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Leapfrog Talking Pen 176

AndroidCat writes "Leapfrog has just announced their Fly pen computer for children. It talks, giving feedback as they write and draw, and with special Fly paper, you can draw a calculator, press the 'buttons' with the pen and it will read the answers. Cute, but is this a real working product? Let's see. If they included a 1 GB USB drive, it would be an interesting product for geeks too--just don't write fdisk. And remember to turn off the voice when making notes during meetings." Here's a picture of the device.
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Leapfrog Talking Pen

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  • by Antonymous Flower ( 848759 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:35PM (#11338761) Homepage
    If I draw Lindsay Lohan, can I push her buttons too?
  • yowza (Score:3, Funny)

    by macsox ( 236590 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:36PM (#11338779) Journal
    hopefully it can also draw those bitchin' lens flares so prominently featured in the 'photo'. curse photoshop for popularizing those things...
    • A perfectly good image ruined by crappy jpeg compression.
    • As an amateur photographer, lens flare drives me insane sometimes. And people want to actually ADD IT IN to existing photos??

      Lens flare is evil. It detracts from the shot. The fact that some idiots want to add it into already perfect photos is an insult to photographers who try so hard to avoid it.

      • That's like when the Yahama DX7 would add fake squeaks on the "strings" of it's guitar sound. Real guitar players couldn't believe that they'd want to add something a good guitar player tries to avoid.
      • It's funny, but In the seventies when The Six Million Dollar Man was popular, I thought one of the neatest special effects were the inadvertant lens flares. There's a scene in particular I remember on one show with a non-bionic man jogging; I got into a heated argument about that "special effect" with someone I was watching the show with. They didn't see any bionic special effect so they thought I was crazy when I insisted that something special was going to happen to that character. And of course on a show
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Will it spontaneously melt down?
  • kids.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by wh173b0y ( 825454 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:36PM (#11338795)
    ...are spoiled rotten these days.
    back in my day we had burnt log and a reasonaly flat rock and we loved it damnit.
    • Re:kids.... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:42PM (#11338904)
      a burnt log? luxury. We had to chisel runes in solid stone using our foreheads. But try and tell that to the kids today and they won't believe you.
      • Re:kids.... (Score:3, Funny)

        by autophile ( 640621 )
        Chisel runes in stone with your foreheads? When *we* were kids, we chopped off our fingers and wrote in blood in the snow, and then we'd get killed by our parents, who would dance on our graves, singing "Hallelujah!"


        • You had snow?!? Back in the day, all we had was oxygen and hydrogen atoms, and we had to count them individually to get two H for every O, and smash them together to get water. We got dinged for every unaccounted-for H or O.

          I won't even get into what it took to make actual snow.
      • Yabadabadoo!!!

        Please don't look at me like that.
    • Re:kids.... (Score:4, Funny)

      by AceCaseOR ( 594637 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:52PM (#11339020) Homepage Journal
      A log! Feh! In my day we were lucky to have a burnt log. We had to draw using our own fecal material. If you didn't have to go (nudge-nudge wink-wink), you couldn't write!

      And forget about having a flat rock. We had to write on the ground, and every time it rained, our writing got washed away. You got it easy!

  • by linolium ( 713219 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:37PM (#11338803)
    What ever happened to kids playing with teddy bears, or learning from reading books? Technology might be making it too easy for them, so they don't even learn.

    Though the idea does sound pretty cool...

    runs out and buys one
    • Depending on how functional it is, I say it is a great peice of technology or at least a great idea. By drawing a picture and interacting with it kids will be rewarded for their imagination. Imagination has great value. Where can I buy one?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Books? You mean the blocks of paper with runes written all over it? That's the problem we have today: everyone thinks technology will save us and kids will learn from computers.

      I love computers, programming and geek stuff, but it's like schools giving laptops for free to children, it's either broken or filled with games in less than a week.

      Technology might be making it too easy for them

      Are you sure about this? I think it's worse than this: you can't educate children with computers because the info t

    • by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:18PM (#11339377)
      The whole idea of LeapPad and similar educational toys is it makes learning fun.

      My stepdaughter (7) is a television junkie (thanks to idiot father, who has primary custody), and LeapPad is great for her because it's about the only way she'll voluntarily read the written word. LeapPad gives instant feedback and immediate gratification, which is a big plus for a child who doesn't have a lot of confidence in her reading skills.

      Fortunately, my son (Just turned 2) dosen't need any incentive to read -- he just grabs a book and sits down on my lap until I read it to him. Even still, we have numerous Leapfrog toys which he plays with constantly; one of his favorites is a set of talking alphabet refrigerator magnets [], which undoubtably contributed to him knowing the entire alphabet before he was two. A fun toy which reinforces the lessons you teach your kids is fantastic for a parent. (The important word here is REINFORCE. Don't expect a learning toy to teach your child for you while you sit on your ass watching pro wrestling.)

