Stumbled upon yet another new e-learning service trying to help Korean students learn English. Yes, English education is indeed a huge market in Korea.

Word Sketch is a simple yet powerful concept: Pictogram meets vocabulary builder. It allows easier vocabulary study by presenting "sketches" (pictograms) and having the student associate those pictures with the words' meaning. 

At the end of the learning cycle, Word Sektch gives tests and pop quizzes as well, to make sure the student fully memorizes the word's meaning: 

All this is offered on a handheld device, which is no other than a custom version of Mintpad (which I had covered in this blog). Word Sketch was smart in that it didn't choose to produce a hardware device of its own in-house, but leveraged what's already out there and customized it.  

So in a nutshell, Word Sketch is the digital version of 4x6 memory cards. The good part is that the whole concept is totally extensible to other languages as well as English, as the meaning stays even if we change the language and therefore we don't have to re-draw the whole "sketches" every time. The company was founded by a former co-founder of Gamevil, a prominent mobile gaming company of Korea whose current market cap is north of KRW 100 bn (~$100M). 

TAG English, mintpad, Word Sketch

Mintpad is one of a kind portable device

Mobile | 2008/12/12 01:51 | Web 2.0 Asia

Mintpad is a unique portable device that lets you do, well, pretty much everything. With Mintpad, you can jot down memos, draw pictures, do mobile blogging and chatting, take photos and videos, listen to music, record your voice, surf the web, exchange business cards and manage your schedule, read e-books, and God only knows what else. 

Mintpass looks like this: Despite so many things it can do, it's deceivingly small. 

Here is the spec sheet of Mintpad. There are some Korean characters there, but you can get the gist of it. (By the way, battery goes up to 30 hours; The device runs on Windows CE 5.0)

You might say "Hey, my iPhone can do everything Mintpad does, plus it can make phone calls." That's not terribly incorrect - but I don't think Mintpad was designed as an iPhone fighter in the first place. Rather, I think the designers of Mindpad wanted to create new use cases. Compared to other portable devices, I think Mintpass is more focused on writing and sending memos, and mobile blogging. 

Speaking of which, blogging on Mindpad seems to be a breeze. You can blog by typing texts from on-screen keypads and attaching images, either photos taken from Mintpad's built-in 1.3-megapixels camera, or your own artwork that can be drawn with the stylus pen on screen. 

Then other Mindpad users can leave comments, either as texts or handwritings. Comments are displayed as post-it notes - a nice metaphoric, graphical touch. 

Another interesting feature is what it calls "memo chat". Two mintpad users (for example, dating couples) can quickly write or draw something on Mintpad screen and flick it to the other person - which is a new way of chatting, one that is a lot more fun (and possibly quicker) than dull text messaging. 

The folks behind Mintpad are actually no newbies - they are old gangs behind iRiver, a major MP3 device maker, which once used to compete almost neck-and-neck with iPods. I'm no gadget expert, but I personally have a bit of mixed opinions here. Mindpad is a solid product, and there are some unique features such as memo chat. But on the other hand, there aren't that many things Mindpad can do that cannot be done with the iPhone. Besides, telephone feature is a definite one-up for the iPhone. Therefore, if Mintpad wants to gain significant market traction (not only in the Korean market, but also in other markets outside of Korea), I believe it will have to have as many features to distinguish itself from the iPhone as possible. The competition in this case is simply too strong. 

TAG Iriver, mintpad