The V.Smile Baby Infant Development System comes with a console, an activity board with six brightly colored and shaped buttons and one roller ball, and the Learn & Discover Home software. Parents set up this system by plugging the console into their television using the audio and video input jacks; they then pop in the software, and place the activity center in front of the television. The activity center works wirelessly with the console to control the content on the television, and both operate on double AA batteries.
The Learn & Discover Home software has six different activities which teach babies about colors, shapes, numbers and counting, animals, musical instruments, and baby sign language. By pushing on the buttons on the activity center, babies can play hide-and-seek with animals which magically appear when the colored buttons are touched. Or they can learn about shapes as balloons appear formed as triangles, squares, circles, hearts, and stars—depending on which button is pushed. Four additional software cartridges are available at $14.99 each.
The system and its software offer three different modes to accommodate different stages of babies' development. Parents can toggle between the modes by sliding a switch on the activity board. The Play Time mode is for babies 9 to 18 months, and it can be played with or without the television. When played with the television, it features animations that change when babies or their caregivers push on any button. When played as a standalone activity center, each button offers audio feedback. The "Watch & Learn" mode is suggested for babies of 18-24 months, and it features 30 minutes of learning video with minimal interaction. The "Learn & Explore" mode is for toddlers ages 24-36 months and it engages children by asking them to answer questions using the activity center board.
V.Smile Baby is the latest entry into the new genre of baby tech. V.Smile Baby is similar to Leapfrog Baby Little Leaps because they both create interactive learning environments using the television. The V.Smile Baby content isn't as crisp and clear as the graphics in the Little Leaps and it is lacking the videos and puppetry that make its competitor so engaging. However, V.Smile Baby does offer activities that teach the baby sign language, based on the work of Drs. Acredolo and Goodwyn, authors of Baby Signs.
V.Smile Baby is easier to set up than Little Leaps system because it plugs directly into the TV instead of syncing with a DVD player. Another difference is that babies interact by banging on the V.Smile traditional-looking activity center that can be introduced as a toy before it becomes a game controller.
Because V.Smile Baby combines a traditional baby toy with new technology, it offers a comfortable way to introduce young children to television content that is interactive.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.