    • by That's Unpossible! ( 722232 ) * on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:23PM (#11339434)
      What ever happened to kids playing with teddy bears, or learning from reading books?

      Nothing. This still happens. However, believe it or not, with improved technology comes possibilities for improved learning. Maybe with the right tools, kids can learn to read and write and calculate at earlier ages, when their brains are more pliable.

      Then again, you probably think Kids shouldn't have pre-school, and they should just get shoved into a government run public school when they turn 5 or 6, and "that will learn them."

      Just guessing.
      • by PalmKiller ( 174161 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:56PM (#11339840) Homepage
        I have to disagree. The improved technology does nothing for improving a childs ability to learn. Books are a perfect tool for teching children how to read. The problem is most people are too darn lazy now days to help their children by doing such a fundamental parental task (yes being a parent is hard work and no technology is going to replace what a child can learn by teaching and by example). With this teaching comes respect from the child, something that is also seldom earned by "parents" these days and you can see it in the disrepectfulness of children these days. Unfortunately your example of "let the system teach them" and "shove them into school early so I don't have to work with them" is the norm now days.
        • The improved technology does nothing for improving a childs ability to learn.

          Seeing as how this product has not even been released yet, I find this statement patently absurd.

          Or did you mean to imply that no technology is helpful in teaching students. That the book, invented thousands of years ago, is the highest mountain we can hope to reach in teaching aids?

          Sheesh. Let me introduce some sense here where it is sorely needed: Any tool like this can help or hinder a student depending on how it is allowed
          • Yes perhaps a little harsh, but you came right back to my point. The problem is a great many parents expect the technology to do it all for them, mostly due to the marketing associated with the technology based tools. I do agree that technology can help to some extent, but to a much lesser extent than what is expected of it by many due to the hype. I meant to bring the point across that parents now days expect either someone else or something else to do their fundamental task, which is in essence raising
        • Speak and spell was the bomb. It it a cop out for the parents? Yeah, sort of. I mean, as a parent you *could* sit there all day with your kid and pronounce random words for them, and have them spell them back to you.

          Or you can make dinner while your kid screws with the damn toy, and has a blast learning. An insideous ploy, you must admit.

          I remember being learning on the speak and spell, and the math version also. My sister and I also had alphabet blocks and puzzles, and parents that read. No, not read to
    • Technology might be making it too easy for them, so they don't even learn. Technology won't raise your kid. On the other hand, you as a parent might want to try learning them things rather than relying on the usual TV/Video-games/techno-toys parental dismissal combo. Happens a bit too often however...
    • Actually, this is one of the better ideas I have seen in a while. It is known that motor skills and language skills tend to depend on each other for development (something to do with the mirror neurons). And, it is known that writing letters and numbers leads to better memory and ability to use them than simply reading or typing. Since leanring is better accomplished as an active engagement, it is good if they are more interested in the material at hand while they are doing it. (IIRC) More stimulation f
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... CROAK?
  • by teiresias ( 101481 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:38PM (#11338817)
    While it's intended market is for children, the applications this could be used in are astounding for all ages. Lesson plans become interactive, doodles become narratives, and comments become richer. This would open up a unique interface which would benifit those who aren't technically proficient.

    Not to mention a few crafty programmers and this could be a great tool for around the house.

    or practical joke. :)
  • B...S...O..D...

    <sound of crashing car>


    • Re:BSO... (Score:3, Interesting)


      Y'know, that brings up an interesting point that I'm wondering now... Think they'd incorporate any easter eggs into this thing? You'd think that someone involved with the project would have thought that something like that could be funny. ;)
      • Think they'd incorporate any easter eggs into this thing?
        No, but if it's like other Leapfrog products, it will refuse to say "dirty" words. My son has an Alphabet Pal [] from leapfrog. When you have it in phoenetic mode, it will say "heeheehee, that tickles!" if you try and make it drop the F-bomb.
  • neat, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LiquidMind ( 150126 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:39PM (#11338835)
    would you really want to put down cold hard cash for this? it seems like just another thing that parents could buy to give their kids in hope that it'll help. If you were that age and got one of those, how much time would you really dedicate to it?
    • I doubt any parent would by this. They would kill the kid the first day. "Timmy I think you have written your name enough today."
    • Re:neat, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

      would you really want to put down cold hard cash for this?

      Personally, I wouldn't. But, based on the number of Leapfrog toys we own already, I am sure my son's Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts and various other hangers-on would be more than happy to purchase one for him.

