Monday, September 27, 2010

Improving The Boogie Board Tablet

I was wandering through the mall last week, when a display of Boogie Board tablets caught my eye from the edge of Brookstone. Now, I typically find Brookstone to be filled with luxuries I just can't justify. But, the Boogie Board seemed quite practical.

The Boogie Board is a super thin electronic drawing tablet. It appears to use e-ink, so it needs only the smallest amount of battery power. There's a single button to clear the screen, and other than that, it's just a surface to draw on. Apparently you can use any blunt object to draw with, so a lost stylist isn't cause for alarm. Finally, the device is pressure sensitive, so the pen strokes vary as you press harder.

Essentially, it's a digital version of the Magic Slate.

At around $35.00 it's not terribly expensive either.

Of course, the big catch is that there's no way to save the contents of the tablet. These days, I use a 100 page graph-paper composition book as place to scratch out ideas. These work great because they are cheap, durable, and if scribbled notes do become valuable, I can flip back to find them.

It's tempting to wish that the folks behind the Boogie Board would create a model with USB or Bluetooth support for saving content. But, I think that would end up bulking up the device in terms of size and complexity, and it would add significant battery requirements (right now, you never need to charge the sucker - just use it).

No, if I were in their shoes, I'd leverage the fact that most people already have a bluetooth/USB connected device in their pocket - their cell phone. I could see creating an Android app that works much like the barcode scanner does now.

You would open the app, and the camera would immediately turn on. As you arranged the tablet within the camera's view, it would detect when all 4 corners of the tablet were visible (to do this, Boogie would probably have to add special markings to each corner of the tablet - in theory a painless thing to do). At that point, it would snap a photo of the screen and store the image both locally as well as on a central server that one could access with a web browser.

Because the ink is of a standard green'ish color, it may even be possible for the Android to detect where the drawing is and turn the image into a vector image. Though, I'm not entirely sure why that would be useful.

With arrangement like this, I think you'd get the best of both a portable whiteboard, and an archival system.

In the mean time, I'm just impressed that I found something at Brookstone that I think is worth buying.

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