FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Media Turn Up In Flight, and On the Menu

Electronic entertainment is turning up in some curious places these days. Or maybe not so curious...

Airlines -- even those that are cash-strapped -- are considering installing monitors for each seat, through which passengers can watch movies, play games, listen to music or even access the Internet. For a small fee, of course. Airlines see this as a profitable venture, even as they endure higher fuel prices and cut corners elsewhere. Says Song Airlines vice president Tim Mapes, "Once you put the capital onboard the plane, it's a one-time expense. It's making the investment provide the absolute best return possible."

Planes are a logical place for this kind of media. Passengers represent a captive audience who would likely find a $5 fee for a movie or the ability to check their e-mail quite reasonable. However, those looking to distribute electronic media are getting even more creative than that...

McDonald's recently launched a pilot of Blaze Net, a kiosk that allows patrons to burn CDs, download cell phone ringtones, and print digital photos. The kiosks have been deployed in several McDonald's in the Chicago area, where initial response has been "overwhelmingly positive," according to a McDonald's spokesperson. Restaurants in West Virginia and Florida are next on the pilot list.

Regardless of the success of Blaze Net, Mickey D's might want to take a cue from Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and creator of Pong, the great-granddaddy of all video games. Bushnell's latest venture, Media Bistro, allows patrons to watch TV, play video games and surf the Web while they eat -- providing high-tech versions of the booth-side mini juke boxes that have graced diners and soda shops since the 1950s. A few tweaks to make the games kid-friendly and feature all our favorite McDonaldland characters, and the concept sounds tailor-made for the Golden Arches.

Bushnell should know a thing or two about combining video games and food. After launching Atari, Bushnell founded Chuck E. Cheese...

Sources: Boston Globe, Washington Post, MTV News