On the heels of launching last year’s PowerTouch system, which lets kids use their fingers to navigate interactive books, Fisher-Price is getting ready to take another giant step forward in electronic learning aid innovation. The toyco has picked up exclusive rights to use a new kind of technology that can scan text and images, interpret what they are, and then spit out information about them. The optical reader was invented by Paris-based tech company PurpleEyes, and FP is planning to use it to power up a line of learning toys that are scheduled to roll out in 2005.
PurpleEyes is a small scanner that reads images, text or objects that have been imbedded with tiny, almost invisible code. The information is scanned and then interpreted by a computer, which provides descriptions of the object and educational instruction with sound effects and music. The reader can even be used to open websites and hyperlinks. While the technology could be used in a book format, it also gives Fisher-Price the freedom to get out of the 2-D world and apply the same principles to 3-D objects. The toyco says it will start using the technology in electronic learning toys, but may choose to expand it into other toy aisles down the road.
PurpleEyes CEO Jean-Michel Pimont says the reader is small enough that it could be put into any number of objects, including pens, computer mice and mobile phones.
Initially developed 10 years ago, PurpleEyes was relegated to the back burner because of the high cost of manufacturing the reader’s components. Pimont says the company initially anticipated more interest coming from the professional arena – for systems allowing faster access to very big documents like legal databases, for example.
Now that the technology has become streamlined enough that it’s more affordable to manufacture the reader, the scope of possibility has widened to include consumer applications, says Pimont, particularly with the development of mobile access to the Internet; he hints that phones and other portable devices could act as next-gen readers.