Zowie Intertainment

Artifact Type


Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. It's great to talk to you. Very interesting subjects.

Well, it's interesting to me because most people want to talk about Pong and that stuff. And I've done a bunch of things I've been lucky to do that. disrupt a bunch of industries. And Zowie was one of the, you know, one of the more fascinating projects I was in, it is remarkable. And most people don't know about it, but the technology was way beyond what you should put in a child's game.
Allan Alcorn

For the next question, in 1998, you joined Zowie Intertainment as VP of engineering. What brought you the value of though? I guess that was? What led to the formation is that we, I guess, probably a better question there.

Well, okay, it came out of Interval Research. Interval Research was Paul Allen's effort to save money by doing Industrial Research. Xerox Parc, you know, really, really changed the world, there was an example of Xerox, doing industrial research that resulted in, you know, changing the world and making a lot of money for everybody, but Xerox. And, but, but he thought we could do he could do industrial that kind of research and develop new technologies that they could then. Okay, so at that point, once you've done that, Normally, you would license that technology and get royalty checks. He didn't want to do that he thought it was better to actually spit out a company, a startup company with that technology, and you make more money doing that. So that's what happened. And I got involved with Interval Research. Interval Research had about 120 of the top engineers and scientists guys in the world, and but it wasn't putting out new companies, as fast as Paul wanted. So people like me got hired as a, what was the word?, senior business marketing advisor or whatever. It was the idea of by I've had a good experience in taking new technologies, and actually creating companies out of them to spin out with the technology. And so that's why I was hired. Not because I was a great technologist, but that's what I did and so I was asked to be VP of engineering.

So in 2000s, I was of course, acquired by the Lego group. Why do you think that the LEGO Group actually took an interest in Zowie particularly?

Obviously, it was geared toward kids, but did you have ideas sort of going into it? Sort of like the games that would inspire essentially, or would lend itself to?

I mean, we thought that when you do something new to new technology, or new process for new things, you want to know is it scalable? Is this just a oncer? Is this just a hula hoop? Or does this go on? Like, for example, let's take video games, right? The first video game was nice, but it led to a lot more video games, I'm told. So this did have legs. I mean, yeah, it was a very low cost. Very effective, very accurate location technology that I doubt down a five year old kid would really appreciate.

Yeah, in fact, now's a good time to tell a story. I worked with the Media Lab at MIT. So I was back there, a little while after this after my experience with them and the product had come in had been released. And you could find them on the market sale price, would cost you like 20 bucks or so. And I was touring the Media Lab. They have open houses a couple times a year, and I was fortunate enough to get in with my wife. And we were back there in Boston.

Anyway, we stopped in the Media Lab to get the tour or what would be called a head rub. And one of the technologies was sort of a classic thing where you have a video projector, projecting down on a playfield, you know, and then have a certain kind of tracking technology you can put things on the playfield and move things around. The video would respond to what you move around. And you just needed some kind of way to track a board. And these guys had hacked, the Zowie playset and reverse engineered it, and figured out how to use it to track this stuff. And they were so proud that they had done that cost effectively. And I show up for the tour with my wife. And they're talking about you know, the system and what it could do and all that. Yeah, I did that. What? It was really hilarious, because they started saying oh how smart I am how wonderful it was. And my wife is standing there saying, "oh, god don't do this. You're going to make him impossible to live with naturally." But no, I actually slipped them the SDK, the software development kit, they did an amazing job of reverse engineering it and if you have a software development kit that we had for it, you could use anything, any number of objects that he tried to play field, blah, blah, blah. So anyhow, I got that story. Keep score.