A Tablet for Babies? The VINCI Tablet Gives Toddlers a Jump Start on Touchscreens

by Michael Sheehan on September 23, 2011

in Consumer Electronics, Family, Gadgets, General, Google, Hardware, iPad, Parenting, Review, Tablet

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A few weeks ago I received a pre-production version of a new tablet targeted toward children ages 2-4 or so called the “VINCI Tab“. I had been dying to review an Android-based tablet, but the VINCI threw me for an unexpected curve. It really is not what you might expect. While it is technically a tablet, it is really a crippled one. But it is crippled for an important reason and that is something that I didn’t immediately get.

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Typically when I get a product, I just jump right into it without reading instructions, or if I do, I try to keep that at a minimum. My goal is to see how well a product “works” without having to read a manuscript on “how” it is supposed to work. For me, the usability factor, coupled with understandability, is core to a products success. Initially, the VINCI for me failed this. But there is actually a reason why and it makes sense.

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I’m pretty spoiled by using an iPad as my primary tablet so getting to poke around the Android-based VINCI was definitely a bit of fun. However, one of the first things that I did when I turned it on, was to explore the OS a bit. The screen showed some bars for signal strength, but yet when I tried to activate the wifi, I received an error. Obviously, I was not one of the people who had actually read up about how and why the VINCI was designed.

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The VINCI is made for babies and toddlers. This is the important thing to remember when looking at this Android tablet. Babies touch everything. They put things in their mouths. They drop things. They bang things against floors and walls. Giving your 2 or 3 year old your $500 tablet investment is probably not a smart thing to do (more about pricing later). So the VINCI Tab was designed to be a baby-friendly tablet computer, even down to the fact that there are no harmful wifi or cellular signals emanating from the device simply because the hardware isn’t there within it. No wifi means no radiation which is important for everyone, especially babies who’s cells and bodies are continuing to develop and grow.

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The VINCI has actually two layers to the OS, one for babies and one that is your standard Android OS layer. On the “baby” layer, there are applications, games, videos and other little goodies that can teach your young child some basics like counting or colors or words (through storybooks). The tablet is designed to act like a tablet that mommy and daddy would have, but that can be handled roughly, have every button pushed and doesn’t have any harmful radiation coming from it (other than what is emitted from the screen I guess).

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There is even a 3 MP camera where the toddler can take pictures or video. The idea here is that you want to let you toddler play with a tablet, receive some education from it in the form of video and game content, and let them explore the device, just a long as it isn’t YOUR tablet that they are using. That make sense to me. And there are definitely some kid friendly features like:

  • Handles – there are red handles that wrap around the VINCI. This makes it much easier for little hands to grab and hold the device. Also, the handle, which will most likely spend a lot of time in your baby’s mouth and used as a teething device, is made without PVC, latex or BPA.
  • No Radios – I mentioned this before already, there is no Wifi built into the Vinci. That means no radio emissions. It also means no Internet (which is a good thing for young children as Internet content is typically not good for this age unless carefully moderated by the parent). There also is no hardware for a cellular radio, just like the missing wifi hardware. If you try to enable the wifi, you will get an error.
  • Full Color Touch Screen – kids in the coming generations will expect all screens to be touch screens. You already see them trying to touch computer monitors to interact with them. The VINCI has a 800×480 LCD multi-touch, capacitive screen which changes orientation depending on how it is held. Your child gets to experience touch-screens safely.
  • Games, Programs, Videos – your baby can watch specially created content in the form of applications, storybooks, videos, and games that can help them interact with the touch screen.

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HighTechDad Ratings

I let my youngest daughter who is well beyond toddler years being at the “ripe old age” of 7 and a half play with the VINCI tab for a bit. The problem was, she is not only older, but also used to using an iPad and an iPhone. Her opinion was that she really didn’t like it and she spent an hour or so with it. But that is to be expected though. She is much older than the target audience and spoiled by the iPad. From a baby’s perspective, it’s a shiny toy that interacts with you and potentially teaches in the process. I didn’t have a “test subject” of the appropriate age to try the VINCI out on unfortunately.

There are two models, the VL-1001 and the VH-2001, the difference being battery life, internal storage, learning curriculum and, of course price point, with the prices being $389 and $479 respectively. Honestly, at that price point, you might want to simply invest in a true Apple or Android tablet for about the same price. Regardless, this product is definitely geared towards families who have a bit more disposable income. Overall, the VINCI tab is an interesting new player in this space. Its success will largely depend on the content, current and future.

EASY TO GEEK FACTOR – is the device easy to get up and running
HTD_4_star
FAMILY FRIENDLY – does the device fit well into family environments
HTD_4_star
RECOMMENDABILITY– would I recommend it to others (more means “yes”)
HTD_2_half_star
PRICE POINT – does the price reflect the product function
HTD_2_half_star
OVERALL – my general rating
HTD_2_half_star

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Disclosure Text : I have a material connection because I received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item or gift after my review period. More information can be found in my About page as well as here.

HTD says: The VINCI tablet is an interesting niche-oriented entrant into the Android tablet marketplace. It is truly designed for babies and toddlers and depending on how the content develops, could make a nice little name for itself in that space.

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  • Dan_dyang

    Thanks for the fair review. A big chunk of the cost is in the content development because it’s not developed just off the head. You might notice that it’s the first time 3D animated games are running on Android. Many features such as circular scenes rather than changing scenes in games, quantity sense at first level (Explorations game) then number concept at second level (The World game), and progressive language leaning, emotional understanding etc were all researched to fit the developmental curves. The value is not in the hardware. The value is that it’s first time we are trying to set objectives for early learning, leveraging little people’s curiosity and what technology can offer.

  • http://www.hightechdad.com hightechdad

    Yes, as I tried to mention towards the end of the review (and something that I didn’t test that much and relied on my children to provide me with feedback) was the content. I did try a few of these, and it is always the content that is king with this type of a product (think Apple or even within this marketplace, LeapFrog). I think it is a compelling use of the hardware and Android and does have potential. Perhaps the hardware pricepoint could be lower to ensure that people come in and adopt the platform and then the content subscription could be monthly or per item (e.g., a marketplace).

    Thanks for the comment and clarification around the content!

  • Dan_dyang

    Monthly subscription is brilliant! We could even think about using cell phone strategy ie giving the tablet for a minimum fee then charge monthly for “early learning service”, say 50$ for VINCI Tab, minimum 1 year contract at 50$ each. Yes we are setting up a market place with 3rd party developer program http://www.vincigenius.com/support/becomeadeveloper
    In the next few months there will be a lot more content at VINCI store from both VINCI and 3rd party.

  • Anne

    Hi Michael,Interesting post! Would you be interested in sharing your articles with other like-minded parent bloggers? If yes, please email me at info@atomicreach.com with Parents in the subject line.
    Thanks,Anne

  • Lefteris

    Hello to you all, I have recently bought a VH-2001 for my 1 year old son. I do appreciate the content and the focused development around toddlers and young children. However, there should be a wifi module with a software lock as for its price tag someone is expecting to be able to use it for other purpose too. For instance for the older children in the house including me of course, who i would like to download a bubble game from the android market and play with my son who loves it. Even though the content is fantastic, in my opinion there are ways to bypass the radiation issue when a todler is using it as i have previously mentioned and enable the parents to enable or disable the function on their discretion.

  • Steve

    You’d be a lot better off looking at the tablet from Hatch Early Learning, and trying to get your school to get it, too. Research-based applications, kid-friendly interface, and a bumper that literally makes it kid-proof. 
    http://www.hatchearlychildhood.com/pages/early-learning-tablet-for-kids

  • Steve

    Yes, content is king. Best place to find developmentally appropriate content that’s based on early learning research and tailored to early childhood education is 
    http://www.hatchearlychildhood.com/pages/early-learning-tablet-for-kids

  • Michele

    We bought the Vinci Tab II 2001 for our 2 year old grandson and within an hour he had worked out how to get into the software and could have deleted all the applications. When I contacted Vinci they were in the process of writing software to stop this and they asked me to send it back and they downloaded software to disable the access button. I had read a lot of reviews before buying this product and was surprised than no one had mentioned this. We’ve now had it back nearly four weeks and this time it has an error message. There is no mention of any error messages in the manual except when you download, as you have mentioned there is no internet connection and so we know that our grandson has not been able to download anything. I have an email into head office again to see if they can help!! We love this product when it works and our grandson loves it too. I think that maybe if needs to have a few generations to get it up to scratch.

  • http://www.hightechdad.com hightechdad

    Yeah, I wasn’t that impressed with the product actually. Good concept but not that great of an implementation. Thanks for pointing this out!

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