(OT) Australia - Oh no, now even teddy needs a password

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This article implies I know how to work a blender. Huh?

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Oh no, now even teddy needs a password

New York: Just say, "Some assembly required" and you'll trigger painful memories for many parents. The fruitless attempts to fit tab A into slot B. The incomprehensible instructions. The child's tears when the toy didn't work.

If you thought trying to put together a bicycle was tough, brace yourself. The toy industry is rolling out a new breed of playthings - including old favourites such as stuffed animals, dolls and games - with software designed to be repeatedly updated through Internet downloads.

These malleable toys will offer a staggering degree of customisation, focus on topics your child is interested in and will remain "fresh" for months or years.

Many of these toys are aimed at toddlers (such as e-Specially My Barney) and even infants (electronic Music Blocks). While most parents with a computer and an Internet connection are comfortable visiting a Web site, a whole lot of people flinch at the thought of plugging a talking teddy bear into the back of their PC to change a soundtrack.

"There is a certain level of technology that people need to know before they'll be comfortable with this," acknowledged Ms Jen Sward, project manager with LeapFrog, an Emeryville company introducing five such products this year.

All five of LeapFrog's educational toys will operate just fine without an Internet connection. But the downloads make them more flexible.

Ms Sward said that although the company has put an enormous amount of research into making the toys easy to use, the nature of computing today means that people who are ignorant about the plugs in the back of their box will probably encounter problems.

Experts say fear of fiddling with a computer isn't unreasonable.

"We've made progress, but the industry still has a way to go before a computer is as easy for people to use as a blender," said Mr Ben Shneiderman, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory.


As reported in OZ from The San Jose Mercury.

Hmmmm from Down Under

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), February 21, 2000


I want to see how they handle it when someone hacks into the site and all of a sudden sweet little Barney starts saying some... ummmmm... very unBarney-like things to the kiddies... (No examples, use your imagination!)

-- I'm Here, I'm There (I'm Everywhere@so.beware), February 21, 2000.

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