The Pentop Computer – interactive pen that talks to you as you write
By Mike Hanlon
January 11, 2005
NEW YORK, January 12, 2005 - Educational technology developer LeapFrog has released details of a new pentop computer. Dubbed the FLY, the pentop computer is designed to bring interactivity to the most prolific and user-friendly interface of all (pen and paper) and offers real-time audio feedback to users as they write and draw on special FLY paper.
Computer-based products hold immense promise as ideal learning platforms regardless of the age of the user - computers have infinite patience, unfailing concentration and stamina and can provide individual nurturing and encouragement and responses appropriate to the student's ability and progress. At the same time, computers can promote the joys of learning, adding a fun and games factor to even the fundamental and dry subjects. Used in conjunction with teachers, computers will leverage educational outcomes to new levels, though it must be noted that it will be a long time before we can contemplate dispensing with the wisdom, sensitivity and insight of human teachers. LeapFrog is probably the foremost developer of technology-based educational products in the World, having been awarded the "Design of the Decade" by Business Week in 1999 for its Phonics Desk Learning System and following up with the release of the LeapPad interactive book learning system
The LeapPad was a global hit with parents and children, breaking records in the toy industry, being the first educational toy to become a genuine best seller and winning the American Toy Industry Association's Educational Toy of the Year in 2001, 2002 and 2003. The LeapPad was dethroned in 2004 by Leapfrog's new Leapster Multimedia Learning system, giving the company top honours in its category four years in a row. The FLY and what it offers
A user of the FLY platform will be able to write on a piece of paper and then interact with the writing directly on the paper. For instance, a FLY pentop computer user can draw a calculator, touch the handwritten digits and functions to perform an operation -- then hear the answer announced from the FLY platform. A user also can write a word in English and hear it translated into Spanish, or draw a piano keyboard and play it.
At the core of the product are a variety of state-of-the-art technologies including optical scanning technology licensed from Anoto, a widely acclaimed industry leader in digital pen technology.
"The introduction of the FLY pentop computer is an important milestone for LeapFrog as we strategically extend our successful learning products line into new markets, new technologies, and to broader audiences," explained LeapFrog President Jerry Perez.
"The FLY pentop computer strongly positions us to establish and grow a completely new market segment with broad potential for core FLY products and a tremendous range of application opportunities for both LeapFrog and for companies that will support this new platform."
"The FLY platform heralds the birth of a new industry market -- paper-based computing. With 'intelligent' technology, the FLY pentop computer will assist people of all ages in the mastery of core academic subjects and provide a new genre of entertainment," said Jim Marggraff, the father of the LeapPad(R) learning system, the visionary behind the FLY pentop computer and LeapFrog's Executive Vice President of Worldwide Content.
Cool Tween Applications
Like all computers, the FLY pentop computer will come with a range of applications. Initially those applications will be created specifically for LeapFrog's primary market of "tweens" and will focus on learning, communicating, and games, though other applications could conceivably be produced for any market segment, from very early learning to geriatric products.
The initial paper/software applications created by LeapFrog will aim to make it "cool, convenient and fun" for tweens to get homework help in maths or spelling, translate words into other languages, play baseball with interactive collectible playing cards, write in their journals, interactively master key concepts from school textbooks, compose music, and much more.
"We've created an intuitive user interface that provides instant navigation, from a blank piece of paper to a user's desired application. Our initial set of tween learning tools and games are designed to alleviate critical educational pain points for tweens, and to provide easy access to information and entertainment in synch with a tweens' lifestyle," added Marggraff.
Development of the FLY pentop computer was enhanced by a group of 50 tweens, aged 8 to 13, known as the Quantum X Team. These "kid developers" worked on a regular basis over the past year with LeapFrog product designers to provide input on the FLY platform and its applications. On Board Features
The FLY pentop computer comes ready-to-use with a sampling of the wide range of possibilities at hand. Cool games are on board, including Aliens, Hang (hangman), and FLY Tones (a music game). The user will also find several helpful tools built in to the FLY pentop computer, such as a calculator, an alarm clock, a math pad and note pad. Finally, the package includes special stickers that spring to life when activated by the FLY pentop computer, and a handy carrying case for the FLY pen.
Flyball - an interactive baseball game using authentic collectible UpperDeck baseball cards. With the FLY pentop computer, the Flyball game takes collecting baseball cards to a new level, allowing kids to integrate them into an interactive playing experience. The game teaches kids to thoroughly understand the game of baseball, and use critical thinking skills. The starter pack includes one playing field poster, 28 UpperDeck baseball cards, two strategy cards, 34 hot streak cards, two control cards and a manager's playbook. Booster packs are sold separately for kids wishing to supplement their card collections.
Dear Me Diary - an interactive diary full of more than 600 writing prompts to get girls excited about writing and self-exploration. The diary guides girls through challenging life skills and encourages girls to think and write about issues that are relevant to their lives. The product includes 50 blank pages, five sleeves that hold 10 photos, 600 plus writing prompts and a Code Maker activity. There are four different book cover designs at launch.
Multiplication and Division - an interactive math homework program to help kids master their multiplication and division homework. The product provides self-directed help with the kid's own math homework and gives real-time feedback on demand. The product comes with a reference guide and an 8 1/2 x 11 notebook with 40 pages of graph paper. Refills will also be available.
Spelling - a spelling game pad that makes it possible for kids to practice their weekly spelling lists anytime, anywhere and with any word. Game play makes memorization of spelling words fun and more meaningful, resulting in higher test scores. Included with the product are five spelling games, a 70,000 plus word list, and incentives where students can earn points as they play and then cash in for pets at the Spellbot Store. The product includes an 8 1/2 x 9 game pad with 72 pages and an information and reference guide. Refills will also be available.
The FLY pentop computer will be available in Q3, 2005 for approximately US$99 with applications are expected to range from US$7.99 - $29.99.