When I was a kid, computerized math tutoring came in the form of the Little Professor, an educational device made by Texas Instruments. While it was a fabulously geeky toy for my elementary school self, the Little Professor did have its shortcomings – all “he” could basically help with was addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Today, kids have it made. Companies like LeapFrog have made educational electronic toys available and accessible – even to .
I am going to tell you about their new FLY Fusion Pentop Computer, which is marked as appropriate for ages 8 and up. Due to the different accessories and modules available for the FLY Fusion, it can be enjoyed by kids up to 18…and perhaps even older, as it certainly doesn’t appear to be a toy at first glance.
Touted as “technology designed for your life,” when using the FLY Fusion Pentop Computer “everything you write on FLY™ Paper is automatically scanned and digitized. You can then upload it to your computer and convert to text. With the tap of your FLY Fusion Pentop Computer, you can interact with your notes, get instant feedback and step-by-step help, even play MP3s and games, all on paper!”
“And when you’re ready for new software, simply download custom homework applications directly to your FLY Fusion Pentop Computer. Choose from a complete library of homework tools such as Algebra, French Translator Pro, Spanish Translator Pro, FastComp Math Pro, Writing and more to help you master your homework and make time FLY.” Sounds pretty intriguing, right? Let’s check it out…
Included in the box are the:
* FLY Fusion Pentop Computer
* Rechargeable Battery
* Memory Expansion Slot
* FLY Fusion Installation CD
* FLY Fusion Notebook
* FLY World™ Application
* 13 FLY Fusion Games
* USB Cable
* $10 FLYbucks™ Coupon
* Quick Start Guide
* Reference Card
Included software and accessories:
* FastComp Math: Basics
* FLY Fusion Music Studio
* Spanish Translator
* MP3 Player
* 13 Games
* FLY Notes (so you can record what you write)
Evidently there is (or was) a FLY v1.0, because the site says, “The FLY Fusion Pentop Computer only works with FLY Fusion software and accessories, and is not compatible with FLY 1.0 Products.” Fair enough.
The FLY Fusion pen measures approximately 6.75″ long and resembles a f-a-t pen, with its 3.2″ girth. There is a button built into the front panel with an LED backlit FLY logo. When plugged into a computer’s USB port, the LED will glow red if the device is turned off, or yellow if on, as the battery charges; it will stop glowing once charging is complete. When the button is pressed to turn the FLY Fusion on, the LED will glow green.
On the left side of the pen there is a rubber stopper covering a earphone jack for listening to audio cues and MP3s.
The top 0.5″ of the pen is removable, and it contains the memory module; the included memory expansion cartridge holds 64MB, and additional 64MB cartridges can be purchased for $29.99 each.
The bottom of the Fly Fusion has a glass window, behind which sits the optical camera which is used to monitor the pen’s movements.
The tip also has a proprietary ballpoint that pulls out for easy refills ($7.99 for two). The ballpoint tip twists in either direction to expose or retract the writing tip. The end of the FLY Fusion has a miniUSB port which is used to charge the pen, as well as upload or download data.
Setup involves running the CD included in the folio…
…where you’ll note that there is a $10 coupon to use on additional FLY products.
Setting up the FLY Fusion goes like this: When the CD is inserted, these are the included files; clicking the Installer launches the setup.
Follow the set up screens…
At this point you can decide which programs or MP3s will be transferred to the FLY Fusion pen.
Clicking the Sync Pentop button begins the sync process (obviously).
When you write with the FLY Fusion Pentop Computer on FLY™ Paper, everything is automatically captured and digitized. You can then upload it to your PC and convert to text. Touch your pentop computer to FLY Paper, and you can quiz yourself on history, get help with a quadratic equation, or even play your favorite MP3. And when you’re ready for new software, simply connect to your PC again to purchase and download custom homework and gaming applications directly to your FLY Fusion Pentop Computer.
Included in the box was this Games sampler, which I figured would be as good as any place to start using the FLY Fusion.
Inside the cover are instructions, which are basically as follows:
- turn on the FLY Fusion by pressing the button
- read the game’s instructions printed at the top of each page
- swipe the FLY Strip by placing the FLY Fusion pentip on the green dot and dragging it accross the strip to the red dot. An audible prompt will signal that the game has been loaded.
- tap start
The most important thing? You do not have to use the ballpoint pen to play these games! So don’t – that way the game book won’t get all marked up, and the games can be played more than once.
So for the first game, I swiped the pen from left to right (green to red), and the pen made all sorts of sounds and a man’s voice told me to tap Start. I did, and then I laid down the pen to write about what was happening…and he asked “where’d you go?” I picked the pen back up, and played the puzzle, correctly guessed, and was told “You ROCK!!” Which yes, I do. Thankyouverymuch. I have to admit that the audio prompts were unexpected – I guess I thought that since there was an earphone jack, I would need to use my own to get audio feedback; now I know better – there is a quite large and quite loud speaker behind the long button on the front of the pen. Volume can be adjusted by tapping the volume pictures at the bottom of the page.
