The new dog referred to in this inverted expression is Reflex Display technology. The old trick is a display that looks and responds like a blackboard. The result of this odd mating is an attractive product - the paperless LCD writing tablet called the Boogie Board.
Insight Media Consultant
The starting point of this story is Kent Displays Inc. (Kent, OH)’s Reflex Display technology. This type of display is based on a blend of polymer and cholesteric liquid crystal materials. The display is reflective and bistable. It requires no power to write or retain an image, with only a small amount of power required to erase the image. Reflex Displays are mass-produced exclusively in the United States utilizing a roll-to-roll process.
Kent Displays CEO Albert Green explained that researchers had been trying to improve the quality of the company’s Reflex Displays by reducing the distortion caused when pressure was applied to the screen. Instead, colleagues at Kent State University’s Liquid Crystal Institute discovered how to use the pressure to create an new effect - stylus input.
With that, another somewhat adjusted old saying comes to mind. If you have a display artifact that cannot be removed or hidden, feature it. Hence, the Boogie Board. This electronic writing tablet is Kent Displays first consumer product. It sells through a subsidiary called Improv Electronics (Kent, OH).
The writing surface of the tablet is composed of an impact-resistant but flexible plastic. An image is written by applying pressure with a stylus or other object - such as a fingernail. Although the surface does not feel spongy, its’ sensitivity is such that the device responds to varying degrees of pressure in a manner similar to that of pen on paper. That is, it is possible to produce lines of differing thickness. In fact, the writing experience is reported to feel very similar to that of paper or pencil on paper.
And as with paper, the Boogie Board does not have a back light and, therefore, cannot be used in the dark.
When ready for a new drawing, the user presses the Erase button at the top of the unit. The display flashes and returns to black. However, there is no provision for connection to a computer to save the image.
The device is 8.8 x 5.6 x 0.2-inches and weighs 4.2 ounces. With these specs, the Boogie Board could be carried in a purse or briefcase.
The Boogie Board is powered by a small watch-sized battery that specifications state will last for 50,000 erase cycles. The battery is not replaceable. With a unit retail price of $29.97, the result is that the Boogie Board tablets’ "cost per erase" is 15 times less than the cost per sheet of paper in a comparable sized notepad.
As of the time of writing, very few Boogie Boards were available on Amazon.com, the product’s primary sales outlet. Green stated that during the coming weeks the company will increase production to better meet demand.
The company reports receiving a great deal of feedback from Boogie Board customers. Apparently, users want the ability to save copies of past work, write in different colors or erase only a portion of the screen. Enabling such features is certainly technically possible but represents a significant evolution not only in the product but also in the product concept itself. Insight Media will keep watch and report on developments.