Targeted at the 8 to 13 "tween" market, the FLY Pentop Computer uses paper as its display surface instead of the traditional computer monitor, and it creates interactivity by providing audio responses to the pen's drawings on paper.
To allow paper-based computing, the FLY Pentop Computer combines many different technologies. For instance, it only works on paper that has FLY dots embedded in a special matrix. The FLY pen has a computer processor, an optical sensor that allows the pen to determine its location on any piece of FLY paper, and real-time audio capabilities. By using character recognition technology, the pen can identify "tween" handwriting and other special characters or symbols and comment on them.
Kids interact with the FLY, by creating menu icons on the enclosed paper. Writing the letter M and drawing a circle around it creates the Main Menu, for instance. By tapping on the encircled M, the FLY will voice the various menu options, including Scheduler, Calculator, Time, NotePad, Settings, and Games. To select one, the user is instructed to draw a checkmark next to the menu button and tap on it when the application he or she wants is mentioned. Thereafter, the audio will instruct the users to draw additional menu icons that are relevant to operating the application selected.
For example, let's say your child decides she wants to use the Calculator application. The FLY will tell your child to draw the numbers 0 through 9 and the symbols +, -, x, ÷, = and a decimal inside a rectangle, and thereafter, when you tap on the numbers and functions, the paper and pen will behave like a calculator. Tap 4 x 3 = and the pen will announce 12.
The Scheduler is a pretty straightforward reminder application. Once you have programmed a reminder, the FLY will turn itself on long enough to announce your appointment. The notepad application has less utility because it only remembers 3-word notes.
Kid-testers were particularly drawn to the Games applications. The FLY has three built-in games, and it comes with an additional pad of 10 other interactive games and two other fold-out gameboards. The built-in FLYtones game was "awesome," according to testers, because it allows them to create a keyboard and drum set on FLY paper and then record their own music.
The FLY Pentop Computer is fascinating to explore and easy to use. It looks cool, and it's the perfect size to slip into a pocket or backpack. Kid-testers were definitely drawn to its novelty. But, if you are thinking of purchasing the FLY Pentop Computer as a stand-alone device, it's probably not worth the $99 because it has a limited number of built-in applications.
However, the FLY transforms into an exciting personal learning tool when add-on software packages are slipped onto the top of the pen. With FLY Through Spelling, the FLY becomes an interactive personal tutor for your child's weekly spelling lists by creating fun games to help learn the words. With FLY Through Math: Multiplication and Division, it checks each step in the process of doing multiplication or division problems and explains any errors. Because FLY paper looks like regular paper, kids can even do their math homework on FLY paper. The FLY can also become a Spanish pocket translator with FLY Through Spanish or a test tutor for middle schoolers with FLY Through Tests.
Each add-on software package costs between $24 to $35, and eight add-on packages are currently available. FLY paper comes in notebooks and pads that range in price from $6 and $10. Because add-ons are required to take best advantage of the FLY, parents will want to consider how much longevity the add-on software will give the FLY system and whether the added expense is worth it.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.