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 Fair 2010.

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 minutes.”

Social Networking

Social Networking Stats:

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.

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.

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

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.

Education

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 6-8, 2011.