HYBRIDEX

A Research Project on Hybrid Experiences


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LeapReader and the Tag pen

LeapReaderLeapReader books are interactive books for children that ”come alive” via special Tag pen. By touching words and pictures the pen reads them aloud and helps to pronounce them. Users can also download more content into the pen via USB online connection.

LeapFrog’s LeapReader series of childrens books spans over 100 titles ranging from classic tales to new Disney content to anatomy books. By buying the separate Tag pen these titles turn to interactive books. In storybooks characters and objects on the page can be touched to play out comments and sound effects. By touching specific letters, words and sentences the pen reads them aloud and can also spell them slowly to help in pronunciation. There are also special one-time-use pages with pressure sensitive paper which can be used to train writing letters (the pen does not actually draw). Here, the pen guides children step by step, i.e. instructing “now draw the middle line of the H that is marked by blue color.”

The pen features stereo speakers and a headphone jack. There is also internal memory to store stories, audio books and songs. The pen is plugged into a computer via USB to recharge the pen and to download new content. Parents can also follow the child’s progress through an online service and download for example new apps and printables for the title.

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Mechatars

Mechatars 1Mechatars is an interactive toy robot and a free virtual online game. Mechatar robot is a remote controlled toy that can both be used for completing missions and challenges against friends in the physical world, but also used to connect to the Mechatars online game.

With a Mechatar robot, kids are able to drive their toy around with the included remote control, complete offline missions and challenge their friends to online and offline Mechatar battles. Mechatars evolve both in and out of the virtual world. When you fight a friend, either online or in the real world, your robot gains experience points and becomes more skilled.  Speed, damage, defense, and other traits are taken into account. There are also attachable weapons available for purchase, which will also show up online when you connect your Mechatar Robot via the included cable. The bots are compatible with Mac and PC. Those without a robot can still play the online game for free. In the online game players can customize their avatars, earn or buy weapons and armor, and perform missions against the nemesis of the game, the Swarm. The primary location in the virtual world is the arena, where players spend their competitive time gaining experience and special attacks they then can download to their Mechatar.


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Talk With Me Barbie

Talk With Me Barbie 2

Released in 1997, Mattel’s Talk With Me Barbie was a programmable Barbie doll set that came with a special PC-connecting toy-desk and a CD-ROM. With the aid of these the Barbie could pronounce the user’s name and make preprogrammed comments.

Talk With Me Barbie doll from 1997 came with its own PC table that was connected to the user’s PC. The associated program came on a CD-ROM which was included in the package. Using the computer program, the users could select a set of phrases and their own name for Barbie to speak. When the user’s PC was connected to the play set desk and the Barbie was seated by it, the phrases were then stored into the Barbie’s necklace through utilizing infrared beaming, thus allowing the use of the voice functions without any accessories. Barbie (or rather, the necklace) could pronounce over 15,000 names, including a lot of uncommon ones, and even do different kinds of pronunciations. The phrases included on the CD covered a wide array of different kinds of situations. The user did not, however, have a possibility to create his or her own phrases.

Retailing for $90 in the US, Talk With Me Barbie was eventually deemed too expensive to be profitable and discontinued.