Interactive learning tool behind the buttons


Published: Monday, January 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 31, 2006 at 12:47 a.m.
Most interactive DVD systems for children feel about as interactive as a vending machine. The ZOOOOS Play and Learn DVD System is an exception. Created for preschoolers by the same team that worked on the TiVo interface, the ZOOOOS Play and Learn DVD System consists of a boomerang-shaped infrared remote control with four brightly colored buttons. As with other specialized remotes, there's a one-time task of entering a code to match your brand of DVD player.
ZOOOOS works with six DVDs, and two of them are included in a $30 starter kit available at www.funrise.com. Other titles ($15 each) feature Spider-Man and Thomas the Tank Engine. In one game, children explore numbers, pressing a button to show the numeral scratched in the sand or read in Spanish. Another disc mixes clips of animals from the San Diego Zoo with animal facts.
  • TAKE A STAND WHEN THAT NOTEBOOK NEEDS TO BE BIG: While the small size of a laptop may feel great when you have to haul it through the airport, hunching over that petite PC for hours may lead to neck aches - or hand cramps from the compact keyboard. While most laptops can be connected to a docking station or bigger monitor, the Logitech Alto portable notebook stand lets you anchor a laptop at eye level and work more comfortably at a table or desk.
    The Alto includes a full-size keyboard with extra programmable keys for things like starting programs or controlling the computer's volume. A USB port is required to connect the Alto to the laptop, but a small hub built into the stand provides three more USB 2.0 ports for use in connecting other devices.
    The Alto sells for about $100 and will be available in stores next month; product details are at www.logitech.com. It works with most Windows and Mac OS X laptops weighing less than nine pounds. When not propping up your portable, the Alto folds down to about 9 inches by 17 inches and less than an inch and a half thick. Then, unlike a desktop computer, it can be shoved out of sight.
  • A SIMPLE ADD-ON KEEPS AN IPOD HANGING AROUND: Yet another accessory for the iPod? Thankfully, the Hangman from Neat Products offers a clever twist.
    This tiny piece of plastic connects to the synching and charging port on the bottom of the iPod and has a stainless steel link that hooks onto a belt loop or backpack.
    You then wrap the slack of the headphone cable around the Hangman and let the iPod dangle in the wind. To remove the Hangman, you press a button and it pops off.
    The Hangman keeps your iPod close at hand and away from the clutter at the bottom of your bag, where it can be scratched and cracked. It fits third-, fourth- and fifth-generation iPods, along with the Mini and the Nano. It is just about a quarter of an inch thick and weighs less than half an ounce.
    The Hangman comes in black or gray and is available for $19.95 at www.neatproducts.com.
    Fans of wearable technology - if they exist - could feasibly wear a Hangman-connected iPod as a fancy medallion. It could happen.
  • FOR GAMES AND VIDEOS, A LAPTOP MADE TO IMPRESS: Fans of high-definition video have a friend in the Dell XPS M1710, a monster laptop that in its most expensive configuration can read and write the new Blu-Ray high-definition discs. But does that warrant its $3,699 price tag?
    Well, there are other high-end features in the package, including a 17-inch screen, a 2.4-gigahertz Intel Core 2 Duo T7600 processor and an Nvidia GeForce Go 7950 GTX graphics chip. A full gigabyte of memory and 80 gigabytes of hard drive space are also inside.
    The laptop has an ExpressCard slot and six USB ports. A DVI-out port lets you connect this beast to an HD television.
    All of that means the M1710 is almost perfectly suited to play the latest games and to play and record HD video in its full glory.
    Aimed at the die-hard gamer and media fanatic, the M1710 is obviously not for everyone. At nine pounds, this laptop is less portable than luggable, but its high-style features - particularly the colored lights on the brushed-metal case, which comes in red or black - will make quite an impression at the cybercafe.
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