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VersaMe Starling review: Starling could encourage early language development in children

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MSRP: $199.00

The Good Starling benefits from a unique vocabulary-tracking concept and promising technology.

The Bad There aren't enough features to justify the high price.

The Bottom Line I love what Starling is trying to do, and with some added features, it could be a great gadget for many parents. The problem is, the device boils down to a $200 reminder to talk to your kid, without enough sophistication to justify the price.

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6.6 Overall
  • Features 3
  • Usability 8
  • Design 9
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

Stanford psychologists have spent years tracking the effects of verbally engaging infants and toddlers. Kids who get consistent interaction and those who don't are divided by a so-called language gap. This gap in speech and comprehension is evident in children as young as 18 months, and by the time kids enter kindergarten, there can be as much as a 2-year developmental disparity.

Enter Starling by VersaMe: a $200 gadget that aims to close that gap. Starling clips to your child's clothes and tracks how many words they hear each day -- a good indicator of later success. On the iOS app (an Android app is on the way), you can follow your hourly, daily, weekly and monthly patterns of interaction, and also receive notifications suggesting activities to increase it.

I love the technology behind Starling, and I'm excited for its future. But until it develops further, Starling will just feel like a $200 reminder to talk to your child.

The Starling device is well designed and sturdy. It clips to clothing easily, and its drool- and waterproof frame won't break when young children chew on it.

I also like the app, which lets you set daily goals and measure your success over time. Its daily tips offer variety, so one-way conversations with your infant don't start to feel repetitive. One tip, for instance, suggests talking your child through the emotions they're expressing, and giving them a vocabulary to articulate those feelings as they grow.

Starling is a great resource for parents who want to set their kids up for future success. But after a few weeks of using it, I can't help but wonder if the price tag is justified. Practically, the Starling's greatest value is simply its presence. Even if the goal-setting and daily tips fall by the wayside over time, as they did for me, the device itself will remain a clear and helpful reminder to consistently engage with your child.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

But is that reminder really worth $200? I mean, a sticker that says "Speak to me" on it would have nearly the same effect, and it would cost far less.

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