Greg Skinner is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company with expertise in the youth market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf and report on the latest developments in new media and how these innovations are having an impact on the kids entertainment industry. He is still at it. If you have any suggestions or ideas for topics you’d like to see in ‘The Cyber Space,’ please contact
Greg Skinner at 416-504-6800 (phone), 416-504-4054 (fax) or email@example.com (e-mail).
By far the most important element of new media is the ‘new’ part. To be included in this exclusive group, you must push the limits in some way, while keeping consumers amped-hence such goodies as real audio, cybercasts and DVDs.
Here are a few of our picks-things we like because they’re giving the interactive industry a much-needed boost at a time when not much else is happening:
The Game Boy Pocket Camera
Remember when telecommunicating via your computer was going to be the next big reality-the screen-mounted camera, the family, everyone talking to Grandma?
Well it never took off in a big way. But no matter, because Nintendo has released its own funky version called the Game Boy Camera. It snaps on to the Game Boy (the handheld version of Nintendo’s console game player), takes pics of whatever you point it at (it stores them internally), and then budding Ansel Adamses can get creative by adding goofy animation. Take time-lapse pictures or build a slide show-it even comes with a printer. High-end handycams wish they could do as much.
What makes this product interesting is its ability to paste pictures over the faces of characters in one of the four games that come with the camera. Content producers know that kids latch on to offerings that immerse players in the action. Just imagine when this technology migrates into more complex environments, for example, when users are rendered as animated characters and integrated into actual games.
Fantasy and role-playing activities are tops with young consumers because it’s cool to be immortal. The Game Boy Pocket Camera brings us one step closer to true interactivity.
Brought to you by Timex and Motorola, Beepwear is a digital pager watch that can receive alphanumeric messages. What does this mean? It means word messages can be sent directly to your wrist watch from anywhere in the U.S. (or separately in Canada), and it’s still a digital watch with features like Indiglo, a 100-hour stopwatch and 10 different alarms.
The actual watch head can be removed from the band, dropped into a convenient little holster, and strung on a necklace or clipped on to objects like binders.
Possible applications? Think brand enhancement. For example, Nickelodeon could give the watches away as contest prizes and then page their new owners to tell them that they have new Nick e-mail messages, or send them show and promotional details.
E-mail has certainly become a ubiquitous form of communication. So for those tired of typing lengthy messages, Bonzai Software has developed the answer with Voice E-Mail v3.0 for Netscape. The program is used like regular e-mail, but instead of typing, you simply press record, squeak out your vocal message and send it. Talk about REAL Real Audio. Hearing someone’s voice is always far more gratifying than receiving a text message. And now, with the software you get the added benefits of intonation and slang (and no typos).
The technology uses ‘lossless compression,’ which means that when you receive the message, the uncompressed audio sounds exactly like the original recording. This technology adds another dimension to communications, creating a heightened sense of personal interaction and realism-something that’s missing in a lot of today’s technology. A great application would be a Web site that uses the technology to encourage visitors to send instant e-mails to their friends. Or TV fan-based sites that could enable users to receive voice e-mail from their favorite teen celebrities.
Short for digital monster, this little baby has evolved well beyond its Tamagotchi sibling. This is a virtual pet with a twist; your monster grows from an egg and lives in a rectangular cage that hangs on a key chain. You nurture and feed it like the Tamagotchi of yore, but Digimon has a greater purpose. It can be trained to fight in battles against other Digimons! After at least two days of intense training and care, you can hook your Digimon up with a friend’s (or enemy’s), and then watch them do battle on-screen. The victorious Digimon gets stronger while the loser gets weaker. A great twist to Tamagotchi, and the perfect activity for young, scrappy boys and girls. Potential applications for this product aren’t nearly as far-reaching as the other examples that we’ve looked at, but Digimon flys off the shelf, and we’re all for anything scrappy.
Each of these offerings stretches the limits of new media. Not only do they take technology to the next level, but they have a high degree of applicability in a variety of mediums. Whether you are a content producer or programmer, if you want to reach the younger generations, then take a good look at the future.
Next month, ‘The Cyber Space’ looks at the efforts of media companies (which aren’t primarily in the merchandise biz) to sell their branded wares online.