If product releases are anything to go by, it seems that almost every child is going to be getting a tablet computer for Christmas this year. There's the VTech InnoTab 2, the Leappad 2, the Toys"R"Us Tabeo, and that's before you consider the myriad of child-centric add-ons for iPads. Also jostling for position on your little one's Christmas list is the newly released Android-toting MEEP! from Oregon Scientific.
When the MEEP! was announced back in February, we knew it was going to run Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), feature a rugged silicone sleeve and be Wi-Fi-enabled. Now that it's been released, we can fill in a few of the technical blanks and also see how Oregon Scientific is dealing with the all-important issue of parental controls.
Aimed at kids aged six years and above, the device boasts a recessed 7-inch zForce touch screen (800 x 480 pixels) which won’t shatter when dropped. It's powered by a 1.0GHz Cortex A8 processor with 512MB RAM, features 4 GB of internal storage along with an SD card slot, and has a 0.3 MP camera for taking photos and videos.
While it's running Android 4.0, the MEEP! has been given a simplified menu system, with kids scrolling to navigate through their apps, games, books and multimedia content. Pre-loaded content includes Angry Birds, UNO, Toon Goggles, along with various educational art and learning apps.
A cloud-based "Parents Portal" on MEEPTablet.com means parents don't need to pry the tablet out of their child's hands to change settings and controls. They can remotely set what websites kids can access, or add words to a “bad word” list which stops them being used in chats or searched for.
Parents can also monitor their child’s online activity, limit play time duration and set a "virtual allowance" – in the form of MEEP! coins – for their child to spend on content from the MEEP! Store. All of the paid or free games, books, videos and apps in the store have been cleared for kid-friendliness by Oregon Scientific.
Content which can be installed isn't limited to MEEP! Store offerings, however. Google Play can also be accessed, but only from the Parents Portal, meaning that parental permission is needed before downloading.
Accessories available for the MEEP! include music-oriented add-ons such as a portable piano, drum pad, headphones and microphone, and game-focused items such as a joystick, steering wheel or the dualplay Game-Pro Case. The MEEP! is available now for US$150.
Here's a quick video from Oregon Scientific showing off the MEEP!