The book has been around for such a long time surely there is little left to innovate. Educational toy maker LeapFrog believes its latest creation, the Tag, will leap the humble book into the 21st century. We sat down with some kids to find out.
Let me tell you a story...
A long time ago there were books, then video games were invented and nobody read books anymore, the end.
It's a problem facing any book publisher today: how do you make things more interactive? In Victorian times pop-up was the answer, but with Pocket-lint being a gadget site we want a gadget answer. In steps the LeapFrog Tag.
The LeapFrog Tag is a system where, with the help of a digital pen fitted with a miniature scanner, books become interactive and read out to you when you press different areas of the page. If it sounds confusing that's because explaining the technology behind it is. However don't let that put you off, using it is actually incredibly easy.
Basically you buy the pen, and then special Tag books thereafter. The special books are printed on regular paper so you still get that book feel, but on every page there are thousands of dots that you can hardly see. When you press the pen on to the page it scans the dots, knows where you are, and then plays a sound accordingly.
While there are some key icons on the page, like play and stop, because the whole page is covered in dots every element from page numbers to individual words and even elements of the pictures can have sounds associated with them.
The pen itself, which is like a large marker pen, has a built-in speaker with volume control (luckily it also comes with a headphone socket as well), plus the ability to connect it to a computer.
Once connected to a PC or Mac you can manage your book collections and you can store up to five books at any one time on the device. Because the dots are different on each page, the system automatically knows what book you are looking at so you don't have to worry about menu screens.
In practice the LeapFrog Tag is incredibly easy to use. The initial £40 offering comes with the all-important pen and one book - Ozzie and Mack - which is it has to be said is a fun read. There are games at the back you can play once you have read the story plus alphabet charts so you can learn further. The kids we showed got to grips with it instantly, pressing the pen around the pages to find the secret noises and story elements.
Ok, so I know what you are thinking - if a book can read itself to your little one then that does you out of a job. From a parent-child bonding experience, especially at bedtime, this isn't going to replace mum or dad reading a story. The interaction is good, but not that good (luckily). However, where the Tag will be used is keeping your kids quiet for 10 minutes during the day when you need them to be still. It's certainly better than sticking them in front of the television watching Yo Gabba Gabba or a games console, as there are no LCD screens to turn them googly eyed.
With plenty of books to opt for including classics like Dr Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, Paddington Bear, Olivia and a stack of Nickelodeon branded characters like Go Diego Go and SpongeBob Square Pants, the Tag system has wide appeal and is actually very clever.
It has the interactivity of a video game, only uses books as the main element, and for us that is where it succeeds. It might be hard to explain the workings, but it doesn't matter because for us it just works and that means it gets a thumbs up from us.