The VSmile Art Studio is an add-on to the VSmile TV Learning System. It cannot operate alone. The rectangular art surface plugs into the "Player 1" port of the VSmile console. Inserting the accompanying software cartridge into the console unit activates the Art Studio. Kids use the Art Studio's attached stylus to draw on the touch-sensitive surface and to open menus for access to the digital art tools.
With the VSmile Art Studio, kids can use their imaginations to free-draw pictures that appear on the television screen. The digital art tools available to young artists include various-sized colored pencils, pre-made geometric shapes, stamps, animated objects, backdrops, and color-filling tools. Kids can save up to five pictures and showcase them in a slideshow.
In addition to open-ended play, the software offers 11 interactive art lessons and activities. Kids practice fine-motor skills by tracing gray lines to create shapes or objects. They learn how to click and drag geometric shapes to create pictures. And they play video games that require them to draw.
Also good is a color-mixing activity that teaches kids how to make secondary colors by mixing the primary colors of red, blue, yellow, and white. Learning to sequence pictures to tell a story teaches kids about animation.
Weaknesses of this toy are that kids have to push down on the stylus to make the head retract, and then they must continue to hold it down while drawing. At times, the stylus is unresponsive and requires multiple attempts to make it react correctly. Also, testers were frustrated by the inconsistency of when the unit accepted that tracing was done correctly.
Because the working of this stylus requires dexterity and patience, the VSmile Art Studio is not a good fit for children under 5.
Here's the bottom line: Since this $30 digital art studio only works with the $50 VSmile TV Learning System, if you don't already own the VSmile System, it isn't worth spending $80. But if you own the VSmile TV Learning System and you would like to encourage your child to practice fine motor skills, this digital art desk will provide them leveled activities to explore.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.