A plea for an open android eink tablet for Astronomy

The Android tablet space that is starting to heat up is all running after Apple’s iPad at the moment.  It’s got a nice form factor and a nice screen, but it’s entirely unsuitable for a whole set of applications that I care about for one simple reason:

LCDs give off blue light.

Blue light is really the enemy of both sleep and dark.  I mostly care about the dark part, because my interest is for Astronomy.  It takes at least 20 minutes for your eyes to really dark adapt when you go outside.  If you want to see other Galaxies from your back yard, dark adaption is really important.  We call them “faint fuzzies” for a reason.  Last month at our astronomy party someone brought an iPad with some astronomy application to let them know what to look at with their telescope.  After 30 minutes of it blinding them, the finally turned it off and started asking some of the rest of the folks there what they should be looking at, and where to find it.

But, an eink tablet would be great.  You could use just enough red light to see what’s going on, and be able to zoom in to your charts.  There are 2 things that come close right now, the nook and the kindle, but neither would work without a lot of effort.  To do your own apps on the nook you have to hack the thing, and you’ve still got this pesky lcd you’d need to put a filter over.  The kindle is a physically better device for this, but it’s not android, so it’s another sdk to learn, and they have all manner of restrictions because the user doesn’t pay for their data usage.  As far as I can tell it would be too restrictive for this.

The ideal device would be something like the kindle dx, have a gps, and be based on Android.  This device doesn’t exist, but heres to hoping that someone makes one eventually.

4 thoughts on “A plea for an open android eink tablet for Astronomy”

  1. Interesting post…I know one guy that uses a red screen protector like this one http://www.jgsent.com/Computer.htm on their iPad….plus I think a couple of the astronomy apps are starting to recognize this and build their apps to minimize blue light production…

    Just an idea till they make an e-ink android slate for you.


  2. Even with all of that, an LCD fundamentally throws a lot of light because it can’t be read except due to backlighting. Even bright red light will ruin your dark adaptation.

    So on the tablet front, I’m going to hold out until there is something that does what I need…. which may be forever. 🙂


    1. I did briefly consider the nook, though after reading the state of things at nookdevs I decided that it was more custom work than I was interested at this point, especially given that anyone that would want to use it would have to crack their nook as well. That being said, if B&N ever open the thing up so you could install custom apps without cracking it, I’d probably go buy one that day and get working on this.

      As I’ve got some other Android code I need to finish first, I’m not in a huge rush here yet. I figure that I can wait to see what the christmas season brings in terms of new devices and make a call next year.


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