of the Centre for Digital Democracy, to warn: “The kid tech industry sees kids’ bedroom as an economic bonanza."

However, interesting examples of iOS-based child-focused technology solutions abound, from iTunes U to Apple School Manager. Apple’s iPod (and iMac) kick-started a boom in digital literacy in schools, spawning a multitude of research that seems to prove that when children use familiar digital tools they like, their educational attainment improves.

More recently, we’ve seen consensus across enterprise users that productivity among grown-ups also improves when they get to use equipment they like.

The Bungie Foundation provides devices for hospitalized children

With a growing presence in enterprise IT, Jamf today announced a new partnership that puts its device management tools to work helping the Bungie Foundation reduce the stress and suffering felt by hospitalized children using technology.

The Bungie Foundation provides Seattle Children’s Hospital with iPads and fully customized, age-appropriate entertainment that child patients can use to distract themselves, helping normalize what may otherwise be frightening hospital experiences.

Jamf’s solution means hospitals can wipe loaned iPads remotely once the patient leaves hospital — but no one ever needs to touch the device or see what the child was doing. This remote management helps the Bungie Foundation meet strict security and HIPAA requirements, and it also means it will be able to better support rollout of the scheme across more hospitals.

Parker the bear teaches digital literacy, empathy

AR also seems set to enter everyday life. One of the more interesting examples of this is the recently-introduced Parker, an AR soft teddy bear designed to teach children digital literacy and empathy.

The bear works in conjunction with a free AR app and accessories, including a doctor’s kit and backpack. The app shows children how the bear is feeling and presents them with problems, games and puzzles to solve using the accessories.

It’s an interesting combination of the compulsive obsession of virtual pets, such as Pokémon or Tamagotchi, with the iconic child’s toy that is a teddy bear.

The idea is that the more children interact with the bear, the happier the bear becomes. Children are kept motivated to interact with the bear with engaging animations and new games designed to teach those children real-world skills. Conceptually, this is quite interesting, and I can’t help but imagine AR/connected toys like Parker also lay the foundations for future public acceptance of AI and robotics.

Engaging digital-savvy employees

You can’t underestimate the pester power of new generations. Enterprise chiefs already recognize the changing needs and expectations of increasingly digital-savvy millennials entering the workplace.

Digital transformation isn’t solely about putting AI inside invoicing systems; it is also about ensuring those technologies incoming employees do use are engaging, familiar and acceptable.

Sophisticated businesses understand that creating tech friction among tech-savvy staff has negative consequences in productivity, recruitment and staff retention.

Changing audiences

The extension of technology into everyday experience is entering a new chapter before our eyes.

Once dumb objects, including (but not confined to) televisions, lightbulbs, utility meters and locks, are becoming connected machines, changing the way we interact with those objects in our lives.

Spoken assistant-based technologies such as Alexa or HomePod are also becoming part of daily life, particularly among millennials who like to use them for music playback.

However, implementations like Parker the bear mean new technologies such as AR, AI, and a range of interactive experiences through digital devices (from iPads to connected kitchen kit) are becoming part of the daily lives not just of millennials (born c.1982-2002), but also of the next generation, Generation Z (those born since 2002).

This will have consequences on the hopes, aspirations and expectations enterprise CIOs must plan for as these new users begin entering employment over the coming few years.

These truly digitally native users also present fresh opportunities for innovative use of new technologies, such as AR, as the virtual and physical worlds combine. 

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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