LeapFrog FLY

We've got a sneaking suspicion that LeapFrog (which makes gadgets for kids like the Leapster) is in for one helluva time marketing their new FLY pentop computer. The FLY, for lack of a better description, is essentially a pen-based computer for kids that lets you write stuff down on paper and then interact with your drawings. It uses the same Anoto digital pen technology that's used by Sony Ericsson, Nokia, KDDI, and others in their Bluetooth pens; basically you have to write everything on special paper that comes with tons of little microdots printed on it, and the dots are read by a special tiny optical sensor on the pen. The pen comes with several onboard applications, like games, an alarm clock, and a note pad—there are also plans to sell a bunch of different products that take advantage of the technology, like math and spelling workbooks that can offer real-time feedback when you (or hopefully, your kid) make a mistake. As long as you remember to use that special paper, you can do stuff like make a calculator (touch your pen to the handwritten digits to make calculations, and the pen will actually use its speech synthesizer to read out the answer); a piano keyboard (it plays by tapping the pen on different "keys"), or write out a word in English and have it translated into Spanish. Won't be out until the fall, but should cost around $99 when it gets here.

The iPod and the car, secret lovers no more