November 22, 2002
Primitive educational robots

There was a TV advert this evening for "educational toys" made by something called VTech. They have a website, inevitably. Lars, you want evidence of how lame computers for kids are? Look no further. I'm sure you'll be deeply unimpressed.

This adventure-based learning system can be extended with the range of Plug ’n’ Play Cartridges which can be purchased separately to adapt the Voyager Adventure System to a variety of skill levels as the child develops. Journey through interactive Boggle Chase, Photo Adventure (included), Alphaberts Time Travel Adventure, Ocean Adventure and Mystery Mansion Adventure, each guiding children aged 4-5 and 6-7 through a variety of educational activities for age appropriate learning.

The Voyager Adventure System is available Summer 2002 priced around £49.99 with additional cartridges retailing separately for around £19.99 each.

I included that last paragraph because what hit me was the amount of money that parents are willing to spend on this kind of stuff. I'm not a parent of any sort, and so comments from parents who have actually purchased this stuff would be especially welcome, pro or anti. Personally, just looking at it all, and thinking of all the bedrooms and playrooms of friends and relatives I've seen full of this kind of stuff just piled up in cupboards or lying around on the floor, I'm not a believer. But if parents will keep a business like this in business, think how much more they would be willing to part with if these kind of toys actually did seduce their kids into being cleverer. (If these did, we would surely have heard.) £54.99, £24.99, £49.99, "additional cartridges" for £19.99. If this is what parents will pay for what are, frankly, little more than educational lottery tickets, … Although, as I say, expert knowledge of these gizmos from parents who have watched them in action (or inaction) would obviously be very helpful.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:21 AM
Category: Technology