In another of AvatarGeneration’s series of interviews, we spoke to Elizabeth Loennborn about her new virtual world protégé and labor of love Galacto Kidz. This imaginary kids virtual world is home to alien avatars that live on board a “Mother Ship”. They can play educational games, make friends, chat and learn the basics of social networking.
It all started three years ago when Elizabeth was babysitting her niece who was playing on a computer and managed to click into an inappropriate site. Horrified to find she was dressing an anatomically correct naked Britney Spears, she decided then and there that kids need a closed safe environment, where they can play, have fun, and still be safe….and so Galacto Kidz was born. Now a mother of twins, founder and creative director of a new virtual world, she is even more determined about safety and educational values within virtual worlds.
What does Galacto Kidz have to offer parents?
We’re hoping to offer some real points of difference and value to parents. We’re really working on building strong parent relationships with transparency into what their kids are doing, when they’re playing, how they’re scoring, what their chats are and who their buddies are.
What sort of educational content do you have on the world?
We have educational games that teach basic things such as logic, problem solving and spatial awareness. There’s currently a math game where you begin at a third grade level and as you proceed you actually go through the basic concepts of a grade level, so level 1 is grade 3, level 2 is grade 4 and so on.
Are you thinking of linking this up to a school curriculum that teachers can bring into the classroom?
I’m a scientist by education so it’s really important for me personally to get science into this informal education space. When we go into phase two we have some pretty hardcore science games such as balancing chemistry equations and other cool games to where kids can learn. Because we launched in the US the game concepts are taken from the national grade level standards.
What sorts of safety protocols are in place? Are you using live moderators, filters or any third party companies?
We have built in filters and we also have human moderators that read every single chat within 24 hours. There’s also a built in function where kids can report one another. We’re trying to catch it on all three levels. Every chat that is ever sent is archived forever with an identifiable by IP address, so we can find out where you’re coming from. So if you’re inappropriate and get banned, you can’t just turn around and open another account tomorrow.
What is your banning protocol going to be?
There’s going to be certain levels of banning. Right now a first offense you get a 24 hour ban, but you also get a transcript of the chat sent to your parents. So the parents will always get an immediate notification of exactly what happened. The best recourse is for them to probably be dealing with this at home. Next there is a three day ban and at that point you get a “Gazingo” fine, that’s our in game currency. After than depending on the seriousness, it will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis as all of this is handled by humans.
How are you trying to grow your community? Kids don’t like empty worlds, so as a start up it must be difficult.
I know other people have launched with fake avatar bots, that walk around and say ‘Hi’ and then disappear off into another room, but we wanted a more real tangible experience We have people In-world 17 hours a day, playing games, organizing events and engaging with kids.
The space is crowed and over saturated at the moment, how do you intend to grow Galacto Kidz user base?
We are aiming for the slow organic growth right now, we’re doing a lot of word of mouth and a lot of social networking types of movement to get us started. Galacto Kidz is small operation that doesn’t have millions of dollars of investment; it’s my own self-funded project so my expectation for success is probably very different than everybody else. Were really here to make an educational difference and to resonate with some parents and possible teachers, because this is the space we need to be in.
As far as over saturation, there’s more than one kind of toy car on the market, there’s more than one kind of doll, there’s no rule that says Barbie is the only doll that a little girl is ever going to play with. So maybe some kids will play with a different virtual world for a while, get tired of it and move on to Galacto Kidz. Maybe they’ll get tired of that and move on to something else.
Is your market mainly in the U.S?
Initially we launched in the U.S and we certainly plan on going global eventually, but for me it’s really important to provide a quality product first, with all our I’s dotted and T’s crossed.
Find out more about GalactoKidz: www.galactokidz.com
Samantha Kotey is the editor for AvatarGeneration and has a background in educational technology and virtual worlds. A mom of two, she is passionate about all things related to toys and technology.