Thomas Deaton sits in front of a Web cam in Santa Rosa and warily takes a bite of uncooked eggplant stuffed with ground pig?s feet, Spam, nacho cheese, fish sauce and mayonnaise.
His stomach clenches as he tries to swallow the revolting mix. Beads of sweat line his brow.
His co-host chortles as she readies the next vile spoonful. And around the world, a small but devoted audience watches him gag as his online game show streams across the Internet.
Will he hurl?
That looming question is the basis of Deaton?s interactive Web show and serves as its namesake: WillieHurl.com.
Deaton is co-host of the Webcast, part of a new form of online entertainment. And he and co-creator Nat Fast, a Santa Rosa tech inventor, are determined to figure out a way to make money in this developing entertainment market, where audience members interact online with a show?s host.
WillieHurl?s audience are more than just viewers. They are participants equipped with a unique set of Internet tools that let them control various gizmos of vomit-inducing torment in the show?s Santa Rosa studio ? even if a viewer is watching from a computer in China, South Africa or just down the street.
?A mouse click anywhere in the world makes stuff move here,? Deaton said.
Fast quickly added, ?It?s all about live interaction, and live control.?
The show draws its inspiration from the gross-out genre of reality TV made popular by such shows as ?Fear Factor,? ?Jackass? and ?Man vs. Wild.? Although it may seem outrageous, it is a stark example of how the Internet is changing entertainment.
The Web has become a new stage for the creative class, joining radio and TV as a third broadcast medium. But it promises a level of interactivity not possible before ? and could revolutionize how people think about game shows.
?Interactivity is one of the unique elements of live video online,? said Michael Seibel, chief executive of Justin.tv, the fast-growing Web site that streams WillieHurl and other video programs over the Internet. ?And they?re taking that to the extreme.?
With a push of a button, the online audience on WillieHurl can spray Deaton in the face with a goo gun, trigger pre-recorded vomiting noises in the studio, or even pour Deaton a nauseating concoction of pickle juice, boiled hot dog water and whiskey from a custom-built liquid dispenser.
Deaton will drink whatever his audience pours. And in that way, the viewers influence the entertainment.
To say the WillieHurl show is rough around the edges might be an understatement. It?s far from professional TV.
But Deaton and Fast aren?t interested in perfecting production quality. Instead they are working on the software technology that will make interactive game shows feasible. They?re also trying to develop a way to make money from the new interactive medium.
To that end, the duo designed the studio and the robotics that let online viewers shoot the goo gun and dispense the stomach-churning cocktails. They also created a software program that enables them to charge audience members a small sum ? or micropayment ? for every glop of goo they shoot or disgusting cocktail they make Deaton drink.
With the click of a mouse and a small payment to an online PayPal account, viewers interact with Deaton ? effectively changing the course of the show.