Friday Five: Facebook’s Messenger Kids app goes worldwide

Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Facebook expands Messenger Kids app

With kids all over the world confined to their homes, Facebook is launching its Messenger Kids app in 74 new countries (but not the UK). The app, originally launched in the US in 2017, is a way for younger kids to use a social network without the dangers of the main Facebook app (which has a minimum age of 13).

It was met with fierce opposition from parents and children’s charities for encouraging kids as young as six to spend more time online, not to mention the dangers of grooming and exploitation. But Messenger Kids continues to gain traction, and is even adding features to allow parents to give their kids more control.

2. New smartphone game to benefit the NHS

A Bristol University graduate has invented a new smartphone game in an effort to raise money for the NHS. Nic Charrington, from Tetbury, created Bio Blast after his photography business was affected by the pandemic. He came up with the idea after reading that Candy Crush makes £2m a day, which seems extraordinary.

Bio Blast is similar to Candy Crush but has a Covid-19 flavour, featuring viruses, medicines, face masks and hand sanitiser. It’s free to play but the maker is hoping to raise £100,000 for charity through ad revenue. It took Charrington just two weeks to get the app up and running — you can download it here.

3. Aldi’s traffic lights tell shoppers when to go

Doing a supermarket shop has become a tactical decision during the lockdown — go too early and you risk big queues to get in, go too late and the shelves may be half-empty. Well Aldi is doing its best to help its customers by introducing a traffic light system on its website to show the busiest and slowest hours.

Aldi is also extending its hours to encourage shoppers to spread out their visits, while stressing that the shelves will be restocked throughout the day. Personally, I’ve found the supermarket to be a haven of tranquility over the past few weeks, plus a valuable slice of time away from the house. What’s not to like?

4. Google to make data centres carbon neutral

To mark Earth Day on Wednesday, Google announced it is working to make all of itsdata centres 24/7 carbon neutral in an effort to address climate change concerns. Google says its new carbon-intelligent computing platform will match up its compute-load with low-carbon energy sources like wind and solar power.

To do this, Google is moving the timing of non-urgent tasks such as YouTube video processing and creating new Google Photo filter features to when wind and solar energy are most plentiful. The move won’t affect more essential features such as search and Google Maps, which are used at all times.

5. Get a hot spring experience in your bathroom

A group of Japanese resorts have started to upload VR footage of their hot-spring baths to help bring the onsen experience to people self-isolating at home. Simply fill your tub, add some salts, put your headset on and relax. Oh, and “be cautious not to slip or drown” — sensible advice in any situation, really.

According to the journalist who tried it, it was actually a pretty relaxing experience until the goggles started to fog up, what with the steam and everything. But the footage is pretty high quality so why not give it a try? Just don’t drop your headset.

We write about customer experience, employee experience, design, content & technology to share our knowledge with the wider community.