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Winky Dink and the Low-Tech Future of Interaction Design

winky dink

Quick, what was the world’s first interactive video game? Nope, it wasn’t Pong. It was probably Winky Dink & You, a kid’s show from the 1950s. The cartoon character Winky Dink would get himself into jams, and kids at home had to help him out by drawing the tool he needed right onto the TV screen, using transparencies that were sold via mail, for $.50. Millions of those kits were sold.

Today, we’re all hot bothered over the future of interaction design and interactive storytelling, but as Winky Dink reminds us, the most engaging and enduring ideas are often low-tech. Rather than inventing new tech from whole cloth, the answer may be boosting dead-tree media, with everyday gadgets. For example, check out this new concept for an iPhone enabled story book, designed by Japan’s Mobile Art Lab:



Pretty cool right? With just a flip book and an iPhone, you get an new sort of experience that doesn’t take much explaining. With interactive design, the more you have to explain, the more you lose–it doesn’t matter how cool your tech is, if people can’t readily explain it to each other, it won’t catch on. The possibilities suggested by Mobile Art Lab are pretty rich–you can imagine entire suites of books and toys, linked to each other through supplemental content on a smartphone.

And that makes you realize: The future of interaction design probably has more to do with revising and updating what we already use rather than getting people to use something entirely new. Augmented reality and gestural interfaces will have their place–as long as they slot into what we’re already familiar with.

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