antenas antenas

Cartoons That Do More Than Entertain


David Bornstein wrote a fascinating profile in the NY Times about Julia Borbolla, a Mexican child psychologist who has developed a series of animated characters called Antenas that interact with abused, disabled and sick children. The digital characters are brought to life by a psychologist in an adjoining room. Another great example of the ever-growing uses for animated content in the new century:

Antenas characters have been used to assist children who are experiencing a range of difficulties. Therapists in Tacubaya use them in pre- and post-operative therapy and burn rehabilitation. In Morelia, one character, Bompi, is employed to assist children with disabilities. (Bompi says that all humans have disabilities because they don’t have antennas.) The program is being used to provide emotional support to children with heart disease and cancer, teach children how to protect themselves from potential abuse, and, at the government’s request, learn about children’s experiences in public day care centers. In a pilot project being conducted by the Pediatric Hospital of Iztapalapa in conjunction with four government agencies, children’s interactions with another character are carefully being reviewed as potential legal evidence in cases of violence or abuse.

  • Carina

    When I went to the Tokyo “Disney Sea” theme park last year they had an attraction called “Turtle Talk” where an animated version of “Crash” from Finding Nemo appears on a screen and talks with the audience in real time, making up jokes and songs on the spot based on the guest’s names and their responses to his questions. My father doesn’t speak a word of Japanese, but he said that attraction made the biggest impression on him because the illusion of the animated turtle talking with the audience and “swimming up to them” was so convincing , and he couldn’t figure out how in the world they had accomplished it. I’m happy to see there are other uses for this type of technology beyond just entertainment.

  • Steven M.

    Cartoons can do that sort of thing, if only they were drawn better and didn’t make your kids feel like an idiot.

  • Wow. This is amazing. I’m going to check that NY times article out. So curious about the details. I would love to see this in action.

  • Joris

    I also had to think of Crush’s Turtle Talk when I read this.

    Although I was a bit skeptic about interactive animation in the last post about this subject, I just realized that obviously there’s a huge difference for what reason you use the medium. Although I still prefer to watch “Finding Nemo” instead of participate with “Crush’s Turtle Talk” to be entertained, the way Borbolla uses animation makes me really excited.

    This probably shows how effective abstraction from real life can work. By using a simple design (graphic and emotionally), the patient can connect far easier to a character, and thus trust it.

    This reminds me to an item on national Television in Belgium which featured nothing more than an abandoned suitcase with a speaker and a mic, and a hidden camera. People (even adults) would tell just about anything to that suitcase once it started talking.

    But the interactivity comes from two sides, as opposed to the ‘interactive storybook’ previously discussed, where only the audience participates interactivly, and not the show displayed.
    Maybe that’s where the difference lies, as there’s still a trained professional involved, who steers the interactivity of the audience in the right direction to get the best out of it.

  • The key point is abstaction.

    AS a member of Borbolla´s team I can explain some points.

    The characters are not meant to be realistic. The do not represent a human being, or a talking animal, thye are not menat to be pretty, and they are not 3D game characters.

    They represent how a children feels among adults: … as a aliens.

    And these aliens do not know nothing about earth, so they can ask “What is a mother?”, “what is a teacher”….

    Some answers are surprising.. like:

    “what is a bus driven”… a guy that when he is alone with alone with you make you take your pants down… ?¡?¡?¡

    When those answers began to emerge, began to grow the notion to use Antenas and friends to help abused children. Today Mexico city has change some of it´s law to allow this.

    Also some antenas friends are helping children with cancer and burns to overcome their fears and be strong under treatment.

    Today Borbolla managed to make a mobil unit that goes to kindergardens to detect abuse.

    All this was been done with people who want to help.

    And then.. maybe with some help we can make them better.

    I think all this had helped a lot of children.