      • Heh. I'll wind up buying two... one for the kid to play with, and one for me to hack. My wife gets upset with me when I start disassembling the kids toys.

        The best part about having kids is you get to buy toys... and play with them. I'm eagerly awaiting the day my boy graduates to "grown up" legos (duplo and megablocks just aren't the same).

    • Re:neat, but... (Score:5, Informative)

      by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:56PM (#11339083)
      I can't comment on this brand new product specifically, but my kids have the Leap Pad computer books, and I can tell you that, in fact, they do get used. Especially on long car trips. The Leap Pads have a fair-sized library of books you can buy for them, so it's easy for somebody to get the kids one when they want to give something in the $10-$15 range. And then of course there's ebay.

      I think they're especially good for pre-readers. You touch part of the page with the attached pen, it says something about it. One book has a little "detective" narrative where touching a person gives you clues about them, and you use simple logic to guess whodunnit. And you can do basic music composition, learn the countries on the map, and of course pick up new vocabularity.

  • by knarfling ( 735361 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:39PM (#11338844) Journal
    "Here I was writing some erotic fiction in my spare time, when my pen started moaning! I will never write erotic fiction in court again."
  • That thing looks almost exactly like the ear thermometer we use on our kid. Or an otoscope. So maybe if you stick the pen in your ear, it'll tell you your body temperature? (Not that this would be a good habit to get kids into...)
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:40PM (#11338849)
    > And remember to turn off the voice when making notes during meetings.

    "Hey, who turned out the lights? WTF is this CueCat doing here? Oh no! GET ME OUT OF HERE YOU BASTARD! []"

  • The return of Six Finger? []
  • Now with Lens Flare! (Score:5, Informative)

    by hab136 ( 30884 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:41PM (#11338879) Journal
    Since the picture isn't a photo but a computer-generated 3D drawing, I don't they've actually built one yet. No mention on their site [] either.
  • Anyone else think this is scary as all heck? Now, I'm not someone who avoids new technologies (I'm a computer engineer) but seriously, I think kids had better stick to pencils. Even at my age there is nothing I prefer more than a nice, simple mechanical pencil or a quality Pilot pen. We don't need computers in everything!
    • hmmm might have over reacted, I don't know where I'd be today without my Speak and Spell/Math. But I still don't want kids relying on marvels of technology for too much of their learning activities. Calculators in schools alone have really set back math skills, IMHO.
      • Maybe this would help step up math again. Instead of having a box with buttons on it that magically spits out answers, you still have to write down the equations in front of you. This could act like a tutor, if it sees you writing 5 x 3, then it will automatically know 15, but maybe it could hint to you, or say "this is multiplication", and not just tell you the answer.

    • by narcc ( 412956 )
  • Slashdot covered this pen a while ago: tm l?tid=126

    I was reminded of this pen because of the need to use a special kind of paper that has unique microdots printed on it.
    • I remembered various pens, but not the special paper. Yup, this sounds like they're using that technology. (It probably has a patent or two.) Since the Logitech one had USB, maybe Leapfrog has just hidden the connector? Add that 1 GB drive and a hackable OS...
  • I was wondering (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:44PM (#11338917) Homepage
    what logitech was going to do with that digital pen and paper failure of theirs.

    remember the pen that as you write stored your writing in memory and then you could download to the computer but only IF you bought their horribly overpriced paper?

    I was given one that came with a 30 page notepad. Neat idea, but it's data format was too closed so you either had to dink with it too much to send the "writings" to friends or they needed to download and install a special app.

    still sitting in a drawer here at work, Used it for 1 meeting, got pissed at the software that supports it, and threw it there.
  • Considering the current translation technology, I'm not sure that such a function would be very useful. Also, just how smart is it's spelling? Can it correct for poorly drawn/backwards characters?
  • They make some pretty cool stuff, as far as educational toys for kids go. I know my kids love the little PDA-style "cramming" device.

    The schools are missing out on this stuff. The whole point is that teachers can put content up on the web (this weeks spelling words, for example), and the kids can download and practice with the toy.

    Though, they only teach PC language and consumerism these days. Apparently the only thing kids need to know is how to open their wallet.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    will come with three settings.
  • "Stuck in a pen factory. Please send help."
  • by qualico ( 731143 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `refrushcuocdlrow'> on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:46PM (#11338957) Journal
    My daughter has a Leapfrog Learning Center, care of eBay.
    The novelty was worn pretty quick though, now it sits on top of the heap.

    My complaint is that I want those talking items to have more Canadian versions.

    So can I upgrade that pen's firmware?
    How about some Canadian dialect eh?
    And some more Canadian geography or history too?
    We know more about America than our own country.

