21 December 2006

Nifty gifty: Leapfrog FLY Pentop Computer

Those of you who've been hanging around here for a while know I'm a fan of Leapfrog toys. My kids have enjoyed them starting when they were babies (LeapStart Learning Table) and the love affair has continued (LeapPad, Leapster, and the LeapFrog Explorer Globe which -- I kid you not -- got our son fascinated with the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben and ultimately inspired our family trip to London and Paris two summers ago). As mainstream learning toys go, I think their quality and features are tops.

Leapfrog has made a bold move into learning "toys/tools" for older kids with the FLY Pentop Computer, which they recently sent me for review. This "smart" hybrid-pen (it's an actual pen that can, you know, write on actual, you know, paper) has a built-in computer that knows what its user is writing. Freaky twist on handwriting recognition, eh? Special FLY paper and stickers have tiny micro-sensors that track the pen's movements or activate a sound.

The applications are fascinating: the FLY can be used as a PDA (with a built-in scheduler and calculator), a homework helper, a toy, and so much more. It's almost overwhelming to consider everything one can do with a FLY...in a good way. Of course, buying the associated programs and games will set you back plenty, so this is more of an investment (think computer + software) than a one-off amusement. But for older kids, it's one worth looking into.

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I am actually fascinated by those things. I see them, or their older cousin, in Best Buy all the time. The idea sounds cool for a doodler like myself... draw something and interact with it. How nifty is that?

Do you know if the leapfrog pen is just a licensed rebrand of the original? Do you know any specific software titles for it? The reason I ask is the stuff listed on the fly pentop website looks like it is mainly targeted at middle schoolers.

I considered this for my oldest.....especially when I saw the Harry Potter "Marauder's Map" that they have. Maybe next year. I am always wary of bugs in the new technology like that and want to see it go through a generation if possible to make sure that they've got it right!

momma2mingbu: You have a point. The tech is great, but I, too, am interested to see where it goes. Having played with the games (including the Marauder's Map which is very cool), the paper, and the math helpers, I'm especially impressed with the math. You write out equations, and it quizzes you on answers (among other things). Pretty amazing. And somehow, actually writing it all out makes it easier to remember.

As this product enters the mainstream (if indeed it makes it there) I want to see how *kids* put it to use, because kids have a way of finding applications for tech adults never even consider.

I plan to keep my eye on the FLY.

The FLY pentop computer is not at all related, technology-wise, to the stylus that goes with the LeapPad, if that's what Jim is asking.

The FLY is indeed for middle schoolers, and the software will continue to target grades 5 and up.

Inside information: I do recommend you wait to buy until next holiday. The new features will be worthwhile.

Good to know Whitney!

do you think this pen will have any use to highschoolers, i was givin it for christmas, im a freshmen taking sophmore classes and i want to know it will be of any use to me

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