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YouTube Kids adds a whitelisting parental control feature, plus a new experience for tweens

Posted by | children, families, kids, Media, Mobile, parental controls, parents, streaming video, TC, Video, YouTube, youtube kids | No Comments

YouTube Kids’ latest update is giving parents more control over what their kids watch. Following a change earlier this year that allowed parents to limit viewing options to human-reviewed channels, YouTube today is adding another feature that will give parents the ability to explicitly whitelist every channel or video they want to be available to their children through the app.

Additionally, YouTube Kids is launching an updated experience to serve the needs of a slightly older demographic: tween viewers ages 8 through 12. This mode adds new content, like popular music and gaming videos.

The company had promised in April these changes were in the works, but didn’t note when they’d be going live.

With the manual whitelisting feature, parents can visit the app’s Settings, go to their child’s profile, and toggle on an “Approved Content Only” option. They can then handpick the videos they want their kids to have access to watch through the YouTube Kids app.

Parents can opt to add any video, channel, or collection of channels they like by tapping the “+” button, or they can search for a specific creator or video through this interface.

Once this mode is enabled, kids will no longer be able to search for content on their own.

While this is a lot of manual labor on parents’ part, it does serve the needs of those with very young children who aren’t comfortable with YouTube Kids’ newer “human-reviewed channels” filtering option, as mistakes could still slip through.

A “human-reviewed” channel means that a YouTube moderator has watched several videos on the channel, to determine if the content is generally appropriate and kid-friendly, but it doesn’t mean every single video that is later added to the channel will be human-reviewed.

Instead, future uploads to the channel will only go through YouTube’s algorithmic layers of security, the company has said.

YouTube Kids expands to tweens

The other new feature now arriving will update YouTube Kids for an older audience who’s beginning to outgrow the preschool-ish look-and-feel of the app, and the way it sometimes pushes content that’s “for babies,” as my 8-year old would put it.

Instead, parents will be able to turn on the “Older” content level setting that opens up YouTube Kids to include less restricted content for kids ages 8 to 12.

According to the company, this includes music and gaming videos – which is basically something like 90% of kids’ YouTube watching at this age. (Not an official stat. Just what it feels like over here.)

The “Younger” option will continue to feature things like sing-alongs and other age-appropriate educational videos, but YouTube Kids’ “Older” mode will let kids watch different kinds of videos, like music videos, gaming video, shows, nature and wildlife videos, and more.

YouTube stresses to parents that its ability to filter content isn’t perfect – inappropriate content could still slip through. It needs parents to participate by blocking and flagging videos, as that comes up.

It’s best if kids continue to watch YouTube while in parents’ presence, of course, and without headphones, or on the big screen in the living room where you can moderate kids’ viewing yourself.

But there are times when you need to use YouTube as the babysitter or a distraction so you can get things done. The new whitelisting option could help parents feel more comfortable letting their kids loose on the app.

Meanwhile, older kids will appreciate the expanded freedom. (And you won’t be constantly begged for your own phone where “regular YouTube” is installed, as a result.)

YouTube says the parental controls are rolling today globally on Android and coming soon to iOS. The “Older” option is rolling out now in the U.S. and will expand globally in the future.

Correction: An earlier version of this post referenced the lack of a blacklisting feature. This was incorrect – blacklisting by channel or video is possible. This section was removed shortly after publishing. Apologies for the error. 

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Technique to beam HD video with 99 percent less power could sharpen the eyes of smart homes

Posted by | backscatter, Gadgets, hardware, Mobile, science, streaming video, TC, wireless | No Comments

Everyone seems to be insisting on installing cameras all over their homes these days, which seems incongruous with the ongoing privacy crisis — but that’s a post for another time. Today, we’re talking about enabling those cameras to send high-definition video signals wirelessly without killing their little batteries. A new technique makes beaming video out more than 99 percent more efficient, possibly making batteries unnecessary altogether.

Cameras found in smart homes or wearables need to transmit HD video, but it takes a lot of power to process that video and then transmit the encoded data over Wi-Fi. Small devices leave little room for batteries, and they’ll have to be recharged frequently if they’re constantly streaming. Who’s got time for that?

The idea behind this new system, created by a University of Washington team led by prolific researcher Shyam Gollakota, isn’t fundamentally different from some others that are out there right now. Devices with low data rates, like a digital thermometer or motion sensor, can something called backscatter to send a low-power signal consisting of a couple of bytes.

Backscatter is a way of sending a signal that requires very little power, because what’s actually transmitting the power is not the device that’s transmitting the data. A signal is sent out from one source, say a router or phone, and another antenna essentially reflects that signal, but modifies it. By having it blink on and off you could indicate 1s and 0s, for instance.

UW’s system attaches the camera’s output directly to the output of the antenna, so the brightness of a pixel directly correlates to the length of the signal reflected. A short pulse means a dark pixel, a longer one is lighter, and the longest length indicates white.

Some clever manipulation of the video data by the team reduced the number of pulses necessary to send a full video frame, from sharing some data between pixels to using a “zigzag” scan (left to right, then right to left) pattern. To get color, each pixel needs to have its color channels sent in succession, but this too can be optimized.

Assembly and rendering of the video is accomplished on the receiving end, for example on a phone or monitor, where power is more plentiful.

