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LeapPad is a range of tablet computers developed for children. Various models of the LeapPad have been developed since 1999. The latest of the range is the LeapPad Explorer, which was released in 2011.
The device, resembling a talking book, took 3 years to develop and was introduced to the market in 1999. In 2001 (sales $160 million) and 2002 it was the best-selling toy in specialty stores. Sales in 2003 reached $680 million and were only eclipsed by sales of the book and cartridge add-ons.
LeapPad was developed by a team from Explore Technologies, Inc. acquired by Leapfrog in July 1998. It uses the same patented "NearTouch" technology developed for the Explore Technologies Odyssey Atlasphere. Investigation and development was started in December 1997.
Various models of the LeapPad were developed between its launch in 1999 and 2008:
The LeapPad's popularity helped spawn other LeapPad branded devices that are incompatible with the mainstream LeapPad series of players. These devices were meant for younger audiences who are not ready for the mainstream LeapPad's titles.
The LeapPad is a computer with electrographic sensor. The sensor works as a capacitor and measures the amount of current flowing through corner electrodes into a plate beneath the table top, and uses that information to triangulate the location of the stylus on the table top. The LeapPad is covered by U.S. patents 5686705 and 5877458.
The LeapPad apparently makes no effort to verify the region of the cartridge and book placed in the unit- a North American Read and Write LeapPad has been tested on a British version of the Tad Goes Shopping title and the device functioned correctly with the British cartridge and book. This does not guarantee that the LeapPad will function correctly for all the titles, however, and in some cases, the software on the cartridge may attempt to load a sound sample that is stored on the LeapPad itself, resulting in problems ranging from missing sounds to abnormal behavior (i.e. mismatched speech samples and sudden changes in speech accent). In fact, LeapPad titles that were released during the launch of the system in 1999 may not be compatible on newer LeapPads from the same region as well (tested with a first-generation copy of Leap's Friends From A to Z with a Read and Write LeapPad, which exhibited missing sound samples).
The popularity of the LeapPad spawned a few competitions, most notably with Mattel who launched the Fisher-Price PowerTouch Learning System in 2003, and later with the Power Touch Baby. The PowerTouch learning system was far more advanced than the LeapPad in many ways, requiring no stylus to operate as it uses a touch-sensitive area, and even the ability to detect page changes automatically via a set of infrared sensors on the top of the device(which also imposed a limitation on how many pages a book for the system can offer). However, despite the improvements and backing from popular brands like Nelvana and Scholastic, the PowerTouch did not catch on with the public as widely as the LeapPad did although it does have its share of followers.
The LeapPad also faced competition from publisher Publications International Inc, whose specialty included electronic children books with sound modules. The ActivePoint and Magic Wand titles operated on a similar principle to the LeapPad. However the system faced limitations in that the book itself is bound to the reader and stylus and thus cannot be interchanged. Publications International later introduced the Story Reader and My First Story Reader system, which is more limited in function in that it will only read the story as the user turns the page, and features less interactive features: The Story Reader completely lacks any interactive functions, while the My First Story Reader only has simple quizzes answered through the use of three buttons at the bottom of the device. However, due to the lower cost of the system, Publications International's offering remained competitive with the LeapPad.
LeapPad won the Toy of the Year[disambiguation needed] award from the Toy Manufacturers of America. In 2001, LeapFrog's LeapPad won the first-ever People Choice Toy of the Year Award, sponsored by the Toy Industry Association.
LeapFrog won the Platinum Award for LeapPad(TM) from the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio in September 2011.