American Idol Adds New Twitter Fan Meter for Live Polling

“American Idol” has begun using Twitter as a platform through which to take instant audience polls. Using two possible hashtags per question, those in the audience can respond to network inquiries like: Do you agree with the judges tonight? Once the answers are submitted, Fox and partner FremantleMedia will update a graphic almost instantaneously as results come in, creating a live tug of war. Continue reading American Idol Adds New Twitter Fan Meter for Live Polling

Disney Preps Infinity: New Universe for Interactive Gaming

“Disney Infinity”is a new interactive universe that allows children to interact with figurines in a digital world. It connects characters from Disney and Pixar movies including “Monster’s University,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “The Incredibles,”although Disney plans to add more before the June launch. With characters from different franchises interacting with one another, will we see any “Star Wars” entries? Continue reading Disney Preps Infinity: New Universe for Interactive Gaming

New York City Introduces the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge in early December — “an open call for ideas to bring the payphone into the 21st century — and maybe beyond,” writes Businessweek. What might these new payphones look like? “City officials can envision payphones that are solar charging stations or places to do limited commerce — purchase tickets, say, for the theater or mass transportation. Think Internet café on the corner where anyone can look up local attractions — or the closest green market — and get directions for walking or taking public transportation,” notes the article. Continue reading New York City Introduces the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge

Former Apple Inventor Offers New Slant on the Future of Interaction Design

  • Are touchscreens the ultimate expression for us to manipulate computing devices? (See the Microsoft video included in the post.)
  • In “A Brief Rant on the Future of Interactive Design,” former Apple human-interface inventor Bret Victor opts not to address human needs or technology, but what he sees as the “neglected third factor, human capabilities. What people can do. Because if a tool isn’t designed to be used by a person, it can’t be a very good tool, right?”
  • Victor sees our hands as the central component of our interactive future. If one looks at the range of expression and control for our hands, one realizes how much more is possible.
  • Victor describes touchscreens, for example, as “pictures under glass” which ignore the fact that our “hands feel things” and “manipulate things.” “Pictures Under Glass sacrifice all the tactile richness of working with our hands, offering instead a hokey visual facade,” he writes.
  • “Pictures Under Glass is an interaction paradigm of permanent numbness,” he adds. “It’s a Novocaine drip to the wrist. It denies our hands what they do best. And yet, it’s the star player in every Vision Of The Future.”
  • Victor doesn’t have a solution or a prediction for our interactive future, but suggests we start thinking differently in order to achieve it. “Pictures Under Glass is old news. Let’s start using our hands.”

First App-Album: Bjork Releases New Collection of Interactive Music

  • Innovative Icelandic musician Bjork is combining technology and music with her release of the first ever “app-album.”
  • The collection features games, visualizations and songs that allow fans to interact with the music in a unique way.
  • “The main ‘Biophilia’ app is available for free,” reports CNN Tech. “Each sub-application, which contains a song and some sort of interactive game, costs 99 cents, or $9.99 for the whole album. A non-app version of the album also is available.”
  • “Apps and iPads are just tools — they have to be human and they have to have soul,” comments the singer.
  • Article includes podcast and transcript of CNN Radio interview with Bjork.

TED Talk: Aaron Koblin Artfully Visualizes our Humanity with Data

  • Check out this fascinating TED presentation on data visualization, crowd-sourced collaborative art projects, and the interface as a narrative device.
  • “We’re collecting and creating all kinds of data about how we’re living our lives and it’s enabling us to tell some amazing stories,” says digital artist Aaron Koblin. The TED description suggests, “his works brilliantly explore how modern technology can make us more human.”
  • Compelling tweet from the opening: “19th Century culture was defined by the Novel, 20th Century culture by Cinema — the culture of the 21st Century will be defined by the Interface.”
  • The second half ties in with interactive, collaborative music videos featuring Johnny Cash and Arcade Fire, earlier reported by ETCentric.

E-Books: Alton Brown Excited about the Future of Interactive Cookbooks

  • Alton Brown, who has made a career of introducing cooking methods and food science through innovative filmic approaches, says his latest “Good Eats 3” will be his final traditional printed cookbook.
  • The television personality and author suggests his future projects will be “immersive, highly interactive blends of text, photos and video.”
  • Brown says he plans to use 40 cameras for his next project that capture the action from all angles, so users can pan around the footage and freeze the image if necessary (which he likens to effects made popular by “The Matrix” franchise).
  • “We’re trying to figure out how to reinvent information flow, to break out of recipes,” says Brown. “Cooking is a linear process, but that doesn’t mean the information has to be delivered in a linear way.”
  • He also envisions a time when kitchen tools will connect wirelessly to tablet computers for increased interactivity.

