Bits & Bytes
THE DANCING BABY DANCES RIGHT OFF THE SCREEN
IF YOU NEED PROOF THAT THE INTERNET HAS BECOME A MASS MEDIUM, look no further than the Dancing Baby--the computer-generated 3-D character that dances to "Ooga-Chaka," the intro to Blue Suede's 1970s hit, Hooked on a Feeling. Since the Dancing Baby was created in 1997 to showcase 3-D modeling software by Kinetix, it has taken off: There are dozens of Web sites devoted to it, and the gyrating infant has gained even more fame for its appearances on the TV series Ally McBeal.
Now, the baby is about to reach true pop-icon status. Creative Zone, a maker of toys and novelty items that has obtained licensing rights to the character, is coming out with a line of Dancing Baby tchotchkes. There's an eight-inch, battery-powered baby that grooves to "Ooga-Chaka" when you press a button ($24.95). Or slap a suction-cupped baby onto your car window--it will sway with the motion of the car ($10). The assortment also includes a wind-up model, a baby pen top that dances when the pen is clicked, and a Dancing Baby air freshener that gives off a whiff of--what else?--baby powder. These and more can be yours this fall when retailers, including Kmart and Spencer Gifts, begin offering the line. Oddly, there are no plans to sell the baby gear on the Net.EDITED BY AMY CORTESEReturn to top
WANT TO MAKE A SPLASH? GET STARS FOR YOUR BOARD
THE COMPUTER INDUSTRY BREEDS HYPE, but certain players get all the attention. If you're not among the glamorous--say a Yahoo! or an Amazon.com--what do you do to get your share of the spotlight? Put together an all-star board.
That's what Lante Corp., a Chicago systems-integration and consulting firm, decided to do. Lante has been around for 14 years, helping customers from American Expess to Kraft Foods put together networked computer systems. But now it wants to stake out a leading role in the red-hot market for Internet and electronic-commerce consulting. So Lante President and founder Mark Tebbe called a few of his friends to serve on the board: Michael Dell, chairman of Dell Computer; Michael Maples, a former senior vice-president at Microsoft; Mort Meyerson, ex-CEO of Perot Systems and a former vice-chairman of giant Electronic Data Systems; and John Landry, once the top technologist at Lotus Development and now an adviser to IBM. These and four other high-technology luminaries have invested in Lante. As directors, they will actively advise the company--including steering it toward an eventual initial public offering. Then, Tebbe's friends may be amply rewarded.EDITED BY AMY CORTESEReturn to top
SOFTWARE FOR SURFING WITH YOUR PALS
RESEARCHERS AT CARNEGIE MELLON recently found that using the Internet can amplify loneliness and depression. But startup HipBone Software has an antidote: social surfing. The Palo Alto (Calif.) company offers free software that lets people surf the Web in groups--say, to plan a trip or buy gifts. "People prefer shopping together," says Dan Rolla, HipBone's vice-president for business development. Online merchants are keen on the idea, too, just as mall owners love visits from tour buses. "Instead of two eyeballs visiting a site, it's four or six," Rolla says.
The group-surf software, called Co-Navigator, is available from HipBone's Web site, www.hipbone.com. A group "host" signs up first and fills out a short form. Then, as many as nine people can join in. Everyone can steer--which can make navigation a bit chaotic. But most users choose to talk while they're surfing, either by phone or by using a Net chat room or instant messaging. It's not just for goofing off. A business manager, for example, can take an entire team on a tour of competitors' Web sites.
HipBone will sell ads on the site, and it hopes to license Co-Navigator to other Web sites. But first, the goal is to sign up users. So now's your chance to be joined at the hip with other surfers.EDITED BY AMY CORTESEReturn to top