Coming Soon: A Harry Potter Wand That Teaches Kids to Code

Kano
Kano

If you've ever wanted to learn how to code but couldn't focus long enough to finish an online tutorial, then you might want to try something a little more … magical. As spotted by Fast Company, the London-based startup Kano has partnered with Warner Bros. to develop a Harry Potter Coding Kit, which comes with a programmable wand that lets you code your own spells.

It won't make your furniture float or turn your enemies into ferrets, but it will equip you with some fundamental computer coding skills that may come in handy later. While the kit is perfect for children as young as 6 years old, it's also suitable for Harry Potter-loving adults who are new to coding.

Using a computer or tablet, players use code to navigate six areas of the Wizarding World, including Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and the Forbidden Forest. Sensors inside the wand track users' hand movements and let them cast spells, all while using a block-based coding interface and JavaScript inspector to provide a fun introduction to programming.

Here's what that looks like:

The wand pairs with the Kano app and the software is compatible with iOS, Android, Mac, and PC. Speaking about the inspiration behind the coding kit, Kano CEO and co-founder Alex Klein said in a statement, "We're surrounded by technology in our homes, workplaces, and pockets, yet only a small percent of people, less than 1 percent of 1 percent, understand the happenings behind the screen."

Kano is backed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who has described the company's child-friendly coding products as "a way for anyone to stumble onto their affinity and passion for computer technology."

The Harry Potter Coding Kit, priced at about $100, is available for preorder on Kano's website and will be sold in stores starting October 1.

[h/t Fast Company]

10 Simple Tricks for Charging Your Smartphone Faster

Makidotvn, iStock via Getty Images
Makidotvn, iStock via Getty Images

Smartphones always seem to reach low power at the least convenient moments possible. If you've ever urged your device to charge faster in the minutes before a phone interview or when you're about to board a plane, you can relate. While the easiest way to avoid this scenario is to plug in your device before the battery dips into the danger zone, if you've already reached this point, there are simple ways to speed up the charging process.

Some hacks for charging a phone faster involve steps you can take in anticipation of the next time you're surviving on minimum energy. Certain gadgets, like special chargers and battery packs, will power-up your device more efficiently than others. For moments when your phone is dying and all you have is your regular charging cable, adjusting your phone's settings to minimize the power it consumes also works in a pinch.

You can find some specific ways to charge your phone quickly below: 

  1. Plug it into a wall outlet instead of a USB port.
  1. Use a portable battery pack.
  1. Buy a special "fast" phone charger.
  1. Switch to low power mode.
  1. Switch to airplane mode.
  1. Let your phone drain completely on its own once a month to the extend the battery life.
  1. Close any background apps.
  1. Stop automatic app updates.
  1. Don't check your phone while it's charging
  1. Keep your phone out of the heat.

For more tricks for making your phone usage more efficient, check out these tips for typing faster.

Does Pushing the Button at a Crosswalk Actually Do Anything?

Pressing this crosswalk button may or may not do something.
Pressing this crosswalk button may or may not do something.
David Tran/iStock via Getty Images

Since crosswalk signals rarely seem to give you the green light (or more accurately, the white, human-shaped light) right after you press the button, you may find yourself wondering if those buttons actually work. The potentially exasperating answer is this: It depends.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that crosswalk buttons aren’t designed to have an immediate effect; they’re just supposed to tell the system that a person is waiting to cross. As CityLab explained, some systems won’t ever give pedestrians the crossing signal unless someone has pressed the button, while others are programmed to shorten the wait time for walkers when the button has been pressed. No matter what, the system still has to cycle through its other phases to give cars enough time to pass through the intersection, so you’ll probably still have to stand there for a moment.

During busy traffic times or under other extenuating circumstances, however, cities can switch the system to what’s known as “recall mode,” when pedestrian crossings are part of the cycle already and pressing the button quite literally changes nothing. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if a particular button is in recall mode, short of calling your city officials and asking an expert to come inspect it.

But if you feel like a button isn’t doing anything, there’s a pretty good chance it’s been permanently deactivated. As congestion has increased and the systems to manage it have become more advanced over the years, cities have moved away from using crosswalk buttons at all. In 2018, for example, CNN reported that only around 100 of New York City’s 1000 buttons were still functioning. Since actually removing the buttons from crosswalks would be a costly endeavor, cities have opted to leave them intact, just waiting to be pummeled by impatient pedestrians who don’t know any better.

What about 'close door' buttons on elevators, you ask? That depends, too.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER