Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pittsburgh Puts Robots to Work, And Some Can Even Be Eaten

PITTSBURGH -- Most robots are functional. Only a few are edible, even nutritious.

Mickey McManus took five seedless cucumbers, carved them so they looked
like fingers and anchored them to a hunk of Edam cheese. To this
"hand," he attached a small electronic device, programmed to respond to
sound; when someone laughed or clapped, the fingers flexed. He brought
his cucumber robot to a wine-and-cheese party as an appetizer, along
with a robotic Rice Krispies Treats man that pivoted whenever the
lights dimmed.

Mr. McManus is neither chef nor computer scientist. He's a Pittsburgh executive who, along with about 500 ...

Article Link

Dizzywood Gets $1 Million For Kids Virtual Worlds

Kid-oriented virtual worlds continues to be a hot space… Dizzywood, a new virtual worlds startup for kids, has raised $1 million from the European Founders Fund, according to peHUB,
citing a regulatory filing. The SF-based company has previously
announced funding from Charles River Ventures and Shelby Bonnie. The
company was founded by Scott Arpajian, longtime head of CNET’s (NSDQ: CNET), Sean Uberoi Kelly (ex-Wallop) and Ken Marden, previously at Hasbro.

Article Link

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Erector's $300 Spykee gets a ship date: October 15th

If a pre-order page on Amazon is to be believed, the Spykee Spy Robot should be released on October 15th. It's sporting a hefty $299.99 price tag and a recommended age of 8-years and up, but we'll need to see some actual shipment notifications later this fall before we really get our hopes up.

Article Link (Engadget)

Friday, August 22, 2008

VIA shows off EPIA Pico-ITX-based robots

VIA looks like its not wasting any time in stepping up its efforts to get its more specialized boards and chipsets into as many devices as possible, and it's now taken advantage of the Taipei International Robot Show to show off their potential for robotics. Leading the way is Lynxmotion's Johnny 5 robot above (yes, that's actually its name), which has been outfitted with VIA's new EPIA P700 board and VX800 unified chipset just for the show. That, VIA says, offers a whole host of advantages over other systems, including "far easier" software development. Of course, VIA also sees plenty of potential beyond hobby kits, with it also showing off an EPIA Mini-ITX-based version of the Vecna Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (or BEAR), and it touting the benefits of its Pico-ITX platform for all sorts of "extremely space constrained robotics designs."
Article Link (Engadget)

Google's Lively

IT SOUNDED like a brilliant idea. Google, the internet giant, would bring 3-D virtual worlds to the masses by making them accessible through a web browser. Millions of people log into virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft and Second Life every day, but they require special software and their complexity can be daunting to newcomers. So Google’s launch of Lively, in July, seemed to have great potential. But in the weeks since it opened its virtual doors, Lively has remained surprisingly lifeless, hosting a dwindling number of users and prompting a string of negative reviews.

Lively is a simple environment, amounting to little more than a series of 3-D chat rooms. To enter, you must first download and install a plug-in for your web-browser. You can then choose from a list of rooms, the most popular of which are (inevitably) themed around sex and dating. And although some popular rooms—“Love Sweet Love” and “Sexy Babes Club”—have had thousands of visitors, the number quickly drops into the double digits further down the list. Hardly anyone is using Lively.Why has it been such a flop? “There’s nothing to do in Lively if you’re not talking to someone,” says Greg Lastowka, an expert on virtual worlds at Rutgers School of Law in New Jersey. Second Life, he says, offers “commerce and creativity”, and Club Penguin (a popular virtual world for children, owned by Disney) has lots of built-in games.

Not all users are disappointed. Kathleen Schrock, an early adopter of Lively, signed up after using Second Life for nearly two years. Unlike many people, she appreciates its simplicity. “It’s so easy to use,” she says, making it much more approachable for anyone put off by what she calls “the hurdle of Second Life”—the time it takes to get started.

Google denies that it is beaten yet. Mark Young, a member of the Lively team, admits that it has a lot of problems: crashes, log-in difficulties and hard-to-read text. When asked what he hopes to tweak, he says: “Everything. Much of the user interface is not as complete or polished as planned in designs.” He promises a round of updates soon.

Article Link (The Economist)


So far iFund has financed [...] a soon-to-be-announced company that creates virtual worlds that one enters through the phone.

But some industry analysts are skeptical. Paul Kedrosky, a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, which studies entrepreneurship, said a mobile software company would have to be sold for $90 million to $150 million after eight years for venture investors to earn an 18 percent compound annual rate of return on their $5 million investment. “Based on that size, you’d be the biggest mobile software company in the world,” he said.

Article Link (NYTimes)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Most Popular Websites For Kids

our coverage of the mainstream web, in this post we look at some of the
most popular websites for kids. We've gathered information from a recent report (pdf) from Nielsen Online, via Marketingvox, which studied the online habits of Britons under the age of 23. We also polled friends of RWW via Twitter.

The Nielsen report concluded that entertainment sites have the greatest affinity with under 12s, games sites for 12-17 year-olds, and student and video sites
for 18-22 year-olds. We're all familiar by now with the latter 'young
adult' demographic, who are big users of social networks and video
sites like YouTube. But let's look more closely at what the under 12
and 12-17 year old demographics are using on the Web.

< 12 yrs Like Entertainment; TV Networks Dominate

The above table is ranked according to percentage of <12 yrs in
the audience, so the sites listed aren't necessarily the largest ones.
Also as it's a British study, somewhat predictably the BBC has the 2
sites with the largest audience. Despite those caveats, one trend is
crystal clear here: most of the most popular sites for under 12's come from television.
These brands dominate the list of top websites for this age group:
Nick, Cartoon Network, the BBC's CBBC and CBeebies and Disney
International. So the Internet, for under 12s, is very much about
entertainment and unsurprisingly TV networks use the Net to extend
their brands.

interesting also to note that there is potentially big money for
startups targeting kids, in terms of acquisitions by the big tv
networks. Just last year Disney paid US$700M to acquire virtual world Club Penguin,
one of the sites listed above. And needless to say, kids love it. RWW
reader Richard Lusk says that "my daughter (12 yrs old) LIVES on Club
Penguin." Many other friends of RWW listed Club Penguin too (see list

The site at the top of the list, with 32% of UK Unique Audience Under 12, is Swedish fashion community site Stardoll. At this site, users can dress up and play with dolls virtually. Membership is free and the company states that most of their users are girls between the ages of 7 and 17. Stardoll says that it has around 16M 20M users [Update: Stardoll contacted us to say that they passed 20M members last week]. It's had about $10M
in funding so far from the likes of Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital
Partners, so it is another example of how big the Internet market for
kids is.

Article Link

Product Unboxing

Yeah, we know that the video posted after the break is a corporate promotion loosed onto the Internets in hopes of going viral. But damn if this unboxing doesn't match our vision of how these oft tiresome rituals should be.

Article Link (Engadget)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Retailers 'Sell' to Young Virtually

Retailer Kohl's Corp. this month launched a new line of apparel, but
the plaid skirts and printed T-shirts won't be sold in its 957 stores.
Instead, it's selling them on, a virtual community for
teens and tweens where kids can fork over "Stardollars" -- purchased
online at a nominal sum -- to buy apparel for their online characters.

With back-to-school sales off to a slow start, more old-line retailers
and clothing labels are reaching out to kids online, enticing them to
try virtual versions of their togs in hopes of making actual sales
later. Kohl's
first virtual line features pieces from its new Abbey Dawn collection,
designed by singer Avril Lavigne. In its first 16 days, Kohl's Stardoll
boutique logged some 2.2 million visits and sold 1.8 million items. lured 97,000 visitors who clicked through from the boutique

Article Link

Monday, August 18, 2008

Next Stop For Lego: Cyberspace

Toymakers, like other global
companies, have been facing soaring oil and raw material prices. But an
aggressive cost-cutting program has helped Lego, the
Danish toy company, offset these problems. In an interview with, its chief executive, Joergen Vig Knudstorp, talks about
other challenges toymakers face and his ambitions for growth in the
online world.

Forbes: What are the challenges in the toy industry?

Joergen Vig Knudstorp: At the corporate front, an increase in raw
material prices and transportation costs that are hitting everyone. On
the demand side, children tend to get older at a younger age, in many
parts of the Western world. We face the penetration of the electronic
media as now children spend more on electronics. These trends are

Article Link

Stardoll Hits Ten Million - Uniqueness of Stardoll

The Stardoll community express themselves in a number of unique ways:

They create their own “MeDolls,” which they design in their own
likenesses by choosing from a variety of virtual facial shapes, eyes
brows, skin tones, hair styles, lips, faces, eye colors and chins;
dress those MeDolls in an array of Stardoll brands all available in the
glittering StarPlaza—a new complex of stores and celebrity boutiques.
Styles range from the couture feel of Voile and Fallen Angel’s goth
textures to the 80s Nostalgia of Pretty in Pink and urban edge of
They furnish their own virtual suites with pets, furniture and posters by shopping with Stardollars;
interact in unique “clubs” that users can build and join. Stardoll
clubs are a great way for members with similar interests to make
friends, swap style tips, share decorating ideas and play games;
craft well thought out promotional campaigns to become the next
Stardoll Magazine cover girl by broadcasting messages to the entire
site and petitioning the community for their vote. Generally, when the
cover girl is announced the next time she visits her virtual suite
she’ll have dozens of virtual gifts from members across the world
congratulating her. (Interestingly, one of the most popular gifts is a
virtual Dutch porcelain pig.)

Article Link

Stardoll Doubles Membership Over Year to Hit 20M Registered Users

Stardoll announced yesterday that it had reached 20 million registered users, double the 10 million registered users that Stardoll announced just over a year ago
and continuing to grow at about 25 thousand new registrations per day.
Over the year, the company also says that it has seen a 33% increase in
monthly unique visitors, bringing the total to 36 million visits from
over 8 million unique users. Stardoll shared some other stats tracking
use since its launch in 2006: 208,287,567 virtual items sold,
1,784,647 items created by users, and 787,000 clubs formed by the
community. "In less than a year, Stardoll’s membership has more than
doubled—skyrocketing to 20 million,” CEO Mattias Miksche said in a
statement. “There are now more people in the Stardoll community than
in all but six countries within the European Union; if we were a U.S.
state, we would be the third most populous; and we’re approximately as
big as the entire continent of Australia. These numbers continue to
illustrate Stardoll’s success as one of the most popular destinations
on the Web."

Lego CEO Wants 1/5 of Revenue to Come from Online

There are a lot of reasons that the toy
industry is looking to the virtual world. Richard Gottlieb, a toy
industry commentator and President of Richard Gottlieb &
Associates, LLC, offered several of them in a March MyTurn piece:
kids are increasingly comfortable with digital play, costs of
production for physical toys are on the rise, and an opportunity to
extend play in new directions. Lego, along with many others in the toy industry, is taking notice. In an interview with Forbes,
Lego CEO Joergen Vig Knudstorp notes the increasing cost of raw
materials and explains that the upcoming Lego Universe is part of a
large step in a new direction. "We are not a true Web 2.0 type of
business yet, but the 'Lego Universe' is our first attempt [to enter]
that world," said Knudstorp. "We want to have 20.0% of our revenues
coming from the online business, but we also want Lego to stay very
physical and real."

Miniature "balancing" robot

The tech in play here is quite simple, and the fact it can stand as long as it does being that top heavy is actually pretty surprising.

Article Link (Engadget)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

7 More Sites to Cut Your Startup Costs

1. Financial Modeling

Even if you never plan to raise professional money, you need to know
how to build and read financial and accounting models in order to run
your business effectively — especially during a recession.
offers free tutorials and Excel spreadsheets (available for download
once you register) that you can use to round out the capital-investment
and cash-flow models in your business plan and help you with ongoing
operations accounting. You’ll likely find the template for the
enterprise software company useful. The site claims an active community
of some 4,000 finance professionals, entrepreneurs, and academics who
can give you quick and unbiased feedback.

2. Web Hosting (Addenda) is a reader-recommended site for web hosting and applications development. It includes a community for seasoned developers to share their tips and war stories and a very long list of free tutorials for building e-books working in MySQL, Ubuntu, Debian, Capistrano, etc. (Reviews of the tutorials are positive.)

3. Credit Assistance

Interactive media and online advertising firm MediaTrust is behind,
which aims to help consumers and startup founders (some of whom are
also, we presume, MediaTrust’s clients) with certain finance and credit
pressures. The site already provides auto loans, cash advances and will help you repair your poor credit.
Apparently health insurance, debt consolidation and auto refinance are
on the way. The sites seem a bit predatory at first, but MediaTrust is
an established company, and heck, it’s an ugly truth that such services
will be needed in tough times.

F|R Crib Sheet: 7 More Sites to Cut Your Startup Costs

Carleen Hawn,
Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 9:00 AM PT Comments (13)

Last month we offered bootstrapping founders a short index of cost-optimization sites to help cut expenses for things like health insurance, web hosting, wireless plans and electric bills.

Many of you wrote in to offer your own recommendations, so this week
we’re expanding the list with seven additional resources to help you
cut costs associated with project management, conferencing, financial
planning and accounting — plus, an entire search engine devoted to
sourcing free applications for just about everything else, including:
data backup, CRM, product price tracking, professional video editing
and more.

As always, if you’ve discovered additional tools for cutting
startups’ commodity costs, please share them in the comments section.

1. Financial Modeling

Even if you never plan to raise professional money, you need to know
how to build and read financial and accounting models in order to run
your business effectively — especially during a recession.
offers free tutorials and Excel spreadsheets (available for download
once you register) that you can use to round out the capital-investment
and cash-flow models in your business plan and help you with ongoing
operations accounting. You’ll likely find the template for the
enterprise software company useful. The site claims an active community
of some 4,000 finance professionals, entrepreneurs, and academics who
can give you quick and unbiased feedback.

Also take the time to listen to this lecture, by Prof. Aswath Damodaran of New York University’s Stern School of Business, in which he explains the how to easily assess the beta risk (or
market correlation, a.k.a. recession exposure) of your business. (Ever
wonder what tobacco companies and Twitter have in common? A low beta!)
Other valuation resources are here.

2. Web Hosting (Addenda) is a reader-recommended site for web hosting and applications development. It includes a community for seasoned developers to share their tips and war stories and a very long list of free tutorials for building e-books working in MySQL, Ubuntu, Debian, Capistrano, etc. (Reviews of the tutorials are positive.) is another reader-recommended site that aggregates hosting vendors so you price-compare and buy wisely. We especially like this site for its index of coupons for further discounts and this handy list of articles, such as “The 3 key numbers when buying Web Hosting.”

3. Credit Assistance

Interactive media and online advertising firm MediaTrust is behind,
which aims to help consumers and startup founders (some of whom are
also, we presume, MediaTrust’s clients) with certain finance and credit
pressures. The site already provides auto loans, cash advances and will help you repair your poor credit.
Apparently health insurance, debt consolidation and auto refinance are
on the way. The sites seem a bit predatory at first, but MediaTrust is
an established company, and heck, it’s an ugly truth that such services
will be needed in tough times.

4. Conference calls offers reliable and free conference calls under a variety of plans, including one you can use for a mini-conference, called Simple Event,
in which up to 96 organizers and panelists can conduct a presentation
for up to 1,000 passive listeners. One caveat: we hear this service
isn’t as effective for some VoIP users.

5. Task Management
offers a list of 108 free or low-cost software tools designed for
various kinds of task management. They’re intended to save you time
and, therefore, money. The site trades on author David Allen’s
best-selling book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. If this doctrine appeals to you, consider the coaching pages — but know that Priacta’s Totally Relaxed Organization (or TROG) toolbar,
for which the site serves as a lead-generator, is only free during
trial. If you like how it manages your calendar, you’ll have to pay to
keep it.

6. Free Apps for Everything!

The engine was built by our friend and early Found|READ contributor Bruce Judson, of the Yale School of Management,
expressly to help bootstrapping startup founders access free (or mostly
free) resources for building and running their companies. Bruce
personally vets every application entered into his database (we don’t
know where he finds the time), which now includes applications for
things as basic as business cards, virus protection, data storage,
legal forms and CRM, as well as business-enhancing applications for
things like video editing, foreign language instruction, mind mapping.
Bruce adds new applications daily.

Also consider Bruce’s book: Go It Alone!: The Secret to Building a Successful Business All On Your Own.

7. Spending Priorities

We’ve linked to The Calacanis Cost-Cutting Hacks
post before, but we include it again for his very useful instructions
on how to prioritize your startup spending (e.g., why you should pay
for expensive chairs, but not a phone system). He also offers
tips on how to minimize some of the latent but recurring “costs” that
drain your day-to-day operating efficiency (e.g. the hours your workers
spend each month standing in line at Starbucks). But we think Jason’s
most important cost-cutting tip is No. 15:

“Go to each of your vendors every 6-9 months and ask for 10-30%
off. If half of them say yes you’ll save 5-15% on fixed costs. People
will give you a discount if they think they are going to lose the

Article Link

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pittsburgh Innovates

It was in the spirit of innovation and a passion for Brazilian music that Bossa Nova Concepts was born, a company on the brink of turning Pittsburgh into a robotic toy town.

Sarjoun Skaff, David Palmer and John Feghali met through Carnegie
Mellon University. Prototypes are underway and in the fall of 2009
Bossa Nova plans to launch the first of three robot toys on the
domestic and international market, a foray into the hearts and minds of
tech savvy youngsters.

“There’s nothing else like this on the marketplace,” says David
Palmer, CEO. “It will take robots to the next level, adding all the
rich features of interaction and expression, action and movement, speed
and pace. It’s more than just a remote control toy, it’s a friend and

Bossa Nova’s ultimate plan is to develop its own brand and line of
robots, putting a new product on the market every year. Its distinctive
niche is the mobility, agility and speed of its designs.

Although mum on the specifics, Palmer will reveal that the
battery-operated playmates include a tough, high-energy action robot
for boys of about 10, a lovable and cuddly animal robot for young girls
that performs a funny dance routine and a highly mobile expressive
robot, rich in sound with a variety of expressions.

Bossa Nova also plans to launch a robotic virtual world for
children, an online, self-contained place where youngsters who don’t
own a robot can meander and interact in a highly entertaining
environment, meet robot avatars and learn how to build their own.

Bossa Nova plans to add to its team of three plus a handful of
contract employees when the toys takeoff. Last month they won $33,000
in three phases of the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s EnterPrize Business Plan Competition.

Toys will be manufactured in China and sold by well-known retail stores and online. Just call us toy town!

Article Link

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


MechRC, a user-friendly, fully-programmable robot that uses a gamepad to control 17 precision servos which provide 180-degrees of movement. The MechRC has an electronic and mechanical expansion system, so you can build your own version. $760.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Y Combinator To Offer Standardized Funding Legal Docs

Early stage venture firm Y Combinator,
which has funded over 102 young startups, has “open sourced” the legal
documents that they provide to their startups to use as they seek
additional funding beyond what they’ve gotten from Y Combinator. The
documents were created with their law firm, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich
& Rosati and are available here.

The goal, says Y Combinator cofounder Paul Graham,
is to help young startups avoid at least some of the legal costs
associated with that first round of financing. The lawyering fees don’t
vary much based on the size of the round, and so a significant portion
of small rounds can go directly to the lawyers on the deal. Companies
are routinely forced to pay the legal bills of the investors, too,
making the situation worse.

Jeff Clavier, the founder of early stage fund SoftTechVC, told me yesterday that the average legal bills on a deal are $20-$30k. Other angel investors gave estimates in the same range.

The Y Combinator documents are designed to have “terms close to neutral, in the sense that

they favor neither the investor nor the startup,” said Graham in an email.

We’re hoping that this will cause there to be a lot more
startups. I know (because for many years I was one) that there are a
lot of rich technology people who would do angel investing but don’t
because it seems like a schlep. And obviously there are lots of
startups desperate for funding. We’re hoping this document will bring a
lot more of them together.

