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How about charts you can read, outside

Los Gatos, California – January 29th, 2023 – We all love our smartphones and tablets. Their versatility and the breadth of the apps ecosystem makes them incredible tools for a flurry of usages. For us sailors, kayak and small boat owners, Navionics did an awesome job putting together an app that is so helpful to prepare our trips from anywhere but let’s face it our LCD screens are less than optimal when we leave the comfort of our day-to-day life and start living our adventures outside.

Top Left: “Fog Bow” Photo by Brooke Longval, Top Right: “SpearHead SurfCity” Photo by Matthew O’Brien, Bottom Left: “Embrun”, Bottom Right: “Profile Picture” Tim Finkenbinder

There is a simple reason for that: in order for an LCD screen to be readable in outdoor environment with a bright ambient light, the LCD screen’s brightness needs to exceed the intensity of light that is reflected from the display surface. To be comfortably viewed by human eyes, the LCD’s screen brightness needs to exceed its reflected light by a factor of 2.5 at minimum. If we want to use LCDs outside in direct sunlight, that leaves us with 2 options: accept a lower contrast (which you can see in the photos above) or push the brightness to the maximum if the screen accepts that. Most LCDs in our smartphones and tablets cannot achieve that and for those that can, the power consumption becomes outrageous, which causes other issues on our small boats and kayaks.

The E-Ink screens we adopted at MAPTATTOO rely on reflected, not emitted, light. Just like we enjoy using the natural environment to our advantage in our adventures, the E-Ink screen take advantage of the ambient light!

In an E-Ink display, a clear fluid suspends millions of tiny capsules filled with black and white pigment. The black pigment is negatively charged, while the white pigment is positively charged, and the fluid layer is sandwiched between two electrode layers divided into regions. Each region is one “pixel” in the display.

This whole process is called electrophoresis. Depending on how the electrode layers are charged, the ratio of pigment in each region changes, and that ratio is what produces varying degrees of grayscale on the screen.

Image Credit: Peter Sobolev/Shutterstock

The other advantage of the E-Ink screens is that the “image” stays on the screen even when you stop applying a voltage on the electrodes, power is only needed when you want to update a section of the screen. At MAPTATTOO, we adopted a proprietary algorithm in order to intelligently refresh the screen in order to even further limit our power consumption.

In one of our next updates, we will likely talk about power consumption on small boats as this is also a key constraint in our adventures.

– Erwan Kerebel

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2023 Update

Ceillac, France – January 2nd, 2023 – Last June, we had 3 participants in the Race to Alaska ( test our Pilot Units. One of them ended up capsizing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in dire conditions and lose our prototype but the other 2 reached Ketchika, AK successfully. Congratulations to them!

We have gathered a ton of very positive feedback regarding the user experience, screen readability and battery life but obviously, these testing conditions revealed a number of flaws that we had to work hard to resolve:

  • We are resolving the waterproofing issues by changing the screen glueing technique, reviewing the USB port and getting tighter tolerances offered by injection molded enclosures (the molds will be manufactured around february 2023)
  • We will be enhancing the User Experience significantly in our final version. One way of achieving that will be by adding a “center” button in our directional keypad. Most of the functions will be accessible with a single key press (no key combination)
  • We are improving the performance significantly as well (adding more storage to store the charts uncompressed, improvement of our deciphering algorithm as well as development of charts loading optimization such as lazy loading and partial loading)
  • The magnetic charging port ended up showing corrosion issues. We initially thought of using wireless charging and wireless (wi-fi) for loading the charts but these development would have deteriorated the performance and efficiency of the charging system. Battery efficiency is critical on our small boats so we did not want to make any compromise there. We have decided to go back to a standard USB-C charging port. The port will be waterproof (IP68) and protected by an additional rubber door.

We think these improvements will help make MAPTATTOO a much better product and we can’t wait to show you these in our final production version.

Our plan is to launch a crowdsourcing campaign this Spring (2023) and start shipping soon after.

Stay tuned, thank you for your support and we wish you a ton of exciting adventures and explorations in 2023…

– Erwan Kerebel