10th Annual Dust or Magic Conference Highlights
November 16th, 2010 | A select group of
children’s product technology experts gathered at the 10th
annual Dust or Magic Conference from November 7-9 to
discuss the relationship between digital trends and child development,
and to evaluate the hundreds of children’s technology products
launched in 2010.
The aim of the event, held in Lambertville, NJ, and sponsored by the
Children’s Technology Review, was to establish the best
practices for empowering children through interactive media by way of
seminars and product demonstrations – conference attendees tested
and reviewed emerging technologies in play products for kids, including
multi-touch screens, 3-D options (like Nintendo DS 3-D), augmented
reality toys, mobile applications, and movement-based interfaces (ex:
Kinect for Xbox 360, Sony PSP Moves).
Discussions were led by representatives of a broad range of
industries, including toy experts, academics, entertainment industry
professionals, children’s researchers, and web developers. Some of
the companies and organizations represented at the conference this year
included Fisher-Price, Learning Games Lab, Disney, Duck Duck Moose
Design, the American Center for Children and Media and the
Parents’ Choice Foundation. The Toy Industry Association (TIA) was
represented by toy trend expert Reyne Rice, who gave a presentation on
key trends in the toy industry identified at Toy
According to conference facilitator Warren Buckleitner of the
Children’s Technology Review, the ultimate goal for
experts in the field “should be in designing interactive media
products that make the best use of precious childhood
Products and brands that incorporate social networking and social
expression were shown to blur the lines between offline and online play,
opening up new, multifaceted and participatory worlds to youngsters.
Facebook has more than 500 million active users
… 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day …
the average user has 130 friends … people spend more than 700
billion minutes on Facebook each month.
Mandeep Singh Dhillon, the CEO of Togetherville, a new social
networking community that is a safe, free, online
“neighborhood” for kids under the age of 10 and their
parents, commented on how quickly society has embraced social networks
and social gaming and urged event participants to help involve children
in the evolution in a responsible manner.
Lane Merrifeld (Executive VP, Disney Interactive Media Group) and
Krista Marks (General Manager, Disney Online Kerpoof Studios) discussed
the future of Disney’s online worlds and spoke of Disney Create,
which allows kids to add Disney characters to their own comics, online
drawings, and mashups, as a platform for engaging children online.
Transmedia storytelling – moving characters from books to films
to video games to make them stronger and more compelling – was
also identified as a significant theme. Jesse Schnell, Professor at
Carnegie Mellon University and CEO of Schnell Games, discussed the
benefits of consistent storytelling across multiple media platforms.
Carolyn Handler Miller, author of Digital Storytelling: A
Creator’s Guide to Interactive Entertainment, discussed virtual
worlds and user-generated content. Miller pointed to the use of digital
storytelling techniques for information, education, training, promotion
and marketing. Currently, Miller is working on the Jasmine Club, a
comprehensive, fully interactive social networking website targeted to
girls in the Middle East.
Multiple speakers explored the role of gaming in the classroom.
Experts proffered tips and techniques for creating lasting, interactive
and engaging games and digital media product lines that entertain,
inspire and educate the participants.
Industry experts focused on pencasts, smartboards and gaming as ways
to make learning in a classroom setting more relevant to today’s
digital natives. Jim Marggraff, founder of LiveScribe, shared his new
mobile computing platform – the smartpen – which enhances
methods of accessing and sharing written and spoken information.
The conference’s title “Dust or Magic” was
inspired by 17th century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho, who posited that
"an idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs
against it." The next Dust or Magic Conference will be held November