In the end, a full-color HD signal at 60FPS can be sent with less than a watt of power, and a more modest but still very useful signal — say, 720p at 10FPS — can be sent for under 80 microwatts. That’s a huge reduction in power draw, mainly achieved by eliminating the entire analog to digital converter and on-chip compression. At those levels, you can essentially pull all the power you need straight out of the air.

They put together a demonstration device with off-the-shelf components, though without custom chips it won’t reach those

A frame sent during one of the tests. This transmission was going at about 10FPS.

microwatt power levels; still, the technique works as described. The prototype helped them determine what type of sensor and chip package would be necessary in a dedicated device.

Of course, it would be a bad idea to just blast video frames into the ether without any compression; luckily, the way the data is coded and transmitted can easily be modified to be meaningless to an observer. Essentially you’d just add an interfering signal known to both devices before transmission, and the receiver can subtract it.

Video is the first application the team thought of, but there’s no reason their technique for efficient, quick backscatter transmission couldn’t be used for non-video data.

The tech is already licensed to Jeeva Wireless, a startup founded by UW researchers (including Gollakota) a while back that’s already working on commercializing another low-power wireless device. You can read the details about the new system in their paper, presented last week at the Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation.

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YouTube’s app is dominating mobile video by monthly users, time spent

Posted by | android apps, Apps, hbo now, Hulu, iOS apps, Media, Mobile, streaming, streaming video, TC, Video, video apps, YouTube, youtube kids | No Comments

 Americans spent nearly a billion hours watching YouTube videos on Android this past July, according to new data released today by App Annie. That’s the largest amount of time spent in any one streaming video app in a month. The figure is yet another data point showcasing the shift in the way people are consuming video content – less in the living room, over traditional pay TV… Read More

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Free streaming service Tubi TV grabs $20 million in new funding

Posted by | Apps, films, Fundings & Exits, Media, Mobile, movies, Startups, streaming, streaming service, streaming TV, streaming video, TC, television, tubi tv, tv, Video | No Comments

 San Francisco-based Tubi TV has raised an additional $20 million for its advertising-supported streaming service for TV and movies. Investors in the round are betting on the fact that the next big streaming competitor won’t be a direct rival to Netflix and others with a subscription-based business model, but rather a free service that offers a wide variety of titles for free viewing. Read More

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Trump’s inauguration broke live video streaming records

Posted by | Akamai, CDN, live streaming, live video, live video streaming, Media, Mobile, records, streaming, streaming video, TC, trump | No Comments

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20:  Supreme Court Justice John Roberts (2L) administers the oath of office to U.S. President Donald Trump (L) as his wife Melania Trump holds the Bible and son Barron Trump looks on, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) Though some cried while others cheered, both sides tuned into to watch President Trump’s inauguration in sizable numbers – record-breaking numbers, in fact. The event has broken new ground, becoming the largest, single live news event that content delivery network Akamai has ever hosted, the company says, following an analysis of its live video data. According to Akamai, live… Read More

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Twitch opens to vloggers with launch of “IRL,” mobile broadcasting to come next year

Posted by | broadcasting, game culture, Gamers, Gaming, live steaming, live video, mobile broadcasting, streaming video, TC, Twitch, Video, video streaming, vlog, vlogging | No Comments

twitch-irl1 After slowly testing the waters with non-game related content, Twitch is officially opening its doors to vloggers. The company today is debuting a new content category on its site called “IRL,” which is where Twitch creators can broadcast anything about their life, communicate with fans, and share their opinions. In addition, because IRL broadcasting is the sort of thing Twitch… Read More

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Toca TV is a new streaming service just for kids

Posted by | Apps, children, family, kids, Mobile, parents, streaming service, streaming video, TC, toca boca, toca tv | No Comments

screenshot_1 If you have a young child, then you probably know the name Toca Boca. The popular kids app maker has produced games that have been downloaded more than 130 million times in 215 countries, and have 10 million monthly active users. Today, Toca Boca is moving into video. The company is now launching Toca TV, a new $4.99 per month subscription service offering kid-friendly videos, original… Read More

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Fullscreen’s new streaming service aims to be the MTV for the YouTube generation

Posted by | Apps, fullscreen, Media, millennials, Mobile, streaming video, streaming video service, TC, Video | No Comments

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 1.46.25 PM It’s not exactly a Netflix or YouTube rival, but AT&T-backed Fullscreen is hoping to carve out its own niche in the now-crowded subscription video market with its new service, launched this week. The $5 per month offering includes a mix of shorter, original content alongside full-length Hollywood movies and TV shows, like “Hitch,” “Dawson’s Creek,”… Read More

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Consumer Watchdog Groups Complain Updated YouTube Kids App Still Exposes Children To Deceptive Ads

Posted by | Apps, children, family, kids, Mobile, parents, streaming video, TC, television, tv, YouTube, youtube kids | No Comments

YouTube Kids Screenshot YouTube announced changes to its kid-friendly YouTube Kids mobile application this week designed to better educate parents on how the app works and the protections it offers, following a number of complaints, including those to the FTC, from consumer watchdog organizations. But the groups today are saying that YouTube hasn’t gone far enough with the updated YouTube Kids app, calling… Read More

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