Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The LeapFrog Tag - Cool Reading System for Kids

The LeapFrog Tag is the latest offering from the award winning LeapFrog company. It consists of a pen which "reads" the LeapFrog Tag books.  Most parents are familiar with the original LeapPad Learning Center which uses a tethered stylus with special books and cartridges.  This system spawned copycats such as the Fisher Price PowerTouch Learning System, which allows kids to use their fingers to do the reading.  Both have disadvantages in that you need to keep track of a cartridge for each book and the systems themselves are rather bulky.  The LeapFrog Tag changes all that.  The Tag is easily held by any child and my four-year-old daughter took to it immediately.  There are no more cartridges and the Tag "reads" its books like magic. There are various reading modes as well as multi-leveled games.  It even knows when you change books.  You will need a computer with an internet connection to download new books to the Tag.  My first download went effortlessly.

Being an engineer, I had to figure out how this magic occurs (jump to the last paragraph if you don't want to spoil the fun).  I scoured the book for RFID chips, holding up the pages to the light.  I peered into the sensor on the Tag and determined that it was probably an optical sensor.  Then I finally noticed that the pages of the Tag books had tiny microprint consisting of uneven dots over the page.  The density of the dots differed between the two Tag books so it knew when the book changed.  My kids are so used to magical technology, that this amazing device didn't even phase them.  You can see my daughter using it here.

The LeapFrog Tag comes with the Ozzie and Mack book shown above and is available in two colors at Toys R Us and all major retail outlets for $49.99.  You can also purchase it online at LeapFrog with free shipping through July 31st.

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