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Xow! puts character control in kids’ hands

Banking on the exposure it built up through a wide-reaching promotion with Kids' WB! at the end of the summer, L.A.-based tech company Xow! is moving ahead with new lines of do-it-yourself animation software designed for kids and young-at-heart adults.
November 1, 2005

Banking on the exposure it built up through a wide-reaching promotion with Kids’ WB! at the end of the summer, L.A.-based tech company Xow! is moving ahead with new lines of do-it-yourself animation software designed for kids and young-at-heart adults.

Xipster’s first release two years ago was a motion-capture package called FullStop, and this early effort provided the backbone of a more advanced FreeStyle SKU that rolled out this summer. FreeStyle (US$39.95) comes with a built-in library of characters, backdrops, props, movements and visual and sound effects that kids mix with their own pics, drawings and music. Once completed, these mini multimedia projects can be burned onto DVDs or sent to friends via e-mail, instant-messaging services and cell phones.

The upgraded software caught the eye of Kids’ WB! execs, who licensed it for an on-line Mucha Lucha mini movie contest that ran from July 23 to August 5. TV ad campaigns encouraged kids to visit the Kids WB! website and download a special version of the FreeStyle software with Much Lucha characters and assets. The 30-second clips they created were then posted on the site, and five winning entries were broadcast each day from August 29 to September 2. In addition to the airtime, the winners and 100 runners-up received full-on FreeStyle software packages.

Xow! CEO Jeff LeBarton says talks are currently underway with licensors for more character lines, and Xow! is willing and able to expand or limit the use of FreeStyle’s features in line with IP owners’ concerns about maintaining brand integrity. For example, Xow! made it impossible for kids to alter the Mucha Lucha characters by disabling FreeStyle’s ‘facelift’ feature for cropping off a character’s head and replacing it with another one. LeBarton says Xow! is also open to letting companies attach their own names to the software – for example, an on-line Warner Bros. or Disney moviemaker product could be a possibility, as long as it was tagged as ‘powered by Xipster.’

Up next, the L.A.-based company is working with toycos and electronics partners on a slate of new products that will hit retail by mid-2006. In the pipeline are two motion-capture devices that let kids animate pictures of their toys and then play these sequences back on TV or PC.

Also in the works is a range of portable time-lapse cameras designed to attach to things like sailboat masts (the Tripster) and bicycle handlebars (the RoadXip) and record stunt footage that can be souped up later using the FreeStyle program. And a PDA-sized device with a built-in camera and Xipster software will make it possible for kids to create mini-movies right in their hands. The company is also looking to integrate its technology with video games down the road.

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