Student designs stir Milia 97

February 14, 1997

Over the past four years, Milia has established itself as digital media's premier international business exhibition and conference.

Billed as the ultimate platform for interactive content providers and developers, it attracts some 9,000 professionals to Cannes every February.

But this is not just a place where professionals forge strategic alliances, create partnerships, buy and sell rights and draw up distribution agreements. At Milia, new student work from around the globe is a chief attraction.

The New Talent Pavilion this year showcases about 30 projects from almost 150 submitted to an international jury. Milia is unusual in promoting emerging talent and work from academia at a commercial conference, but the mix is a happy one.

Coexisting alongside discussions entitled "Profit on the Web", and "Shouldn't we be Rich by Now?" are more intellectual subjects ranging from Professor Sherry Turkle's opening address in which she suggested that the online world can be a place for our personalities to develop in new ways, to a debate on novel forms of storytelling with interactive media.

Milia is always a barometer of industry trends and opportunities. A session entitled "Combining CD-Rom and Online" pointed to the potential of hybrid CDs that expand the realm of the CD-Rom and allow users to connect to online resources.

More than ever, the conference is looking towards online delivery of information and entertainment. And the nominations for the prestigious Milia d'Or awards which are given to the best new products from around the world reflect this trend. From the United Kingdom, Online Magic's Channel 4 and Boots the Chemist sites on the World Wide Web were short-listed. So too was the irreverent Uploaded site by IPC Magazines, which comes from the Loaded stable.

The Grand Prix, however, went to a CD-Rom, Eve from Peter Gabriel's Realworld Studio. French companies took top honours in three sections, "edutainment", "education reference" and "recreation: how to". Top games CD-Rom was 7th Level's Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail and best arts and culture package was the from the National Museum of American Art, though the announcement of the latter was greeted with boos from the audience. Best editorial online site was the Discovery Channel (www.discovery.com).

Prizes have had little to do with commercial potential in previous years. On the basis that much commercially-driven work is struggling to make money, this may be no bad thing. Good ideas and innovation are still key to the success of new media. At Milia one of the best places to see new thinking in action is the New Talent Pavilion.

The multimedia output from the academic institutions of Europe, the United States and beyond is a main attraction at Milia. This year, about 55 student artists, authors and interactive designers were invited to Cannes to show their work. Many of the projects have commercial potential, others offer new insights into unexplored territory.

What is important in all of them is that they attract the curiosity of the jaded thousands that tramp the exhibition halls in search of something special. The new work offers a refreshing approach as well as business opportunities and creative new blood for hire.

There was little evidence of the course leaders and academics that have produced the talent on show, however.

Eight universities and colleges from the UK submitted work, including the Royal College of Art, the London School of Printing and the University of Wales College in Newport. It was the Centre for Electronic Art at Middlesex University that triumphed with five projects selected, more than any other institute in the world and the only UK work in the New Talent Pavilion.

An experiential educational game for children based on world myths, Mythion, attracted a lot of interest. "Sex, Lies and Binary Logic", an interactive installation of theatre, KinoNet, a film production intranet, Infinet, a three-dimensional browser parody and the Eurotrash web site were all well received.

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