Taiwanese device manufacturer Compal has designed an unusual laptop aimed at young children. At first glance the Compal StudyBook looks like a standard notebook, but it has a few features that make it stand out.

First, the keyboard can be lifted up and removed from the bottom of the notebook to reveal a writing slate that kids can use to write or draw. And second, there’s an adjustable mirror built into to the camera section, allowing children to capture and share imagery of whatever they’re drawing on that bottom screen.

The StudyBook isn’t an actual thing that you can go out and buy at this point. Instead it appears to be a concept device that Compal could shop around to potential companies if anyone is interested in having Compal manufacturer it on their behalf. But you can find some pictures and details have been posted to the IF Design Award website.

Since the laptop is designed for kids, it has a colorful rubber bumper to help protect it from scrapes, scuffs, and minor falls.

The writing surface appears to use the same kind of cheap CLCD (Cholesteric Liquid Crystal Display) technology as cheap writing slates like the Boogie Board line of products (which sell for as little as $15), so I wouldn’t expect the StudyBook to be particularly expensive to manufacture… or particularly impressive as a writing tablet. It’s limited to two colors: black and green. And there’s no support for things like pressure sensitivity or tilt detection.

Still, the inclusion of both a QWERTY keyboard and a writing surface with support for battery-free pen input means that young students could practice typing and writing using the same device.

The flip-up mirror over the camera can be angled to capture the contents of the writing slate and software on the computer will automatically reverse the imagery so that writing and drawing won’t look backwards. You could also use the mirror + camera to capture other imagery placed atop the keyboard/writing area like a book, Play-Doh sculpture, or origami objects.

You can also flip the mirror down so that it covers the camera when you’re not using it or flip the mirror all the way up so that it doesn’t obstruct the camera, allowing you to use the webcam for video calls.

Images also show HDMI, USB Type-A and Type-C and 3.5mm audio ports, plus a microSD card reader and a power button on the side of the laptop where it will be easy to press whether the keyboard or the writing surface are in use.

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9 replies on “Compal’s StudyBook concept is a multi-function laptop for kids with a writing slate and detachable keyboard”

  1. Of all the innovative laptop ideas that have been tried, this is one that actually seems good. I really like the detachable keyboard idea, as long as it still works when detached. The pivoting webcam is cool, but has that been done already?

  2. Yes, the writing tablet does look cheap but being made for kids I don’t think they’d mind. It’s not meant for doing fine art anyway. I can see it being handy for schooling. I don’t know if it will be useful for the general public as much but I like the fact that someone is innovating. Lately I feel like laptop and smartphones designs have become stagnant. There are upgrades but mostly they just seem like minor variations of the same thing.

    1. I the last news I can fine for Mirasol was from 2015, after Apple bought the rights to it then I guess never used them. I’ve heard of continuous developments on color e-ink, but there’s nothing on interferometric modulator displays, so I guess that idea is dead.
      I don’t really know what using it was like or what its limitations were.

  3. Hmm.
    Reminds me of those dual screen laptops from a couple years ago which we might’ve been able to buy today if all the display panels hadn’t been sucked up in the panic. I like the idea of a keyboard that you can remove, exposing a surface that other things could be done with, but for my purposes I’d prefer electronic ink, or another display panel.
    I’m fine with a mirror in the webcam cover though. That’s just some extra functionality built into a privacy shutter. And I wish laptops in general were as ruggedized as the ones for the education market, just so whatever bag I want to put the laptop in doesn’t need a half inch of foam padding in a special laptop compartment to be sure it will arrive without cracks, however I’m transporting it.

    But as a whole, I don’t like this product. It’s a chromebook, so that’s automatically a thing I’d never buy new, even for my own children. And this product, as a whole, feels like pandering to some authorities who incorrectly consider in-person education as something that will never be viable or sustainable ever again.

    1. or it could be seen as an attempt at an all digital classroom that does not abandon non-digital skills like handwriting.

      Where I am some of the schools have done reduced class sized due to the pandemic by splitting classes in half and having them alternate weeks. My point is that thanks to the pandemic we now have a much better infrastructure for distance learning than we did before so those that opt for distance learning for whatever reason can also benefit from things like these. It also helps when kids are sick and can’t attend for an extended period of time but aren’t too sick to actually do the work (remember when your teachers would have a friend or sibling take you your homework when sick?). So, if for example, someone has chicken pox and can’t attend for fear of infecting the rest or a has a broken leg and limited transportation options, making use of the infrastructure implemented during these times makes sense. This does not justify not having in-person classes, but might facilitate learning when those are not an option for whatever reason.

      Plus affordable durable options for schools are good since they often have limited resources (and not every kid can afford a tablet that has a keyboard and stylus)

      1. But here’s the thing. It looks like the drawing board is a completely passive device, which the computer takes no digital input from. The laptop has to capture what is written on it with its webcam. So you could accomplish the same thing with just holding a piece of paper on top of the keyboard, although the software may need some fiducial dots on the paper, or the sheet might have to be smaller than the laptop body, to capture it 100% accurately.
        That’s why, in a general sense, if you wanted a laptop where you could remove the keyboard to expose a second surface, I think it could be better to make that surface be an e-ink screen or another display panel. And that’s why the mirrored camera cover is the more important feature, not the writing surface.

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