A Dad Invented an App That Lets Parents Freeze Their Kids' Phones Until They Text Back

iStock.com/FatCamera
iStock.com/FatCamera

Parents, are you sick of being ignored by your own offspring? Worried that their lack of response to your text messages means something terrible has happened? British dad Nick Herbert was, which is why he designed ReplyASAP, an app that locks kids out of their phones until they respond to their parents’ messages.

ReplyASAP was born of a common problem: Herbert’s son Ben keeps his phone in silent mode and either doesn’t hear or ignores incoming messages from his dad. Herbert looked for an app that would override the silent function and demand Ben’s attention. That app didn’t seem to exist, so Herbert decided to create his own.

Users open the app, type out a message, and send it. When the message arrives at the other end (recipients must also have the app on their phones), it sounds a loud alarm and locks the screen, unlocking it only when the recipient responds.

Ben was happy to add the app to his phone. "It gives him the freedom to keep his phone on silent,” Herbert told Good Housekeeping in 2017, “but with the knowledge that I can get a message to him if necessary."

It’s free to send messages on the app, but Herbert says his family reserves it for urgent situations. “There is a mutual understanding that using ReplyASAP is only for important things,” he wrote on the app’s website, “and not because [Ben] needs new batteries for his Xbox controller.”

Herbert notes that while he designed the app for families, his friends quickly envisioned “grown up” ways they could use it themselves. “Their suggestions ranged from changing your order when your friend is getting the drinks in at the bar, to finding your phone when you've misplaced it at home, to work situations when you need to get hold of work colleagues quickly.”

The app is currently available for Android users in the U.S. Herbert is hoping to add an iPhone version soon.

An earlier version of this story appeared in 2017.

Now Ear This: A New App Can Detect a Child's Ear Infection

iStock.com/Techin24
iStock.com/Techin24

Generally speaking, using an internet connection to diagnose a medical condition is rarely recommended. But technology is getting better at outpacing skepticism over handheld devices guiding decisions and suggesting treatment relating to health care. The most recent example is an app that promises to identify one of the key symptoms of ear infections in kids.

The Associated Press reports that researchers at the University of Washington are close to finalizing an app that would allow a parent to assess whether or not their child has an ear infection using their phone, some paper, and some soft noises. A small piece of paper is folded into a funnel shape and inserted into the ear canal to focus the app's sounds (which resemble bird chirps) toward the child’s ear. The app measures sound waves bouncing off the eardrum. If pus or fluid is present, the sound waves will be altered, indicating a possible infection. The parent would then receive a text from the app notifying them of the presence of buildup in the middle ear.

The University of Washington tested the efficacy of the app by evaluating roughly 50 patients scheduled to undergo ear surgery at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The app was able to identify fluid in patients' ears about 85 percent of the time. That’s roughly as well as traditional exams, which involve visual identification as well as specialized acoustic devices.

While the system looks promising, not all cases of fluid in the ear are the result of infections or require medical attention. Parents would need to evaluate other symptoms, such as fever, if they intend to use the app to decide whether or not to seek medical attention. It may prove most beneficial in children with persistent fluid accumulation, a condition that needs to be monitored over the course of months when deciding whether a drain tube needs to be placed. Checking for fluid at home would save both time and money compared to repeated visits to a physician.

The app does not yet have Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and there is no timetable for when it might be commercially available. If it passes muster, it would join a number of FDA-approved “smart” medical diagnostic tools, including the AliveKor CardiaBand for the Apple Watch, which conducts EKG monitoring for heart irregularities.

[h/t WGRZ]

Uber Passengers Can Now Shush Their Drivers with a Mute Button

Spencer Platt, Getty Images
Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Even friendly and sociable people don't always feel like talking, especially if it's late, they're sad, or they're in the middle of an arduous trip. For customers of the ride-sharing service app Uber, there's now a way to terminate conversation with drivers. You simply push a button on your phone and request they stop talking.

This slightly dystopian feature is part of Uber Black, the app's premium interface for people looking for a ride in a luxury vehicle and drivers with top satisfaction ratings. If a passenger isn't in the mood for chatting, hitting "quiet preferred" on the app will notify the driver to stop speaking. They can also opt for "happy to chat" if they care to engage in conversation. It's part of a bundle of features that also allows users to ask for help with their luggage, request more time to get to the vehicle, or adjust the temperature inside the car.

The button is an attempt by Uber to address some of the ambiguity surrounding the relationship between driver and passenger for the service, which allows both parties to rate the other on the overall experience. Some passengers have felt that being uninterested in speaking to their driver might lead to a lower score.

The quiet button might eventually be rolled out to encompass all of Uber's platforms. If the idea of a human mute button is uncomfortable, passengers can also choose "no preference" and let conversation—or the lack of it—takes its natural course.

[h/t Vox]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER