Liquid Crystals (LC) used in LCD panels were first discovered in the late 1800s. They were interesting because the crystals will align themselves in the direction of a magnetic field. Display makers have used this property in combination with polarizing filters to make LC pixels “appear” or “disappear” to form an image on the screen. However, liquid crystals have many other interesting properties, one of which is cleverly used by Improv Electronics to make a product which may someday replace the paper pad.
When we first saw the price ($30) of the Boogie Board, we were intrigued. We knew this was not an LCD panel, an ePaper display, or something which could be made into a monitor. We were interested because it looked like it would be the perfect scratch pad…some place to write down a quick note, a phone number, or anything that does not have to be saved for the long term.
What the Boogie Board is became quite clear once we got a good look at it. The Boogie Board is like a single giant pixel. The Boogie Board contains a pool of liquid crystals sandwiched between two layers of plastic. When a stylus writes across the surface of the Boogie Board surface, the pressure causes the LC molecules to orient in such a way that they reflect light back instead of letting it pass through, creating a mark.
Erasing the doodles on the Boogie Board is done with the press of a button. When the button is pressed, a charge is sent, the board flashes momentarily, and everything is wiped clean. By now, some readers will have made the parallel with the “magic eraser” pads we all had as kids. Yes, the Boogie Board is the 21st century’s version of that tablet, which erased by lifting a clear film. It is just as magical!
The Boogie Board will be a hit for any parent with a young child just learning to write. The Boogie Board pen will not mark up anything other than the board. The quick-erase function means there is has a virtuely endless supply of “paper.” Best of all, it is tough (unlike an iPad or iPhone), a key requirement if for a child-proof device. Some folks had concerns about the embedded battery. It will last for years. We say, forget about the battery. By the time it runs out, the world will likely be a different place 🙂
Improv Electronics has recently released a few useful accessories for the Boogie Board. The neoprene case with an integrated pen holder on the side makes it easy to toss a Boogie Board into the car or a drawer. The magnetic pads on the back will make it simple to slap one on a refrigerator. If you are going to mount the Boogie Board, the pen clip is a great accessory to add to the top of the tablet. When slid over the Erase button, the pen clip will prevent accidental erasure of whatever is on the screen.
The Boogie Board is very handy, highly portable, and useful in more ways than we would have imagined. There is some talk that future versions will add memory that can save the scribbles for later transfer to a computer. We are highly skeptical of that possibility. The writing appears because of a physical rearrangement of the LC in an amorphous pool, not digitally recordable without significant addition of circuitry…and cost. We would not hold out much hope for that feature. The final comment we would like to make to our readers is “don’t think of the Boogie Board as and electronic device.” Instead, think of it as a dust-free dry-erase notepad with a virtually endless supply of paper. However you think of it, we assure you that you will find countless number of ways to use it.
UPDATE (Sep 22, 2010): According to Improv Electronics, a version with a “Save Note” capability is scheduled for 2011. No specific date or pricing is available at this time. As we did not think it could be done, we would be extremely interested in seeing how they implementing the feature and will update readers when we have more information.