The ideas, unveiled at a press conference yesterday, include a wisdom-of-crowds-inspired advice column; a mobile game of tag that used cellphone camera capabilities; a socially conscious video game; and a nonlinear "choose your own adventure"-style Web TV show.
New types of content
Dan Scheinman, senior VP-corporate development for Cisco, pointed out that broadband penetration is rising rapidly and there will be a proliferation of new types of content rising up to fill that pipe. "We're still early in that medium and don't know exactly what will work," he said, noting that many of the giant digital media properties such as MySpace and YouTube were born off of college campuses. "We have to learn how to tell stories in this age."
It was Cisco's first partnership with MTVU, MTV Networks' college-targeted property that airs on closed circuit TV at 730 colleges and is everywhere through its broadband channel, Uber. Under the terms, the winning students retain the intellectual property rights of their projects, but MTVU will have the TV rights for a year. The projects will role out on MTVU platforms June through October.
David Harrison, a film student at UCLA, won one of the grants with "How Do I Say This?" a peer-to-peer community-based advice column in which college students can post their dilemma with family members or friends -- think "I like this girl but she doesn't know I'm alive." An online community then tries to answer the problem with advice and votes on the best recommendations. Mr. Harrison and his production team then creates a video based on the winning advice and sends it out to the friend or family member.
"UCLA's always talking about having to step up to new media but there's not really an opportunity to do it," he said.
Snagu camera phone game
Another winning submission that seemed ripe for marketing was the mobile tag game created by a team from New York University. They built Snagu by essentially reversing the system Flickr has made famous -- instead of tagging photos, players in this mobile scavenger-hunt game are asked to photograph tags using their camera phones. Snagu sends a "tag" word -- "hero," for example -- via text message to players and they then have to point and shoot their best representation of the word, be it a sandwich or a fireman. The pictures are uploaded to a community site where visitors vote on their favorites and winning submissions score prizes.
"There are more camera phones sold than there are cameras," said Jaki Levy, one of the NYU students who designed Snagu. "And nobody knows what to do with all the photos they take."
The UCLA and NYU students presented their projects live, as did another team from Brown University that had created a comic book-inspired online video rock opera.
"These students have become our development team," said Stephen Friedman, general manager of MTVU.