Monday, February 13, 2006

Babies at the PC? Toy Fair Gets Giggles

They say it's never too early to start teaching a toddler how to use a computer, but software for babies? Don't laugh, but a giggle may be in order.

Have you ever seen a parent trying to get work done at a PC while a toddler sits in his lap? It doesn't take long for the tot to reach over and test his fingers--and sometimes his palms and knees--on the keyboard, much to the peril of the data in the computer.

Giggles Computer Funtime For Baby from Leveractive LLC of Webster, New York, takes a baby's natural urge to mimic the keyboard-tickling actions of those he sees and channels it into a learning and entertainment experience, according to Tim Leverett, creator of the software and president of the two-year-old company. He said Giggles was the result of two years of research and field testing with toddlers.

Leverett (pictured above) showed off the software, which is aimed at children between six and 24 months old, at the 2006 American International Toy Fair in snow-laden New York.

No, your tot won't have to take a crash course in the alphabet, numbers and function keys in order to use the program. Once the software is started, a touch of any key will trigger activity on the screen from an assortment of colorful cartoon animals or shapes. A keystroke might cause farm animals to jump up from behind bushes or appear in windows or it might cause colorful shapes, like diamonds, squares and circles, to dance around the screen. Constant pressure on a key or group of keys results in multiple actions and sounds. The software can also be set to a non-interactive video mode if the child just wants to watch.

As a toddler randomly whacks at the keyboard, the software captures all of the input. Thus there's no danger that junior will accidentally reboot your computer, access other programs or delete data, said Leverett. He noted that Giggles doesn't require much computer muscle: The Windows version (a Macintosh version is also included) requires only 32 megabytes of RAM, a 500-megahertz Pentium II processor and a 4X CD-ROM. He suggested that some parents might want to install the software on an old, otherwise underpowered computer and keep their main PC to themselves.

"Shapes," the first entry in a series of titles that will include "Funny Faces," "Animal Friends," and others, is available now for $24.95 from the Giggles Web site.

Photo © 2006 Stadium Circle Features