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WeThink - Touchable TV - Final

WeThink - Touchable TV - Final

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Published by Brian Reich
Article by Tim Shey about the iPad. Part of WeThink series (available at www.wemedia.com).
Article by Tim Shey about the iPad. Part of WeThink series (available at www.wemedia.com).

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Published by: Brian Reich on Apr 30, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Touchable TV
In 1953, be\ue000ore my \ue000ather was even born,
a show frst aired on CBS called Winky
Dink and You that most consider the frst

ever interactive television program. The
show\u2019s creators, Harry Prichett, Sr. and
Ed Wycko\ue000\ue000, had quickly realized one o\ue000
the \ue000undamental di\ue000\ue000erences o\ue000 television
versus the movies as a medium: that
television sets were in people\u2019s living
rooms, and that kids could walk right up
and touch the screen, like they could any
other piece o\ue000 \ue000urniture in their house.

The show prompted millions o\ue000 kids to
get involved in the animated adventures
o\ue000 a boy named Winky-Dink and his dog,
Woo\ue000er, by drawing on a small piece o\ue000
plastic that stuck to the TV\u2019s screen with
static electricity, using a special set o\ue000
crayons, all sold as part o\ue000 a Winky-Dink
Kit, available in toy stores or by mail. At
critical points in the show, kids could get
involved by drawing, \ue000or example, a bridge
\ue000or Winky-Dink to cross, or trace letters
onscreen to reveal a secret message. While
wildly success\ue000ul, and one o\ue000 the most
popular children\u2019s shows on TV, this early
experiment went o\ue000\ue000 the air \ue000our years
later in 1957, among concerns about

radiation and complaints \ue000rom parents
about kids who were drawing directly
on their TV screens (sometimes with
permanent marker).

Over the next f\ue000ty years, televisions
became enshrined as untouchable objects
in the household \u2013 built into cabinets,
placed on pedestals, and eventually hung
on walls as \ue001atscreen art objects, becom-
ing more and more like the large movie
screens they were once such a revolution
against. And over that same period o\ue000 time,
a small but creative group o\ue000 people within
broadcasting, producing, cable and tech-
nology companies have tried any number
o\ue000 methods to keep the dream o\ue000 interac-
tive television alive. For many years it was
the one-screen, set-top box-driven applica-
tions, popular in Europe, that seemed like
the working model: driven by an interac-
tive layer o\ue000 enhanced content, polls, trivia,
games and on-demand video, delivered
over a cable or satellite connection and
controlled by remote control, but this was
always limited by adoption and standard-
ization o\ue000 set-top boxes, especially in the
U.S. in the late 1990s and early 2000s,
the widespread adoption o\ue000 text messag-
ing worldwide allowed \ue000or SMS-driven
interactive TV, most notably in American

Idol, which became the frst interactive TV

broadcast to become truly mainstream,
even i\ue000 the interaction was limited to vot-
ing \ue000or contestants on the show.

Meanwhile, a hit series that was per-
haps closest to the spirit o\ue000 Winky Dink
debuted on Nickelodeon in 2000: Dora the

Explorer. The bilingual show is produced

with natural pauses \ue000or young children to
talk back to the screen, sing along with the
characters and solve puzzles, and while it
employs no actual interactive technology,
anyone who has watched Dora with a child
knows this is no real drawback: the young
viewers vividly imagine the connection,
and play interactive Dora games on their
computers or their parents\u2019 phones,
seeing it as a continuous experience with
the television show.

But in the mid-2000s, a truly interactive
\ue000orm o\ue000 video storytelling emerged, not on
TV, but the Internet. The rise o\ue000 YouTube
and original web series delivered by pod-
cast and \ue001ash players, consumed largely
on web browsers, personal media players
and mobile phones, \ue000or the frst time put
content in a produced, serial video \ue000ormat
within reach o\ue000 a mouse click, and over the
years creators have made the experience
increasingly interactive. Hotspots within
video, such as YouTube\u2019s Annotations
\ue000eature, have allowed producers to create
linked videos, branching storylines
and choose-your-own-adventure plots,
and even games built \ue000rom videos,
such as Barely Political\u2019s wildly popular
\u201cChris Brown Punch-Out\u201d and \u201cRush
Limbaugh Punch-Out\u201d YouTube games.

The idea o\ue000 a touchable
TV is nothing new:
it\u2019s almost as old as
television itsel\ue000.


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