Thursday, May 03, 2001

Interactivity comes to FAO Baby

My favorite toy store of all time, ever since I was a wee one, has been FAO. So, when the invitation arrived for the launch of FAO Baby, their newest store, I was elated - even though I don't have a wee one of my own. The gobo (light projection) of a baby's foot on the street, the feather-boa "velvet" ropes and the line outside the 5th Avenue Store were all indications of a splashy event. Upon entering the store I was greeted by a cowboy, Little Bo Peep, Alice in Wonderland, and Raggedy Ann and Andys. Waiters were deftly going round little tots and parents, serving all our favorite foods: mini pizzas, pigs-in-a-blanket, lamb kebobs, chicken fingers, sushi and mini ice cream cones. I chatted with Hillary and Sheldon Latos, who left the "dot-com" scene in San Francisco to move to New York. While waiting for my beverage I sampled the jelly beans and gummy bears at the bar, and made my way over to the Make Your Own Cookie (and Then Eat It) table. What fun to sprinkle sugary confetti on the pink icing! was there too, interviewing all the little kiddies who got their faces painted.

After testing the Love To Dance bear from "Bear & The Big Blue House," I chatted with Phase Two Strategies' Liana Hawes, who introduced me to Pulse Entertainment's Sally Driver and Kerry Desberg. These two women explained and demonstrated on their kiosk how Pulse brought the in-store interactivity and magic of FAO Baby to the web. Through their work and the input of France-based RealViz's work, the products can be viewed in 3D on the web. The experience is the same, whether you're on a 28.8 or broadband connection. Basically here's how they did it: Pulse took pictures of the products to be 3D-ized. Then RealViz, using their product The Stitcher, "stitched" the pictures together to create a seamless 3D image. Using their Image Modeler, RealViz further worked the image so that it looked photo realistic. Pulse stepped in at this point to use their 3D Studio Max and Pulse Producer to web enable the files and reduce them all to below 300k.

Amy Brownstein, who is starting her own PR business with Esther Lowey (of The, and I headed downstairs to check out the Tech-Ment center. Yahoo! HitClips, in all sorts of bright colors, were for sale. The HitClip Downloader (retailing at $29.99) allows you to records sounds and music off the web. Neat! Cybiko had a rad wireless entertainment system, while Yepp Samsung's MP3 and Sony's Psyc Discman were also pretty sweet. I loved the consumer-ness of Oregon Scientific's Accelerator Eclipse PC, priced at a mere $129. But of course, a good ol' game of Clue (The Simpson's edition, of course) or Scooby Doo Monopoly were quite enticing as well. And the classic Magic 8 Ball, retailing at only $8.00 seemed like quite the find! And the best part of it all is that now you don't have to be in NYC to check out all these great toys before buying them - although nothing replaces the fun of squeezing a big teddy bear to see if it's just right!