Children’s Interactive Media Presentation at the Dust or Magic Conference

(Have you found a balloon?)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been a part of a conference called Dust or Magic held in Lambertville, NJ, for many years now. This conference reviews the best interactive products developed for children over the past year. It’s attended by many noteworthy electronic toy developers, video game developers, child researchers, and content experts. This year I was asked to be the closing speaker (November 7, 2006) and I decided to do something really different.

My presentation was delivered through a parody of the successful Nintendo DS learning game called Brain Age. Before the presentation started, I handed out laser pointers to the 60 or so conference attendees. I instructed the audience to participate with my presentation through the use of these laser pointers.

The content of my presentation covered a variety of topics touching on children and interactive products, including:

  • Children and the time they spend with objects that have screens. Among the stats shared, new research indicates children 1 year old and younger are watching just about 80 minutes of television a day. 19% of this demographic also has a TV in their bedroom.
  • Revenue trends in the toy and video game markets. The NPD Group projects a big year for the toy industry, with supercategory leaders in Learning & Exploration (toys that teach, now showing a six year growth trend) as well as Youth Electronics (the blending of toys and consumer electronics). For the video game industry, we are just at the beginning of a new console revolution by the three main platform leaders; Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.
  • Alternatives to user input in technology toys. Expect to see more dance pad, bongos, guitars, digital cameras, and other motion based input devices.
  • Opportunities to be found within the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative out of MIT’s Media Lab. Even if this initiative only partially succeeds, it has already sparked a technology race to create cheaper hardware components that run on less power and has added fuel to the open source movement.
  • How best for large corporations to get technology traction in the living room. If plug and play electronic toy devices are so prevalent now, and High Definition Televisions (HDTV) are projected to overtake our living rooms within the coming years, isn’t it possible that computer products in the future will ship without a screen to be plugged into your home HDTV?
  • A discussion about the idea of childhood and what we can do collectively to improve childhood for children everywhere (I called this part Childhood 2.0.) Children have remained the same throughout the ages… It’s the society around children that has changed. Being aware of this allows one to see that actions taken by adults in commerce, healthcare, government, and many other social institutions shape the idea and experience of childhood. Collectively we have the power to improve childhood for all children through our thoughtful actions.

Within the game Brain Age, the user is often asked to write down an answer to a question on the game screen using a stylus pen… a question like “What did you have for breakfast last Monday?”. I asked my audience the question “What can you do to make childhood better for children?” Each member of the audience wrote an idea down on an index card that was handed out at the beginning of the presentation. The audience later learns that the ideas they wrote down will be tied to balloons and launched into the great blue sky. (After the event, a couple of participants expressed concern about released balloons causing harm to wildlife and sea creatures. Researching the matter online I found a detailed article about Balloon Releases which states latex balloons are biodegradable and the potential harm to land and sea creatures is virtually nonexistent.)

My presentation is posted on YouTube in 6 parts (click a video clip number to see any of the posted videos: 1, 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 ). The videos collectively make up a runtime length of 34’14”.

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