As a child my obsession was drawing; I filled pad after pad (as well as all the margins of my school notebooks) with scribblings and designs. Today my obsession is playing with LEDs and using them to decorate jewelry and toys.
I tell you this to explain why I agreed to test out the Crayola Digital Light Designer, even though my kids are technically too old for it. The other reason is that my parents never bought me a Lite Brite when I was a kid — but the Crayola Digital Light Designer is way, way cooler. And with only the large drawing dome and the electronic stylus to keep track of, a lot neater, too.
Inside the dome are two strips of lights that spin around along the inner surface at high speed. You tap the dome with the stylus to select menu items, change colors, etc. The pictures that appear are the result of persistence of vision — like those little pocket fans that spell out sayings when you turn them on.
My review model was missing the instructions, but my teen and I were able to figure out how to get started pretty easily just from the “quick start guide” on the wrapper, and messing around with the device for a few minutes. We figured out the menu, drew a few multi-colored pictures, made it revolve around the dome, and even played a few pre-programmed games.
But the real fun begins when you start using the Digital Light Designer’s animation features. Once they learn how to make drawings revolve and how to make multiple “frames” appear in sequence, kids will quickly get the hang of drawing a series of evolving images to create their own light-up movie.
As I mentioned, the Digital Light Designer comes with a nice variety of pre-programmed effects and games. It’s obvious that this is a toy just begging for someone with more electronics expertise than me to hack it and create their own. But for kids, it’s versatile enough as is.
For parents, the big plus is that the Digital Light Designer is self-contained, without a lot of little parts to lose or break. The only assembly needed is to supply the batteries. (Four D-sized are needed for the dome, and two AAAs for the stylus. A power adapter cord is available separately.)
On the down side, when turned on the toy does produce a constant whirring sound that is liable to get on parents’ nerves after a while. Whether the noise is enough to bother kids who are engrossed in making light pictures move and dance is another story. And it only works when sitting solidly on a level surface; jostling it can cause it to hiccup. I was having trouble using the stylus to bring the design around to face me, so I set the dome on phone book-sized workbook we had lying around. The soft-covered book muffled the sound a tiny bit, and by turning it I could get to the other side of the dome without annoying the device.
The Crayola Digital Light Designer is available at Amazon. I received a sample for review purposes.