Rifkin's panel is Out of the Box: Toys Break the Screen Barrier.












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by Lisa A. Kerscher

Like other young girls, Elizabeth enjoyed dressing up her dolls, especially in new clothes. Sure, Barbie had plenty of outfits for sale at the nearest toy store, but every design was created by strangers and copied by the thousands. So Elizabeth was happier using some fabric scraps and tape to make Barbie's clothes herself, as generations of children before her have done for their own dolls.

But four-year-old Elizabeth wanted more. Fortunately her dad, Andy Rifkin, offered to help. He listened to what she wanted to do, outlined the idea on paper, then transposed it to the computer.

Three years later, in 1995, Mattel Media, Inc. introduced the Barbie Cool Looks Fashion Designer, a CD-ROM kit that enabled Jessica and her friends to design clothes for Barbie in 3D on the computer then print them on paper-backed fabric to cut and assemble. Today, the company offers the kit in 14 languages, and it's been the top-selling award-winning software title for children the last two years.

Rifkin, now senior vice president of Mattel Media, says he just wanted to fill his daughter's need. "I didn't see a lot of computer software for girls at the time," he says. But he saw that Elizabeth and others "wanted to be in charge and make decisions." The product lets the artist pick from 80 different fabric patterns, use over 35 colors, and see what the outfit looks like in five different settings - from the workplace to the beach, then play with it and share it with others.

A couple of decades ago, interaction to most people often meant using a joystick to play a video game, like Space Invaders, which tended to be both isolating and combat-oriented.

Today, interactivity takes on a variety of forms - ranging from simple website links to on-site entertainment displays, like DisneyQuest, that surround participants in a fictional world. Like Space Invaders, they all rely on mutual and relatively immediate recognition and feedback. But as technology has evolved, so has interaction. Guided by peoples' needs and creativity, computers are now letting us explore and share our unique and human personalities by recognizing and responding to more of our senses, desires, and capabilities.


Modeling | Rendering | Animation | Interaction | Virtual Reality | Synthetic Actors