All About the Fans: NBC Revamps Apps Based on Audience Feedback

  • Just in time for the fall premiere season, NBC has updated two of its iPad apps. The network has enabled its NBC app to stream full episodes and has added new social features to its NBC Live second screen app.
  • The new NBC Live additions are based on lessons the network has learned about how viewers have been using the app.
  • They noticed, for example, that different shows (scripted, reality and live TV) produce different viewer interaction, which has helped the network decide which shows to focus on inside the app for the new season.
  • People expect to share comments on Facebook and Twitter, and log in via either service (features that have been added to the app).
  • Some users prefer if content and interaction (such as slideshows, video and polls) did not interrupt the app conversation, so the interface has been improved. They also found that during “The Voice” last season, fans wanted to vote for contestants via the app just like they could on NBC.com.
  • Vivi Zigler, president NBCUniversal Digital Entertainment says that there’s “an elegance” to building an app with a specific purpose.
  • As for whether NBC is considering TV Anywhere authentication like Fox, “at this point, it’s not part of the plan,” she said, explaining that NBCU’s distribution arm has been examining that approach.

U.S. Schools Like the Interactivity and Visuals of the iPad

  • Apple claims there are more than 600 U.S. school districts that have at least one classroom where each student is receiving an iPad to use throughout the school day.
  • The popular tablets feature interactive programs in math, note-taking apps, videos and tutorials on everything from history to foreign languages.
  • The tablets are reportedly very popular in special education and for those who learn visually.
  • Textbook publishers are racing to develop curriculum specifically for iPads. Moreover, digital programs are less costly than textbooks and have interactivity and videos as well.
  • “I don’t want to generalize because I don’t want to insult people who are working hard to make those resources,” says Burlington High (Massachusetts) principal Patrick Larkin of textbooks, “but they’re pretty much outdated the minute they’re printed and certainly by the time they’re delivered. The bottom line is that the iPads will give our kids a chance to use much more relevant materials.”

Interactive Film: Reinventing the Traditional Music Video

The era of digital music distribution and a shift toward reality TV airing on pioneer networks such as MTV has left the traditional model for music videos in limbo. There is no longer a standard approach to production, budgets, distribution or, for that matter, a clearcut means of generating an audience or revenue.

Today’s music videos may need a new name — and perhaps even a new genre to call home. Innovative artists are leveraging a host of Internet-enabled technologies to break barriers regarding what is possible in short-form visual storytelling. One of the more interesting approaches is taking shape in the form of user control with help from interactive technologies sponsored by Google, Intel and others.

In The Wall Street Journal this week, John Jurgensen provides a fascinating snapshot of the last 30 years of music videos and what has led to this change, citing compelling new approaches from directors such as Spike Jonze and Chris Milk. Jurgensen describes several new approaches to what is being called (for the time being, anyway) “interactive films” — including a new Devo video that enables a 360-degree view of various scenes, a director’s chair feature for newcomer Andy Grammer’s video that allows viewers to select scenes, and a video for Swedish pop artist Robyn that copies fans’ tweets and integrates them into a 3D animated collage.

One of the more notable recent examples is The Wilderness Downtown, directed by Chris Milk and set to the Arcade Fire song “We Used to Wait.” Viewers can enter their home addresses, and by using Google’s maps and street visuals, they essentially personalize the experience with “virtual fly-overs” of their childhood homes (for Google, it has become a way of showcasing new functionality of its Chrome browser). Milk has reportedly been working for five months on another secret project funded by Google that puts control of the content in the hands of viewers. It is expected to debut next week.

The article also points out an interesting shift in distribution (and generating ad revenue):

Three out of four major music companies now channel their videos through Vevo, an online video player and distributor launched in late 2009. After years of licensing their videos to sites all over the Web — and seeing measly financial returns — the labels now rely on Vevo to distribute their videos online and sell ads against them. By focusing on slick presentation and sponsored video premieres, the company has pushed ad rates higher. Vevo, whose traffic includes the videos it funnels into sites such as YouTube and Facebook, is the biggest music provider on the Web, attracting 54 million unique viewers last March, up from 37.5 million in the same month last year, according to ComScore Video Metrix.

According to WSJ, the labels are starting to see financial results from the Vevo model, albeit relatively small. For example, a label whose videos accrue 10 million streams via the online player could collect approximately $70,000.

Identifying the next generation of short form video and its audience’s expectations — whether or not in the form of online interactivity — may become vital to new content production and distribution. As consumers continue to adopt tablet PCs and more dynamic media, this may prove to impact more than just music.

Related: Click here to view Chris Milk’s interactive film “The Wilderness Downtown.”

Related: Click here to view another interactive experiment from Milk, “The Johnny Cash Project.”

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