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July 15, 2010

Settle down: it’s story time

450px-Intellect_wireless_prototypeNEW YORK AND PALO ALTO, USA – Video calls using mobile devices are very new, of course. It was only in 1974 that inventor Daniel A. Henderson came up with something called the Intellect, which introduced data transmission techniques that later found their way on to mainstream mobile devices. And it was in just 2001 that the first face-to-face video-calling mobiles found their way on to the streets of Tokyo. Nokia users had to wait all the way until 2004 and the release of the Nokia 6630 before they could join in.

Despite its cleverness, the technology has reputedly been less popular than other, relatively low-tech innovations such as SMS and MMS. The reasons offered for this are varied: it’s historically been expensive; it’s not really like a face-to-face conversation as it’s hard to make eye-contact; it’s socially awkward to make such calls in public places; and some people find the idea intrusive. Or maybe a lot of us just don’t see the point.

One idea that makes video calling very much more useful has just been launched in a partnership between Nokia Research Centre and Sesame Street Workshops, though. It’s called StoryVisit.

It’s increasingly common for people to be expected to work late and thus, frequently, miss their young children’s bedtimes. StoryVisit aims to improve the lives of parents and children by allowing remote parents to read their children a story. The software supports rich interactivity beyond seeing each other’s faces. Both see the book as well as the video pictures. If the child points to something on screen, a facsimile of the pointing hand appears on the parent’s screen. If one party turns the page, then it turns for both.


As you can see, this is not a mobile offering at present and it’s hard to see how it could become one, unless a mobile device was being used alongside a traditional computer screen. Nonetheless, it’s a great example of how technology can help alleviate very common human problems. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

image credit: Wikimedia