Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Toys of Summer (Winter Edition), PART 4: "Crayola Digital Light Designer"

Click here for intro and PART 1.
Click here for PART 2.
Click here for PART 3.

Crayola Digital Light Designer

[The Hungry Preacher and his family have been working hard to expunge the memory of this product from our brains.  Thus, we have destroyed all visual records of this product.  Sorry.] 

"Grab the digital stylus and get ready to draw in an amazing way—with colored, spinning lights! Drawing, special effects, animation, games, activities, and so much more—it’s hours and hours of creative fun! You can even sit back and replay your favorite creations as they appear to float in mid-air on the 360° surface. You won’t believe your eyes!"
(from Crayola Website)

It’s like drawing, but your canvas is shaped like a cone and your medium is light.

I am grateful for the CDLD, because it has given me a new appreciation for things like coal and Etch-a-Sketches that can also be used for drawing.

Buying the CDLD has also taught me that returning a product to a third-party seller through Amazon can be difficult and full of hurdles.

On the Crayola website, this product has 71 user reviews, and the average rating is 1.9 stars out of 5.  That’s actually a little misleading, because 1 star is the lowest rating you can give.

Accompanying the ratings are user comments, and I agree with most of the concerns expressed:
-It’s loud.  Probably not quite hair-dryer loud, but close.
-It’s pretty crappy that, unless you pay extra for the cord, you need 4 size-D batteries to use the thing (plus 2 size-AAA batteries in the stylus).
-It’s annoying that the dome needs to be almost completely level to be used.
-It’s cumbersome.
-It’s expensive.
-It’s hard to figure out how to use.

All of this is potentially able to be overcome, except for the small detail that
-It’s not very much fun.

No, really.  The pictures that you can draw are no more precise than something you could do on a Light Bright 30 years ago.  They are so pixelated that even using the word "pixelated" to describe them is misleading because it implies that they are still on the "spectrum of pixelation."  But to achieve even this level of precision, you have to be very exact with the stylus.  Of course, it is difficult to get the stylus to illuminate the exact spot you are going for.  It’s like when you’re at an ATM and you realize that you need to touch the screen about a centimeter above the icon you’re trying to highlight.  Now imagine that in the middle of your transaction, the touch-screen suddenly begins to accurately respond to the location of your finger.  Then it doesn't.  Then it does.  Then you realize that how the screen responds to your touch seems to be related to some combination of the angle of your finger, the duration you leave your finger on the screen, the suddenness with which your finger touches the screen, and the precision with which your finger touches the spot you are going for.  Now imagine you are six years old.  That's how much fun this product was.

The descriptions of this product on both Amazon and read like those of a realtor spinning a house that no one wants.

From Amazon:
“The Crayola Digital Light Designer lets children express their artistic side, without the mess of traditional pens.”

Traditional, like with ink wells?  OK, I guess I can see that.  But clicky pens with a little adult supervision aren’t that messy, are they?  Especially for a 6 year old (the minimum suggested age for this product), right?

“The round dome responds to the touch of a stylus to display up to seven colors, providing unlimited imaginative fun.”

Up to seven colors?  As in, “One less than the number of colors included in Crayola’s most basic box of crayons”?  Is that the seven you’re talking about?  If seven colors provides unlimited imaginative fun, why do you make a box of crayons that has 120 colors?

To be fair, a thorough study of the Crayola website reveals that boxes of crayons come in seven different sizes.  This can't be a coincidence, and it stands to reason that the type and degree of fun that can be experienced with seven colors of light is the same as that which can be experienced with 120 colors of crayons.  This handy table should help you convert how many colors of light you will need to match what you experience with crayons:

# of Crayon Colors
# of Light Colors
Predicted Experience
Unlimited, imaginative fun
Slightly limited, imaginative fun
Moderately limited, imaginative gladness
Severely limited, rote gladness
Structured, uninspired ambivalence
Highly structured, disillusioned melancholy
Mundane, bitter hopelessness

“Kids can make their drawings move with animation options or even create short movies by combining drawings.”

A few paragraphs later, Amazon tells us just how short those movies are:

"They can also create six-frame movies with the Movie Maker activity on the light dome."

Six frames?  Six?  Forget for a second that the first movie ever made (of a horse galloping, in 1878) was 16 frames.  Forget that for a second.  Is there anyone in the world who would chose the word “movie” to describe what it is you’re saying my kid can do with the Crayola Digital Light Designer?  Words have meanings.  If you want to use a word (like “movie”) to describe something that it has never before described, shouldn’t you blaze that trail in something other than an official description of a product you are trying to sell?  Is that asking a lot?

"The dome also features eight engaging activities and games to keep kids entertained."

I can’t really address this, because we didn’t make it to all eight.  After about three, we realized we were neither engaged nor entertained.  We were mostly bored and confused.  I don’t want to think about what would have happened if we’d tried all eight.

In summary, if my kid had been born in the 1910’s and time-traveled to the present, maybe she would be completely engaged with this product.  Maybe then she would “sit back and replay her favorite creations as they appear to float in mid-air on the 360° surface.”  Maybe then she “wouldn’t believe her eyes.”  But for non-time-traveling 6-year-olds and 39-year-olds living in 2013, the messages our eyes sent to our brains regarding this product were very, very believable.  On the other hand, that a 6-year-old kid living in 2013 with $60 to spend (or have spent on his behalf) would be intelligent and patient enough to learn how to use this product, but still be inexperienced enough in his use of electronics to be fascinated for hours and hours with all that this product can do?  If I saw that, it’s fair to say “I wouldn’t believe my eyes.”

1 star out of 5

Thus we conclude "The Toys of Summer, (WINTER EDITION)."  Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back in a few days when I will arrange letters and words in an entirely new way, thereby communicating thoughts that have never before been communicated by another human being.



  1. I think you should forward this particular blog to the Crayola people.

  2. You've obviously never heard of the "Crayola Mafia." You think I want a crayon drawing of a horse's head laying in my bed tonight? No thank you.

    But your suggestion did inspire my next post.