Is Y Combinator helping their competitors by making the legal process easier? Absolutely. And Graham doesn’t seem to mind.

On a related note, earlier this year TheFunded started allowing entrepreneurs to publish the various term sheet clauses that venture capitalists were asking for.

Article Link

Monday, August 11, 2008

How to Demo your Startup

1.Show product in first 60 sec
2.The best products take less than five minutes to demo
3.Leave people wanting more
4.Talk about what you've done, not what you're going to do
5.Understand your competitive landscape -current and historical
6.Short answers are best
7.Powerpoint bullet slides are death
8.How to use this device call the phone
9.How to handle questions you don't know the to
10. Always confirm the time of your meeting/call, and always be 15 minutes early
Article Link

Story-Telling Elmo

Although it hits retail on Thursday, you might want to get your
pre-order in now given the way these things tend to go scarce near the
Xmas rush. We're talking about Elmo Live
of course, the singing, dancing, and story telling robot with wobbly
red limbs and interactive sensors scattered around the monster's face
and ticklish belly. Available now for about $65 pre-tax at all the
usual on-line shops for out tiniest consumers.

Article Link (Engadget)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Gyro RC Motorcycle

There are plenty of RC cars
and motorcycles out there today, so what Silverlit did with this 1:12
scale red racer is throw on a working driver and let him have some say
in where the sportbike is going. Thanks to an on board gyro, the rider
actually leans from side-to-side. The $96 racer also has
an active throttle control and spring suspension.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pixar's Robotic Luxo Lamp

Check the video at the link below. Thinkway Toys's Pixar desk accessory/lamp/toy/thingamabob has a Luxo Jr. that moves and illuminates exactly like in the movie. You can activate it with a motion sensor and a remote control, a key ring in the shape of the the ball.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Shopping Robots Crawl the Mall So You Don't Have To

"Right this way, Madamme and Metal-moiselle..."
Imagine having your very own shopping robot who crawls the mall while
you relax at home? Even better, you remotely control your robot
shopper's movements and see through its electric “eyes”. You can also
stop imagining... robo-shopper is (almost) here!

Article Link

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lifesize Scopedog Mecha

As part of its 150th anniversary celebration, the Japan Iron and Steel Federation got ironsmithing genius Kogoro Kurata
to display his insane 1:1 scale model of the Scopedog mecha from the
80s anime series VOTOMS. Weighing in at two tons and standing a full
four meters tall, it dwarfed everything else at the exhibition.
Article Link (Gizmodo)

Steampunk Creations With Back Stories

Check out his Solarian Ray Gun or the Geldar Light Infantry Robot, both of which come with the back story of the Kelevion Universe and the civil war which has torn it apart.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Build-A-Bear Earnings Call: Bearville Important for Long-Term Growth

BuildABearville is important for the long-term growth of the Build-A-Bear Workshop,
Maxine Clark, Chairman of the Board & Chief Executive Bear, said in
the company’s Q 2008 earnings call last week. And it’s proceeding
beyond expectations so far: 4.6 million online characters have been
created since its launch last November, leading to almost 20 million total visits, with
daily visits increasing over 100% from the beginning of the year.

“First, the online world is where kids play today and will play even
more tomorrow. Simply said, this world is important for our brand to
stay relevant with our core guest,” Clark explained. “Second, the
online world offers us an opportunity to create synergies between our
real world and online world by attracting new and returning guests to
our stores. And third, BuildABearville gives our bridge to other
entertainment opportunities not in the traditional retail model. We’re
pleased with the growth we’ve experienced so far at The site is growing ahead of plan. [...] We talk
to visitors in the world often and are getting input from Bearville
citizens to help guide the development of the world.”

The unique advantage according to Clark is that while many major brands
have gotten involved in virtual worlds, Build-A-Bear is the only one to
have both a physical store and a virtual world. Of course, Disney has
stores in malls across America, but I don't think there's any major
crossover. With retail playing an increasingly important role in youth virtual worlds, that is significant. Build-A-Bear is actively focusing on the relationship between the physical store and virtual world.

