Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Feature: Kids and Mobile Play

For the next three months, I will be conducting research for one my professors on mobile technologies and kids in the UK. As part of this project, I will be posting relevant news items, reports / articles of interest and (eventually) some of my research findings in the form of two new regular features -- one that will explore Kids and Mobile Play, and one that will discuss issues around Families and Surveillance.

This inaugural installment of Kids and Mobile Play links to news articles about two new mobile technologies for kids. The first, as reported by Warren Buckleitner in the New York Times, is a fascinating attempt to link a number of contemporary trends within kids culture...virtual pets (in this case, Moshi Monsters), online worlds ( and mobile phones (MoPods cellphone charms). Here's an excerpt from Buckleitner's article:
In a twist on the Webkinz model — pairing a password-tagged toy with an online world — Moshi Monsters ( are a family of six monsters that live in a light-up cellphone charm and, virtually, in an online home you create. The charms, called MoPods, were marketed last year in Britain. They contain a receiver that detects the faint signal emitted when cellphones send or receive messages, even when the ringer is silenced. They respond with a 15-second burst of L.E.D. fireworks, while the monster spins inside the plastic bubble.

According to the article, the companion online world is pretty limited. Players are required to visit the site and solve puzzles in order to feed their monsters and buy them furniture for the monster's online home. There's also an interesting surveillance that the MoPods detect each other's presence. Buckleitner suggests that "Teachers may also find an unexpected use for the MoPods: monitoring illicit in-class cellphone use."

The second news item of interest comes from
and reports on NTT DoCoMo's new kid-friendly 3G phone and bracelet set. The product is being marketed primarily for its "safety and convenience" features, but also appears to provide a number of play opportunities. Still, it's hard to tell if this one should go in play or surveillance...I suppose there will be a lot of overlap between these two categories, as the same features can often be used for both. Here's the description from
In an emergency, the child can quickly switch on the phone's 100-decibel alarm, which produces two types of noise alternately. When the alarm is activated, the phone also emits a bright light (high-intensity LED) that is easily visible to people in the surrounding area. The phone can be set to automatically notify loved ones when the alarm is activated, and provide the handset's current location as well.

... Another neat feature, if the phone's power is switched off, a presetting can enable the handset to automatically turn back on (in as little as five minutes) and message the incident and the phone's location to a registered DoCoMo phone visible to people in the surrounding area.

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