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Article:    Interactive TV 


oys that bring interactivity to television are popping up for preschoolers, and it's no surprise. Many parents express concern about the amount of time their kids spend watching the tube. Certainly, the lure of television is tremendous for many children. 

Two new toy releases make TV decidedly more interactive—one offers the chance to interact with DVDs featuring popular characters, and the other uses the television set as the medium for presenting educational programs.


V.Smile turns the television set into a learning system. The colorful V-Smile unit is a learning game platform that requires learning cartridges (called Smartridges!). Depending on the cartridges used, kids learn letters of the alphabet, vocabulary, alphabetic order, counting, numbers, logic, phonics, addition, and more. 

Each cartridge offers both an adventure mode and a learning game mode. Kids can choose to play the games within the context of an exciting adventure, and/or to tackle the games independently of the adventure. Many of the cartridges feature licensed characters, such as Winnie the Pooh, Care Bears, Scooby Doo, and Mickey Mouse. 

What is most impressive about this system is that it offers young children the chance to play "video games" that are more appropriate for their developing skills. See our full review of the V Smile here.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: V-Smile at]

InteracTV DVD System by Fisher Price offers kids the chance to watch specially designed DVDs, featuring popular characters, and interact along with them in educational ways. The system includes the hardware itself and a bonus DVD, along with activity cards, a DVD case, and a kid-friendly remote control. 

This DVD-based learning system requires that you own a DVD player. Additional DVD software titles must be purchased separately. These include titles featuring Dora the Explorer, Blue's Clues, Sesame Street, Barney, and Spongebob Squarepants. Children place the activity card over the wireless InteracTV controller and answer educational questions. Over 100 questions are programmed into each DVD, so children are kept stimulated and enjoy different experiences each time they watch.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: InteracTV Dvd System at]

Choice between the two? We prefer the V-Smile. Interactivity is limited on the InteracTV, ironically enough. The V-Smile offers educational games. They're different systems altogether, with different functions, but if it comes down to a choice between the two, we recommend the V-Smile.


Update October 2005:

Top Pick Now that the new Leapster incarnation of the excellent handheld learning system can be played on the TV as well as in portable format, it's our top choice for interactive TV systems. The Leapster L-Max is your best bet.


The New Leapster L-MaxLeapster L-Max

Top Pick Last year's Leapster has already been updated. The Leapster L-Max is a handheld portable unit that mimics Nintendo's GameBoy, but with important differences that make it not only more kid-friendly, but exceptionally more educational as well. The comparatively large screen is also a touch screen, and kids interact with the games by using a directional pad and an attached stylus. Game cartridges, available separately, offer children "edutaining" games that support learning. What's the main difference between the Leapster and the Leapster L-Max? Besides a slightly less bulky unit, the L-Max can be played as a portable or can be plugged into the TV and played on both the little and "big" screens. The unit is backwards compatible -- the original Leapster game cartridges can be played on the new unit. Most of the original games play on both the portable and TV screens, while some only play on the handheld. Read our full review of the L-Max here.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Leapster L-Max]













October 2004/Updated October 2005

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