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DesktopWeb FormText   tablet devs looking for creativity ...Sat, 05 Nov 2005 03:13:42 GMT # 

... should look at the LeapFrog FLY Pentop Computer. picked one up last night ($99) and played with it for a couple hours. the hardware does ink reco as you write, scanning, sound effects, and speech synthesis. it can load external data through scanning and plug in cartridges. but the interesting part for tablet devs is the software. it requires special paper but the recognition is quite good. it only recognizes printed capital letters and numbers and can only handle short phrases. also handles taps, double taps, and markout gestures. the special paper can be 'open' or 'targeted' to some special function. the targeted paper included was for system settings, apps, games, and learning. the date and time was set by clicking on paper buttons. there was a little card to make the pen into a calculator by tapping paper buttons. a game was a dj scratching table, and a learning page involved locating geographic areas on a map (nice). they also have learning add-in cartridges that have the questions used by textbooks in school. another app was for a baseball game tied to baseball cards. those were slick, but the open paper is more interesting to me. it has a menu system and functionality that is built in and accessed by mouse gestures. to access the main menu you write the letter M, circle it, and double tap it. then it prompts you that it has entered the main menu and as you single tap the M button then it speaks the menu items. if you write a checkmark then that menu item is selected. one option is the scheduler, which can be accessed by drawing an S, circling it, and double tapping it. then it prompts you to write the time or date for an alarm and a message. if you wait for the time that you set, then the pen will sound an alarm and read back the note that you gave it. another app is a music system. you write FT (for FlyTunes), circle it, and double tap. then you can draw a limited keyboard (as 8 rectangles) and/or drum kit (as 4 circles). when you hit a key or drum then a sound effect is made. you can also draw buttons to switch the keyboard/drum synthesizer that is used, as well as a record button. the sound is lame ... but the idea is cool. what was really sweet is that i was able to switch between pages of paper where i had written different menu items in the same area on the page. one page had the M for main menu and another had T circled to tell the time. the special paper was marked somehow so that i could switch between the 2 with no problems! anyway, i really like the combo ink, gesture, and speech interface.

or course most of that functionality could exist on a tablet. all of the open paper scenarios especially ... minus the special paper. but we can't do some of the targeted paper / scanning scenarios. it would be like leaving your tablet behind but taking your pen with you all the time. say you're at some store and see some product you want to research before purchasing. then you could scan the UPC and when you get back paste that into your tablet. then it could auto jump to product reviews. oh wait ... we already had that ... the CueCat! seriously ... i would like to see the tablet pens take on more functionality. maybe i should check out logitech's io2.