    Regardless, LeapFrog sure is pumping out the product; s
  • Prior Art (Score:3, Funny)

    by clinko ( 232501 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @03:49PM (#11338984) Journal
    Prior Art!!!

    Bill Cosby had a talking pen in Picture Pages in the early 80's. []

    It even sang and danced...
  • Logitech beat them to the punch [] it seems; 'special paper' & all. Hell, maybe Logitech's liscensing this to Leapfrog.
  • Already [] done. []
  • Leapfrog as just announced their Fly pen computer for children. It talks, giving feedback as they write and draw, and with special Fly paper, you can draw a calculator, press the 'buttons' with the pen and it will read the answers.

    I read TFA and even tried dig up technical specifications on their webpage. There seems to be a dirth of details about the device.

    What kind of feedback are we talking about here? Does it recognize random/badly drawn figures? Does it take wild guesses if I draw something mildl

  • Inspiration? (Score:2, Redundant)

    Does anyone else think it was inspired by Logitech's product []?

    I personally wouldn't have needed that as a child. I went to a Catholic school when I was learning to write. The feedback I got was from a nun with a yardstick. No talking pen needed.

    Yard sticks is mightier than the sword
  •'ll know it'll sorta work about 50% of the time. Relatives have given my 4-year-old three different toys from them; not one has worked consistantly.

    In fact, the only thing reliable about their products is making my daughter cry after the toy crashes for the third time in five minutes!

    • In fact, the only thing reliable about their products is making my daughter cry after the toy crashes for the third time in five minutes!

      My 4 year old son has both a My First Leappad and the Leappad plus Writing, and both work flawlessly. He's not particularly careful with it either (drops in on the floor when he's done with it, pops the cartridges in and out with the power on, etc). The Leappad writing system is new to him, so we'll see how that works, but he's had the other one for over a year with no
    • Funny, my son hasn't had any problems- in fact, the two he has (Leapfrog's nursery rhymes and the Leapfrog piano) seem to be so robust in comparison to his other toys. Of course, at 19 months, he's not learning much from them yet- other than if you throw certain computer equipment against the wall it will do something at random....

  • >> It talks, giving feedback as they write and draw

    This does sound cool, but I have to admit that when I read the above line it immediately reminded of how damn annoying clippy is.

    The last thing I want is for my pen to talk to me while I am trying to compose a letter. But then again this thing is for "children".

  • This Leap frog gizmo is essentially the same as THIS [] device from Logitech.
  • What're you writing? The Encyclopeadia Britannica? A Windows bug list? You'd still have room to transcribe the entire Linux kernel, the Bible and War & Peace! (Well, perhaps not if you include the Windows bug list, but you get my point!)
  • I like the idea of drawing a calculator and then using it. I'm not a huge fan of the spoken answer though.

    Drop the speaker, add a bluetooth interface, an RF transmitter and possibly an infrared transmitter and the interface possibilities open up exponentially.

    Draw a universal remote and use it. I think this would be a good tool for human interface design, and much cheaper than a smartboard+projector.

    While you're at it, make it a cellphone, too! Actually that's dumb. The bluetooth interface would make ad
  • by kertong ( 179136 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:24PM (#11339447) Homepage
    "Hello! I see that you are writing a suicide letter.

    May I suggest:
    - A new template (?)
    - A slower, more painful way to die(?)
    - The Grammar Wizard (?)

    If there is anything else you need, please feel free to contact my distant brother, Clippy.

    Have a nice day!"
  • Isn't this a similar concept to what bill cosby had in his morning tv show picture page. I remember thinking how cool that wierd pen was that made sound ant talked. As a child I really wanted one. Then I remember seeing one at toys are us or something similar. It made crappy sound as your drew with it and was really cheap. Was a big let down... But remembering back to how much I really wanted one, I could see this being a really popular item given proper marketing.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Won't that be ... sticky?
  • What happened to brilliant things like the Apple ][ program Rocky's Boots?

    Apparently Leapster development is done w/ Flash 5?

    (whose daughter has a Pixter and really wishes there was a way to get her drawings out of it and copied to a computer)
  • I have a daughter and motivating her to start to learn to read has been a bit of a challenge. We'd get out a fairly simple book, sit next to her on the couch and we try to get her to sound out the letters, but more often than not this became more of test of wills ("I don't want to... you tell me"). And while as the parent you can (usually) win a test of wills with a small child, one doesn't get the impression that this method is going to instill in her a great love of reading.

    So, hoping to make reading a
  • Really, can you imagine writing really steamy letters to your sweetie with one of these? It could crush the world of email, and reinvent the art of penmanship!

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev