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Comfort zones

The Comfy Keyboard

Children's keyboard for Multimedia PCs, with Comfyland Animated Interactive Movies CD-Rom, Pounds 64.95. Additional titles Pounds 19.99 eachDeans Hill Systems, The Granary, Little Deans Hill Farm, Bredgar, Sittingbourne, Kent ME9 8BB

The standard QWERTY keyboard often proves a stumbling block when children are learning computer skills. Comfy Interactive Movies believes that in order to start children as young as two using computers, you need to take a different approach to the way they interact with the computer itself.

To this end the firm has produced the Comfy Keyboard and Comfyland Animated Interactive Movies which together aim to entertain and educate.

The keyboard comprises an attractive, robust keypad on which there are groups of coloured buttons, keys, a "telephone" with character keypads and a cylindrical roller. It's not too dissimilar to the type of thing often found in babies' cots. This can plug into a multimedia PC's parallel printer socket and has several multi-level activity areas which integrate with Comfyland.

The child plays an active role as it interacts with the characters. Each character speaks slowly and clearly and the child may be requested to help by pressing one of the buttons or "telephone" another character.

Colourful buttons can tint the scene: pressing the sun, moon or rain keys, for example, triggers one of several mini movies. The software can run in one of five languages and has an evaluation feature which permits teachers or parents to monitor the child's performance.

The Comfy Keyboard is fun but has serious learning aspects too. It helps develop handeye co-ordination, language and the study of cause and effect, while laying down foundation skills for future multimedia experiences. But the cultural and linguistic bias is American and there would definitely need to be a UK version before too long.

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