"And last week for instance we launched our new rooms, you can add on
rooms, and we saw a 43% increase in new avatars made at
from the week before, same time period Friday, Saturday, Sunday,
Monday, a big phase, and because the rooms are so expensive, they’re
the most points to buy, the best way to get the most points is to buy
animals," explained Clark. "So we’ve structured those things. And we
think those things over time begin to build a huge reason why you go to
a store and you buy an animal just like they’ve done for other
companies who had no business and started from zero. So I think those
are already monetizing. Can you say that X millions of dollars were
absolutely totally associated to BuildABearville? No, but I think you
could say that because of the increased engagement the best customers
are staying engaged and the buzz is building and new customers are

Article Link

Hasbro Earnings Call: 2M Littlest Pet Shop VIPs Registered Worldwide

The Littlest Pet Shop brand, which launched the Littlest Pet Shop VIP virtual world last September,
contributed to a 24% revenue growth in the girls category for Q2 2008,
the company said in its earnings call last week. That's for the entire
line of toys. Of specific interest, though, almost 2 million VIP toys
have been registered online. Hasbro and EA are slated to release three
Nintendo DS games and 1 Wii title this fall, though it's not clear if
they will tie into the VIP virtual world.

It doesn't sound like that number includes the "borrowed" virtual pets for users
that don't want to "adopt" a physical toy. Actual user numbers might be
even higher, but Hasbro has said it doesn't view the world in and of itself as a revenue source,
just the fact that it drives toy purchases and engagement. It sounds
like that's significant, though. At Toy Fair in February, Hasbro
announced that it was expanding the Littlest Pet Shop VIP line with 11 new pets.

"Littlest Pet Shop did contribute to growth in the second quarter and
it’s across a number of different categories," said President and CEO
Brian Goldner. "It was up double-digits in the quarter by itself, and
it’s a combination of the traditional products, the collector
characters, as well as playsets. VIPs, we’ve had almost 2 million
registered adoptions of VIPs online globally. Our VIP website has been
done in 12 different languages across 20 countries already just since
early this year, so again, well on track. This fall we’re very excited
because EA will come out with three Nintendo DS titles as well as a Wii
title for Littlest Pet Shop, and that will all be integrated with our
marketing efforts through the holidays."

Article Link

Dizzywood Tree-Hugs Community Conservation

each tree planted in the virtual Dizzywood forest, a real tree will be
planted through a partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – August 4, 2008Dizzywood (, a virtual world and online game for children ages 8-12, today
announced that as a result of its players growing trees in its virtual
forest, 15,000 real trees will be planted on Earth through a
partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation.
The online activity, which aimed
to restore nature and balance to large tracts of the Wildwood Glen
forest that had been destroyed by Dizzywood’s notorious arch-villain
and his ruthless plots to pollute the land, encouraged players to earn
tree seedlings and then plant them in the damaged areas of the forest.

a result of the children’s efforts, the polluted sky has cleared, the
fish have returned to the pond, and the adorable Dizzywood critters
have ventured back to their woodland home
. Wildwood
Glen is now a lush forest environment where kids can play games with a
Leaf Sprite for magical seeds, can jump through the trees collecting
honey for a bear, or can hang out by the pond and catch fish that will
follow them around. In addition, a statue commemorates all the hard work the kids did restoring the forest.

wonderful virtual event gave children real-world context by allowing
them to plant trees and rehabilitate a forest — and then see the
impact, including reduced air pollution and providing a habitat for
wildlife,” said Kevin Sander, director of corporate partnerships of the
Arbor Day Foundation. “The ability to see the online impact of their
tree planting, and knowing it will translate into an offline one,
provides children with a sense of empowerment and a purposeful

tree planting is a great example of how an adventurous storyline can
cleverly weave a strong educational component into play,” said Ken
Marden, co-founder of Dizzywood. “It is an opportunity to allow kids to
see the wider impact that they can have by working together, as well as
what it means to be a citizen of the world – in this case, a virtual
one. We hope the kids are as inspired to see their online environmental
activity have real-world results as we are.”

Dizzywood is free to use. Subscriptions will be available to access premium content in the future.

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