Two Types of Dotted Media: Poingo vs. Tag


Here are two images of similar technology taken with the EyeClops BioniCam's handy image capture feature (isn't it fun to turn toys on themselves?). The first image as a nearly white section of page from a Publications International book. The reader is called Poingo (Sept. '08) which is powered by dotted media technology comes from SD-X Interactive (SD-X), a privately held company in Lincolnwood, Illinois. While the dots are smaller than Tags (Spring '08), the technology seems to be similar. We review Poingo in our Oct. '08 issue (see the notes on both below the images).

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Poingo Dots
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Tag's pattern (below) uses Anoto technology. Keep in mind, that in either case, you can barely notice the ink patterns.
This is not a perfectly white section of the Tag page -- you can see some very tiny ink specks between some of the dots.
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HOW DO THEY WORK?
First, neither device writes. Even though the Tag tip looks like pencil lead, it's not.
Both devices have tiny infrared cameras in their tips (so a child can mess up the process if they put their finger of the end).
Hint: If you videotape the devices in operation using the night vision setting on your camera, you can see the strobing light in action.

SO, you ask. Which one is better? While Poingo costs less, Tag is more precise and responsive (look at the tips, as one clue). In addition, Poingo requires that you register each book before you use it, by touching a start image on the title page. Like many comparisons, we think the main consideration is the content, and the way children interact with the content. If you're a fan of children's literature, Tag's library is definitely more "high brow" where Poingo goes for such cultural classics as "Cars" and "Finding Nemo." Poingo has a lot more memory (256 MB vs 16 MB for Tag) and costs less ($35 vs. $50). And both are responsive. But most importantly, with Tag, you can hear individual words by touching them, which is better for emerging readers. Poingo reads entire paragraphs as chunks, and the quizzes and games are crudely designed. In terms of interactivity, Tag is the better choice; but the good news for consumers is that both options are viable. Anytime an early reader can hear things labeled -- the linking of pictorial representations with sounds -- has a lot of educaitonal validity.

BTW, what do you think happens if you touch a Leapfrog Book with a Poingo (or vice-versa?). Nothing. They don't explode. But it would be fun if the pen said "a brief word from our legal department." (If anyone wants to add a paragraph on the legal relationship between the two technologies, that might be interesting).

POINGO REVIEW (coming in the Oct. '08 issue of CTR)
With a look like a fat toothbrush (minus the bristles) Poingo is a blunt-tipped talking stylus that can sense page locations by way of a tiny infrared camera mounted in its tip. Using a technology similar to Leapfrog's Tag Reading system, Poingo uses specially coded pages that contain nearly hidden dot patterns to identify location. So you can tap a picture to hear a sound effect, or some words to hear them narrated. Like the tag, the responsivity is good. Unlike Tag, which can read one word at a time, Poingo reads the paragraphs in one block of sound, which reduces it's value as an early point-at-a-single-word-and-hear reading tool. Fortunately, the blocks of narration can be interrupted with another tap, so children can control the pace of the narration. Another observation, from a whole-langauge perspective -- is that the stories seem hastily constructed. Cramming the entire plot of Finding Nemo into a 26 page picture book makes the story hard to follow. Poingo was created by Publications International (www.pubint.com). The $35 kit comes with two hardcover color Disney books (Cars and Finding Nemo) books and runs on 2 AAA batteries. The 256 MB of internal memory can store up to 50 books (compare that with just six for the Tag). All six launch books are already loaded into memory. You'll have to go online to download future content by way of a USB port of a Mac or Windows computer. Other features include two volume levels and a headphone jack.

TAG READING SYSTEM REVIEW (from the July '08 issue of CTR)
Imagine a LeapPad, crammed inside a single (fat) stylus that can read any word that is touched, in clear, loud speech. Now mix in the ability to capture what a child does on each page, upload it to an online management system, and do away with the green go button and cartridges. Pretty cool, right?
Back in 1999, Leapfrog's LeapPad did pretty much the same thing. Because $50 Tag stores books on 16 MB of internal memory (enough for six books) which is managed with a computer by way of a USB cable, it is much easier for a child to freely explore among a small collection of books, with no prior steps. The stories can also be read as audio books through a single clear speaker (loud enough to rise above the din of a moving car) or through headphones. In order to program a Tag Reader, you need a Mac or Windows computer and Internet access with the USB cord (included). After the driver is installed from the included CD, you can download new titles, a process not unlike downloading music to an iPod or MP3 player. After a few minutes, your Tag is loaded up. It then can "read" by using a small, infrared camera that can see the nearly invisible printed dots (a system licensed by Anoto, Inc.) to recognize the position on the page. So it doesn't actually read the words. Instead, it knows what is at each page location, and says what's there. One design glitch is with the on/off switch. While inside a pocket or bumped around inside a backpack, the can Tag turn on. Fortunately, it goes off automatically, saving the two AAA batteries, but still this could grow annoying. Tag also doubles as an audio book reader. A child can press a "play" button on the side of the device to hear the text of any book read aloud, a feature handy for car rides. A headphone jack is available for classroom use. The library of 18 coded books, sold for $14 each, include Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Cows That Type, The Little Engine That Could and Walter the Farting Dog. A set of $8 activity cards are available from National Geographic -- one set for birds, the other for animals. So you can hear the bird calls or find out how much a hippo weighs.
A school configuration costs $275 for four orange pens (ideal for a reading area), or you can purchase the entire library of four sets of 21 titles for $1,075. Hats off to Leapfrog for yet another technology breakthrough in reading. See the demo at http://www.leapfrog.com/tag/.

Kerry Cunnion, EVP Retail Sales & Marketing Vice President of Publications International, AKA, the “Father of Poingo” adds the following:

Please keep this in mind when comparing the Poingo and Tag
-- With Poingo, for $35 you get the pen and two FULL LENGTH storybooks. In order to get the equivalent content offering from TAG you would have to spend roughly $77 ($49 + 2 x $14). You don't need your calculator to see that Poingo is less than half the retail price of TAG -- which does not make my CFO happy but will hopefully allow this technology to reach many families that can't or choose not to purchase TAG.

-- You are correct in your assessment of "our" type of book vs. Leapfrog. As you know we feature licensed characters in most of our books. Our consumer research indicates that a character is a key purchase driver in almost 70% of book purchases. Some folks are troubled by the connection between TV or movie characters and books -- the way we look at it is that whatever we need to do in order to get a child to read is fair game. Our products are designed first for fun with the by-product of learning.