NEW YORK, Sept. 18, 1997 — Microsoft Corp. and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), through its PBS National Datacast subsidiary, today unveiled a groundbreaking enhancement in the educational use of television technology. Beginning Nov. 3, PBS’
“Barney & Friends” will carry a specially encoded signal and animation technology from Microsoft that will enable Microsoft® ActiMates
to interact with the program. Microsoft ActiMates is an innovative early-learning system for children ages 2 to 5 that works alone, with the VCR or with the PC. And now, with this new technology, the encoded broadcast will allow the plush Barney toy to virtually come alive in homes across the country.
“Microsoft and PBS share the goal of using television technology to enhance education,”
said Rick Thompson, vice president of the hardware division at Microsoft.
“We wanted to find the application of this new technology that helps young children in their educational development. We could not have found a better company than PBS National Datacast.”
Utilizing PBS National Datacast’s data broadcasting expertise and an unseen portion of the broadcast signal,
“Barney & Friends”
will air on certain PBS member stations with an encoded signal, which will be read by a transmitter that comes with the ActiMates TV Pack and is hooked into a television VCR. The transmitter will then decode the data and transmit it to a wireless receiver in the Microsoft ActiMates unit, enabling a plush Barney toy to become a viewing
When this happens, a child’s television viewing experience is enhanced, as Barney comments on and reinforces positive themes in the television show.
“PBS and its 349 member stations have a long-standing commitment to bringing the American people outstanding programming and innovative services that enrich their lives,”
said John Hollar, executive vice president of PBS Learning Ventures.
“Microsoft’s technology is a unique advancement that enhances the viewing and learning experiences of children who watch ‘Barney & Friends’ every day.”
The encoded episodes of
“Barney & Friends”
initially are scheduled for broadcast by 20 PBS member stations in the country’s top markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia. A total of 68 programs are to be encoded for broadcast between November 1997 and April 1999. More stations are expected to be added over the next year, as PBS National Datacast and Microsoft work with other PBS member stations to implement the ActiMates technology.
Microsoft ActiMates was officially unveiled last February. Over the past seven months, it has generated positive reviews and praise from the media, consumers, toy analysts and the education community, including COMPUTERTOTS, a nationally renowned organization that creates customized computer curriculum for day-care centers and preschools across the country. Microsoft ActiMates also has won a number of awards, including a Gold Seal Award from the National Parenting Publication Awards (NAPPA), and was designated a Top Toy of 1997 by Parents Magazine .
Developed in conjunction with educational and early-childhood experts, Microsoft ActiMates encourages children to learn key skills such as counting; letter, shape and color recognition; and sharing.
“Research shows that children learn best with a supportive partner, and when they can learn at their own pace,”
said Erik Strommen, a Ph.D. in developmental psychology and lead consultant in developing the ActiMates early-learning system for Microsoft.
“Microsoft ActiMates Interactive Barney does what all good learning partners do; he is infinitely patient, which makes kids feel good about their efforts, he shows them how to do something by example, and he gives them hints. We know that Microsoft ActiMates can increase children’s attention and make learning fun.”
Preschool star Barney’s top-rated television show is aired in 50 countries on six continents. His popularity extends to videos, books, albums, toys and a stage tour, with a feature-length movie in the works. Microsoft developed ActiMates Interactive Barney under license from The Lyons Group, an entertainment unit of Texas-based Lyrick Studios.
“Barney has always represented excellence in children’s television, and we’re thrilled that ‘Barney & Friends’ is the first recipient of Microsoft’s new ActiMates technology,”
said Sheryl Leach, creator of Barney and executive producer of Barney programming.
“We believe that the encoded episodes premiering this fall will provide children with a new and exciting way to enjoy and learn from their favorite television character.”
Microsoft ActiMates Barney has an estimated retail price of $109.95 (U.S.). The estimated retail price of the Microsoft ActiMates TV Pack and ActiMates PC Pack is $64.95 (U.S.) each. The estimated retail price for PC software titles is approximately $34.95 (U.S.) each, and $14.95 (U.S.) each for videotapes. Microsoft ActiMates Interactive Barney and the ActiMates TV Pack are required to access the encoded
“Barney & Friends”
episodes on PBS.
About PBS and PBS National Datacast
PBS is a private, nonprofit corporation owned and operated by the nation’s 349 public television stations. A trusted community resource, public television uses the power of noncommercial television to enrich the lives of all Americans through quality programs and educational services that inform, inspire and delight. Available to 99 percent of American households with televisions, PBS is watched by nearly 100 million people each week. Public television is the number one resource for K-12 classroom programming in the country. PBS’ Adult Learning Service is the nation’s largest source of college-level telecourses.
PBS National Datacast, a for-profit subsidiary of the Public Broadcasting Service incorporated in 1988, offers top-quality, nationwide data broadcasting services in partnership with local PBS member stations. Information is delivered instantaneously via stations’ TV signal to homes, businesses, government facilities and education centers. Jacqueline Weiss is chief executive officer of PBS National Datacast.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.
Microsoft and ActiMates are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.
The Barney name and character and
“Barney & Friends”
are trademarks of Lyons Partnership L.P.
Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.
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