Here are examples of some of the other games…
Is it a bad thing that I really had fun playing, and that I plan on going to Target or Wal-Mart to see if they have some of the higher level puzzle or brain teaser books? Should I admit that? The entire experience was way more entertaining than I thought it would be.
For the next part, using the notebook and actually writing things that might be transferred to the computer, there is a handy FAQ card. The card contains information such as how to write letters so that they are recognized, how to navigate, and creating a FLYcon – or starting point to run an application on a piece of FLY Paper.
The back side of the card has more helpful hints on uploading drawn objects to the computer, using the Spanish translator, the MP3 player, or even creating a FLYtones keyboard on the paper.
Which means it is now time to open the included notebook. First things first, however – the blue dot on the front of the notebook must be tapped to “activate” the notebook and its features; once activated, a trill will sound.
Inside the notebooks cover, there are quite a few printed sections. The best place to start is at the upper right -next to the binder, That’s where the FLY TOUR and HOW TO USE FLY NOTES sections are located. They’ll get you off to a good start.
While we are here – let’s look at the System Panel. Tapping any of these buttons will announce the corresponding information for the memory status, fly notes memory status, battery status, time and date. There is also a calculator to the right which will allow you to input the figures you want calculated, with the answer being announced upon completion. On the bottom there is a Scheduler & Settings section, which allows you to set alarms and reminders. I have to tell you – this is so sci-fi compared to what was available when I was a kid…I’m jealous.
Now let’s take a look at the FLY Paper, because obviously there is nothing normal about it. Close examination reveals that it is composed of thousands of tiny dots.
Writing on the paper, the optical camera picks up words as they are written; plugging the FLY Fusion into the USB cable uploads the pen’s data to the computer…
…and displays exactly what was inked along with options to print it, email it as text, email it as an image, save it as an image, or open it as a document.
The official rules for writing with the FLY Fusion on FLY Paper are as follows:
Hold the pen like this…
• Leave space between words and between lines.
• Don’t write too close to the edge of a page.
• Don’t cover the camera with your finger.
• Don’t run your letters together.
Opening it as a document reveals that I have a bit more practicing to do.
Inside the back cover is a whole different experience: The FLY Fusion Music Studio. Once again, the pen’s tip should be retracted to avoid leaving marks. What a fun place to play and waste a bit of time! I can remember when I wanted a synthesizer so badly, and they were hundreds of dollars, and here is a very cool one – albeit a simple one by today’s standards – complete with rhythm loops, a turntable for scratching, and a digital recorder included in the back cover of a notebook. In case you are feeling uninspired, there are two sample music demos located in the buttons on the bottom right corner. Let’s just say that I managed to bang out the distinctive opening chords of Ministry’son the keyboard, and that was enough to make me quite pleased with myself.
Stuff like this makes me feel happy for kids today…and then it makes me wonder what types of toys their kids will be playing with.
I feel like this review could just go on and on while I described all the things I learned to do with the FLY Fusion Pentop Computer; I realize that I haven’t even covered them all here! When I first began using the FLY Fusion I thought it was a kid’s toy, and that it would somehow be a lame user experience for me as an adult. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The FLY Fusion is something that kids and adults alike will find ways to enjoy. Just the sheer wonder of a paper notebook that contains a recording synthesizer…it’s worth the $80 just to play with that feature alone – seriously. With the holiday season fast approaching, and gifts for kids becoming an issue, the FLY Fusion would make a great choice for nearly any age. Not only is it educational, it easy to figure out and highly entertaining.
The FLY Fusion Pentop Computer is available directly from the manufacturer as well as from other retailers.
MSRP: $79.99 for the starter kit, which is appropriate for ages 8 and up
What I Like: Easy to set up; easy to use; appropriate for many ages; highly entertaining; additional accessories aren’t that expensive; ballpoint pen does not have to be used for anything other than writing on the FLY Paper
What Needs Improvement: My handwriting recognition skillz…but I am working on them!
9 Original Responses to “The FLY Fusion Pentop Computer Review”
- 1 Allen Hong Oct 8th, 2007 at 9:44 am Wow, I had the Little Professor too!The Fly Fusion looks like a lot of fun. I want one too.
- 2 Will Rodriguez Oct 9th, 2007 at 5:22 pm I always wanted one of those pens! Now I want one even more… curse being a broke college kid! Blarg, I need a job. Oh well. Before anything else I need to get…. ok I can’t really say what I need most, there is way too much to list. Oh well. But still, this thing is awesome!!!!
- 3 Kerry Woo Oct 10th, 2007 at 4:01 pm Wow, what a great review – i saw this on a late night TV commercial and it sure looks like fun.
- 4 nancy carroll Dec 10th, 2007 at 12:28 pm Beware that if you ever have any problems with this pen, you will not get good tech support. For us, this is an expensive ball point pen. VERY DISAPPOINTING.
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