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Hardware Review of:
Computer Sound Morpher
Intel Play


Sound Morpher

Larry Grosskopf is a Clinical Psychologist at the San Antonio State Hospital, with a very strong interest in computers. He and Marta, his wife, are raising two wonderful children, Zoë, age 9, and Jackson, age 7.

From the September, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

During the year 2000, Intel launched a venture with Mattel marketing a variety of toy products (the Intel Play line) for use with your computer. This was obviously aimed at the home computer user and specifically at children. These toys were available until they were discontinued in March of this year. Intel attempted to become, at least a minor player in the “smart toy” technology market. This was a step out from the familiar PC chip realm for them. One thing that is certain, much like E.F. Hutton, when Intel “speaks” or puts it’s name on a product, it will be given serious consideration by many consumers. Unfortunately for Intel, it appears that most consumers were lending a deaf ear to their endeavors. Thus, in March of this year, Intel decided to abandon it’s “Play” line of products. These included the Intel Play Digital Movie Creator, Intel Play QX3 Computer Microscope, Intel Play Me2cam Computer Video Camera, and the Intel Play Sound Morpher. 

Now when the Sound Morpher product hit the market, it was priced at a healthy $49.95 retail list price. Perhaps that is what kept many purchasers away. Perhaps it was an idea ahead of it’s time. The March, 2002 Intel Press Release simply indicated that Intel was abandoning production and refocusing their attention on computer chips. They did indicate that they would continue both telephone and e-mail technical support for the products through September 30, 2003. A year or so ago, I had seen the Sound Morpher in local computer and electronic and even toy stores, but had not purchased one until earlier this summer, when I saw one for $4.95 (new in the box) at the San Antonio Computer Blast show. Online, they vary from $6.99 to $49.00 as of this writing. Zoë and Jackson are both little hams and enjoy playing with microphones on the computer already, so this purchase was a no-brainer. 

First, the basics, this device operates on three AAA batteries and does not have to be connected to the computer in order to record. The microphone is built into the recorder. Should you get tired of the sounds you hear emanating from it, you can allow the kids to keep using it with the headphones that come as part of the set. It does need to be connected to the computer on initial installation and in order to download saved sounds into the computer. As for installation, all that you have to do is connect the Sound Morpher device to the microphone in line on the back of your computer and then install the software and device drivers from the CD. The whole process was simple and very straightforward. Using the device was pretty easy too. 

The face of the Sound Morpher has several buttons and a knob and a tiny LCD screen which tells the length and sequence of the recordings. In order to record, you may either push and hold down the record (microphone) button, or push the record button to start the recording and push it again to stop recording. For playback, there is a playback button and when it is pushed, it replays the most recent sound or voice recording. There is a volume-adjust knob and it increases volume when turned clockwise and decreases it in the counterclockwise direction. There is a Trash button used to delete material. Push it once and hold for one second in order to delete the most recent recording. Push it and hold it for at least three seconds to delete all of the recordings on the Morpher. Finally, the Download button lets the user transfer sounds from the Morpher into the computer. The download button only works if you are running the software and the Sound Morpher is connected to the computer via the proper connecting cable. Don’t be fooled by the cable, it looks very much like a USB connection but it is not. Damage can easily be done to this connection if you are not careful. 

Systems are required to have Windows 95 or 98, an Intel Pentium or Celeron processor, with a speed of at least 233 MHz recommended, but 166 MHz minimum. You should have at least 32 MB of RAM and a minimum 140 MB free hard disk space. The aforementioned amount is required to install the program with 90 MB of disc space utilized once the installation is completed. Other requirements are a 4x CD ROM, an SVGA 800x600 graphics display, 16-bit color and a 16-bit Windows compatible sound device. DirectX 6 is included with the install disk. Finally a standard mouse and keyboard are needed by the software. 

Sure enough, once it was connected and the software was loaded, they began to play with it, making merry and causing me fits of laughter. They learned that you could pick some of the preset phrases or alternate voices and listen to them. They quickly learned how to record their own voices on it. I still help them download their recordings onto the hard drive of the computer. One rather neat thing about this device is that it will hold recordings up to 4 minutes in length.  The Sound Morpher can store up to 99 individual recordings. The kids can carry it around the house and they both seem to enjoy recording their voices for later download onto the computer's hard drive. There are also built-in voices which you may choose from. Another interesting and fun aspect is to use your computer keyboard to type a few words, sentences or phrases and then listen to them, “morph” or mix the voices saying the phrase in various ways. Zoë gets a kick out of the different voice sounds that are included in the lis. When you like the sound of it, you can then save those items as a new sound and replay it from your list. You can make your voice say your phrase in the sound of a monster, robot, alien, mermaid, etc., and the beat goes on. The software also includes an animated “face-making” tool which works by combining various facial features that you select for your creation. Jackson likes to have a variety of his “faces” repeat the sounds and words. 

It works well, but the software might be a bit too complex for younger children. Both Jackson age 7, and Zoë age 9, picked it up fairly quickly and are enjoying it immensely. This is a product that Intel will no longer support 13 months from now, but it is supported until then. If you can find a great bargain like this, why not have fun with it until then? I must admit, part of my reason for buying this was to play with it myself and to play with it with my children. We are being silly and having fun with it.

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