June 14, 2012

PlayTell: Video chat and storytelling that connects loved ones

Target audience: Educators, entrepreneurs, app developers, family members, iPad owners.

JD LasicaAt the first Launch Education and Kids held this week at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley outpost in Mountain View, VC/entrepreneur Jason Calacanis launched a new conference series that showcased 30 inventive startups — some of which will likely change the face of education or learning games for kids. Or both.

The most interesting person I met was Semira Rahemtulla, CEO and co-founder of a cool new tablet app called PlayTell. The San Francisco-based startup on Tuesday launched the private beta of its new app, currently available for the iPad, which lets loved ones share a reading experience over the Internet. Grandmas and grandkids, aunts and nephews, soldiers and young children, you now have a way to experience reading a book together online, even if you’re thousands of miles apart.

PlayTell (tagline: “Play together, even when you’re apart”) lets you read a book with your loved ones while you’re in a video chat. While we grown-ups use GoToWebinar or WebEx for collaborating online over business, until now there wasn’t a way for families to share reading materials at the same time, and then to capture their shared experience through photos or video (a feature coming in a few weeks). The reading catalog is understandably small at this early date, but it will grow over time as libraries and book publishers come on board.

Check out my 5-minute interview with Semira (conducted, by the way, in a very noisy hallway without a tripod). She had some wonderful insights about how children as young as 2 interact with the iPad and how children as young as 3 and 4 come to expect to reach out to their parents or loved ones at any time through our always-on connections.

Watch, download or embed the video on Vimeo

Congratulations to Jason and his team for another successful Launch conference — it’s become perhaps the best venue to see top-flight emerging startups that have the potential to be game-changers.