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New age-detecting system to make your smartphone childproof



Updated: Feb 12, 2018, 05:58 PM IST

Parents, take note! Your smartphone may soon be able to tell if your toddler is swiping the screen and automatically block apps that are off-limits for kids.  A number of existing smartphone apps aim to control kids' activity on phones, but could be disabled by tech-savvy children. Researchers from University of South Carolina in the US and Zhejiang University in China found that automated age-range detection would prevent kids from stumbling upon an inappropriate website or get into a work e-mail account.

The researchers observed two big differences between how children and adults swipe phone screens. Since kids have smaller hands and shorter fingertips than adults, they often touch a smaller area on the screen and make shorter swipes, said Xiaopeng Li, a graduate student at the University of South Carolina. Children also tend to swipe their fingers more sluggishly across the screen, and they are slower to switch from swiping to tapping.

To gather data on these differences, researchers built a simple app, the 'MIT Technology Review' reported. They asked a group of kids between the ages of three and 11, and a group of adults between 22 and 60 to use it. The app had participants unlock an Android phone and then play a numbers-based game on it, so that the researchers could record a variety of taps and swipes.

They also tracked things like the amount of pressure applied by a user's finger and the area it encompassed. The resulting data was used to train an age-detecting algorithm that they say is 84 per cent accurate with just one swipe on the screen - a figure that goes up to 97 per cent after eight swipes.