PlaySquare’s Touchable Television, a free app on Apple’s App Store, is an idea we can get behind. Instead of having your kids just watch TV, they’ll interact with it.
The problem, of course, is content. There’s just not much. Right now, there’s an episode of WordWorld’s “Happy Birthday Dog” (and no, we have no idea who or what that is, either). In the show, kids learn letters and words as they watch and play.
Aimed at kids 3 to 6 years old, users can draw on the screen and become part of the story. In the “Happy Birthday Dog” episode, the dog thinks all of his friends have forgotten his birthday. The child user gathers party pieces together and gives the dog the birthday party he wants.
And if that’s all a little too much Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood for you, well, the game is aimed at your kid. If the game maker could license and use popular characters, this could be huge. Of course, it could develop its own characters and be huge, too. Either way, we like the idea.
The app was developed by a team of media folks from kid happy Nickelodeon, Sesame Workshop, LeapFrog and MIT. It features, according to PlaySquare:
•Rich, colorful, award-winning animation
•Lovable, funny characters
•Engaging, immersive story world, in which children can explore, discover, collect and create different parts of the story as they play.
•Supports development of early literacy skills, including:
Reinforces eye-hand coordination and motor skills
Here’s the full media release:
NEW YORK, NY, June 28, 2012 — Television and technology industry veterans Alex Kay, Scott Webb and Tinsley Galyean announced today the launch of New York-based PlaySquare, LLC, a new company that will develop tablet-based Touchable Television™, the next generation of children’s media for the touchscreen generation.
PlaySquare’s introduction of Touchable Television transforms television from a passive viewing experience into an active adventure in which the child is watching, thinking and doing. Touchable Television is the seamless combination of existing television episodes with interactive content that allows a child to step into and participate in the actual story of a television property.
“PlaySquare combines interactivity, creativity and exploration with great story narrative to allow today’s children – the touchscreen generation – to be part of the story,” says Alex Kay, CEO of PlaySquare. “This is the future of children’s television in an increasingly interactive and mobile world.”
PlaySquare has developed a proprietary technology and interface design that allows it to take existing video libraries and convert them into touchable, interactive experiences for the iPad based on a production platform and toolset that is quick, efficient and at a low predictable cost. PlaySquare will license properties and convert them into interactive episodes.
“After nearly 50 years of passive television watching, children can now be actual participants in their favorite television shows,” adds Webb. “They can play directly with characters within stories. This is quite simply the next iteration of where media needs to be.”
The company’s first licensing agreement, being released as an app on iTunes on June 29, is with WorldWorld, LLC. WordWorld is an Emmy Award-winning television property shown daily on PBS Kids and in over 90 countries worldwide. The original television series was funded in part by the Department of Education through a Ready to Learn grant, established to fund television programming that teaches literacy fundamentals to early readers through media. The WordWorld PlaySquare episode is free of charge for a limited time.
“We are excited to be working with PlaySquare on their innovative initiative in children’s electronic media,” says Jim Sharpe, WordWorld CEO.
PlaySquare has signed an agreement with renowned children’s media specialist Tina Peel to serve as Advisor and Executive Producer. Peel has over 30 years of experience in creating, producing, managing and evaluating award-winning television and media products for children and their families. She brings 15 years of experience at Sesame Workshop, where she was the Vice President and Project Director of “Ghostwriter,” Vice President and Project Director of the internationally acclaimed preschool series “Sesame Street,” and Vice President for Production Research. Peel has also served as an Executive Producer on the Nick Jr. series “Max & Ruby” and is an Emmy Award winning Executive Vice President of the PBS series “WordWorld.”
“As soon as I heard PlaySquare’s vision, I wanted to be a part of the team,” comments Peel. “This kind of interactivity and engagement is what all of us in children’s television have been waiting for.”
The team of media professionals behind the development of PlaySquare are uniquely suited and deeply committed to making smart, popular, state-of-the-art entertainment for children.
After a successful 13 years as an investment banker, Alex Kay, PlaySquare’s Chief Executive Officer, co-founded the Ready to Learn Partnership, recipient of a $47.3 mm grant from the Department of Education, to develop best in class literacy content for children. The result of this initiative was WordWorld.
Scott Webb, Chief Creative Officer, was the creative director of Nickelodeon for 17 years, a tenure that included launching the ‘orange’ Nickelodeon, Nick-at-Nite, TV Land and the Kid’s Choice Awards. Considered both a branding expert as well as a leader in kids’ media, Webb went on to launch or revamp several other networks including Oxygen Media, College Sports Television, and AMC’s Yeah!.
Tinsley Galyean, Chief Technology Officer, is an award-winning technologist and artist. Galyean has specialized in unique entertainment and educational user experiences for clients ranging from Disney, Discovery Kids, and Scholastic to MOMA, Sprint and Motorola. He was one of the first graduates from MIT’s prestigious Media Lab, from which he earned a Ph.D.