Internet Thought Leaders Address CE Week Audience

CE Week Internet Safety Tools and Strategies

Come on, ‘fess up: Each of us knows someone that’s done something really regrettable on the Internet. Maybe it’s not on the Anthony Weiner scale, but a wrongly-worded email, unintended recipient, infidelity, or a rant about the boss can have huge consequences for kids and adults alike.
At the recent CE Week event, we brought attention to the some of the new issues and the new tools designed to help create a safer (and less regrettable) experience…
  • See a demo of whatswhat.me, a program that makes use of facial recognition to keep kids safe inside their community.
  • Learn about Ohanarama, the first intergenerational social network for grandparents and their grandchildren.
  • Explore WhyVille, a decade-old social network for tweens, and see how they solve problems collectively while having fun.
  • Finally, meet Wayne Green from Intel, and find out how Intel views a kid-safe PC as an entire ecosystem. McAfee’s Stanley Holditch shows how education and tools combine to combat internet trouble.
Despite the creative solutions, the plot thickens. Hemanshu Nigam, a former prosecutor with the Department of Justice, leads a riveting discussion about sexting, what it is and why people do it.  He’s joined by danah boyd, from Microsoft Research, Jack McArtney from Verizon, and Michelle Chisolm from Sprint, who offer some tremendously important insight on how we need to manage this issue so that we’re not convicting minors for sexting, since they are the very people we seek to protect. This multi-part video explores the youth culture, it’s attraction to celebrity, and how that interplays with the rise in risky Internet behavior. ( part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5).
The outcome of debates like these affect all of us and all of our businesses. A misspent moment on the Internet should never ruin your day, week, or life, and our industry needs to make sure that we’re doing our part to optimize the good outcomes.

Sid Meier’s Civilization Marched On Without Me

OMG, I left town for a week’s vacation and returned to a new era. Trees have sprouted, corn is growing and roads are flourishing. On the flipside, I’ve lost my gold and have absolutely no science points left to my name.

And so it goes in the new social-networked beta version of Sid Meier’s Civilization World. The original Civilization appeared as a PC game in 1991 and has gone through many incarnations. This is the first truly social version. On Facebook it’s your team strategies and tactics that advance your civilization.

Of course my teammates are probably ready to toss me to the enemy, because the play is large, complex and I can’t say I fully understand it yet. Your civilization begins with a pretty blank slate. You add buildings,   transform farmers into soldiers, research, fight, build libraries, explore and more in order to grow  your civilization.  You’ll work with your teammates via chat and a steady stream of  feedback to assume your rightful place in the game’s hierarchy,.

To its credit, 2K, the publisher has done a great job of letting casual gamers like me into the game with minimal embarrassment, even when flanked by hard core Civilization junkies. They’ve also taken the Facebook ambience and richly integrated it into the play. The game is free, but if you really want to get ahead quickly you’ll spend some real dollars to purchase Facebook dollars and buy stuff to get you there faster.

I check in daily and the minions are growing. While, I’m certain that I’m not bound to be a leader in our new world, I’m guessing that  CivWorld, as it’s called on Facebook, will grow quickly. The hardcore will attack the game with Farmville like ferocity; the rest of us will dabble in Civilization.

Leapfrog Hops into the Kiddie Tablet World

Leapfrog Hops into the Kiddie Tablet World

With Apple’s iPad becoming de rigeur equipment for raising a smart kid, companies like Leapfrog and Vtech that made kid-sized versions of adult electronics were caught off guard.  Leapfrog is hoping that its new LeapPad – which looks every bit like a kid’s iPad should,  will take off when it ships later this summer.  (You can preorder on the website now.)

Unlike pricey tablet pcs, the LeapPad is under $100 and offers an experience that blends the company’s pedagogical roots with tablet functionality.  On the plus side, it looks very cool, and surprisingly non-babyish. It’s got a built in still and video camera, a bright five-inch touch screen, and iPad-like navigational buttons.  It has a stylus for input as well, something that the company says teachers ask for so that kids learn penmanship. A built in accelerometer lets you play a variety of games that involve tilting the tablet – just like an adult tablet.  The unit comes with 4 activities to get you started.  And it’s backward compatible with Leapfrog’s Explorer games and apps.

Now for the  drawbacks.  The LeapPad has no internet connectivity.  You can use the cartridges sold by Leapfrog or you can load new titles from your PC using an l SD card.  While some parents will breathe a sigh of relief that the kids won’t be surfing the web, others will lament the fact that they won’t be able to access new title or any of the iPad’s hundreds of great kids apps.

And depending on which side of the child development debate you’re on , you’ll also find that the LeapPad is boring in comparison to the iPad’s many publishers/many looks app world. The books, art and games on the LeapPad are created by LeapPad, for LeapPad.  In contrast Apple draws on a rich development community.

Finally, while the price of the unit is fabulous, the price of new games will be somewhere between $15 and $20.  Contrast that to the iPad’s  “couple a bucks” approach.

What to do?  That depends on your parenting philosophy.  LeapFrog has committed a wealth of knowledge into helping kids turn into readers and thinkers. It’s a strategy and learning plan as much as a piece of hardware.  iPads are frightfully expensive and you put the pedagogy in your own hands by selecting apps.  Either way, the kids are going to be just fine.

Parents: New Action Figures Will Confuse You, Delight Them

Imagine you’re walking down the aisles of any big box store and get to the action figures. Other than big, medium and large they all look the same. But a select few of them capture the essence of the new online play pattern where the toy is blended with a video game for an unusual experience. Kids will be able to have a “pervasive” play experience. Parents will get added value because the toys are a two-for one: action figure and interactive video game.


To the naked eye, Activision’s Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure’s game figures look like normal action figures. One of the more recognizable is Spyro the purple dragon. Set any character down on the included “Portal of Power” and they communicate with the game, and save the sessions to continue next time. Activision calls it “magic”, but it’s more likely a Near Field or RFID technology that talks to the toy.


A $70 starter pack gets you 3 action characters. Each character has a certain pedigree with unique personality traits, strength and weaponry. Parents, don’t even try to understand the story line, which involves every archetypal play pattern from defeating Kaos, to controlling Earth, Wind and Fire (and Water, too). But mostly it involves moving around and battling things.


Coolest thing? It’s a cross platform, agnostic play. You buy a starter pack for Wii, PS3 or other platform, but once you’re attached you can move your character to any portal, or even play online, without a game machine, because they assign your character a special ID tag. So Timmy can take his Wii action character over to Jimmy’s Playstation, and when it’s placed on the Portal the action starts up again.


Bossa Nova’s Mechatars takes the notion of saved states of play one step further. At the store you buy your basic wireless-remote transformer toy, replete with its own characteristics and arsenal. The toy has a dedicated IP address and it stores the game play in the “cloud”. This means that the possibilities for play are endless. Via a USB port you download a mission into the guts of your Mechatar and standby for directions.


The storyline involves humans teaming up with robots for the greater good. The missions and games are browser based, hence always changing. And because the game play lives in the cloud you can play your missions online in the virtual world, offline on the living room carpet, in real time against opponents, or on your own schedule against an online world of opponents. A single Mechatar toy costs $40.


Parents will flock immediately to the aspirin as they try to understand these new play patterns. Kids will dive right in. Toys like these have been around forever, but now the play gets an expanded virtual life.