Daylight Computer joins the anti-tech space race

Daylight Computer joins the anti-tech space race

There's a growing sentiment in Silicon Valley that the solution to our overabundance of tech is more tech.

Last Friday the Daylight Computer Company introduced the DC-1 - a 10.5 inch tablet with a heavily guarded and non-specific "LivePaper" screen technology. In a comment on Hacker News, founder and CEO of Daylight Anjan Katta says the screen is not E Ink - which has 'impossible' to overcome refresh rate and ghosting limitations. Instead, the company has chosen to use what sounds like a monochrome reflective LCD display:

We focused on solving the tradeoffs RLCDs traditionally have - around reflectance %, metallic-look / not Paperlike enough, viewing angle, white state, rainbow mura, parallax, resolution, size, lack of quality backlight, etc.


We spent years developing what we think is the best epaper display in the world and it’s exclusively manufactured by our display factory in Japan.

Behind the scenes photos make it seem like Sharp is the manufacturer, with Liliputing saying that it is a IGZO LCD display that Sharp does already make.

Marketing material and other reports on the new tablet haven't been as specific, with some confusion about how the tablet works and how using simple RLCD vs E Ink will affect battery life and other aspects of the tablets functionality.

In some ways I honestly love the way the computer looks and sounds. It comes with a soft fabric case, is designed to be easy to use outside, and looks like it has less trade-offs than similar E Ink tablets like the Kindle Scribe or reMarkable. There's a Wacom tablet, that probably feels better on a matte-display than an Apple Pencil on glass. And a playful design that feels a bit less cold than our current array of metallic devices.

As much as bezel is a barrier to a bigger screen, the thick border around the screen feels like it'd be easier to hold than an iPad while moving around and drawing. It's a reminder that not all progress is necessarily positive when it comes to tech, and sometimes being thinner and more sleek isn't the be all and end all.

The slightly pseudo-scientific blue-light factor of the device, which Daylight claims to counter with a display that literally contains no blue light, is also interesting to unpack. Daylight's marketing material features heavy orange screen hues, but the science of it all is still a bit strange. Blue-light blocking lenses apparently don't really help with eyestrain, and it's not conclusive whether a simple screen mode on a normal screen can help with blue-light from existing LCD and similar panels. But that's not to say that a less reflective screen isn't still nice to look at and work with, as we see with E Ink. Founder and CEO Anjan Katt isn't convinced, with a lot of marketing and interviews delving into his views of blue-light being a fundamental part of our attachment to technology, rather than just the software or addictive nature of the products and services we use.

In other ways, the recent wave of anti-tech technology feels a bit strange as a market in general.

I feel like it's easy to see an aspirational device like this, marketed with photos of coffee shops and beautiful green parks and the outdoors. And honestly, maybe it is a great device to take with you on hikes and the wilderness. But it's another to remember that you actually can go to a coffee shop or a park right now and read a Kindle or a newspaper, or write on a paper notepad.

A lot of the stress of technology comes from external forces. Maybe it's just because I work in a tech-adjacent field, but it feels like this would just sit on my desk most days, not because I don't want to work in the great outdoors, but because I can't. In the same way that I don't already paint during the day, even though a canvas and paint kit would cost about the same as lunch in the city.

Per The Verge, there's a hippy feel to this product that doesn't really address other factors at play:

“The thing I like to think about is,” he said on the Healthier Technology podcast last year, “what would have happened to, like, Tolstoy if he grew up like this. What would have happened to Maya Angelou if she had a distracting, blue light-emitting phone? Would she have still been able to write the poetry she did?”

Katta also appeared on "The 2AM Podcast" to promote the launch. This podcast is hosted by Zaid K. Dahhaj, who claims that "you’re bombarded with devious propaganda campaigns shouting that sunlight is inherently toxic". Co-host Saied Ashour re-posts "Anti-Woke" Tweets from the likes of "Red Pill USA" and a doctor who claims he is the "Most BASED doctor on Twitter".

I feel like the obvious answer is that maybe other factors are at play rather than just blue-light alone, but hanging around and promoting such strange sources of pseudo-science is worrying.

It's also interesting to consider whether normal people dislike modern technology at all. It's easy to write thinkpieces about the curse of the smartphone, like the cringeworthy Humane Ai Pin marketing spin, but smartphones still sell in huge numbers.

People like watching Netflix on the bus to work, or listening to podcasts and music on demand without tethering a device to a computer and syncing a limited library. It's nice to have a camera on you at all times, even if it isn't as good as a dedicated mirrorless or even point-and-shoot camera. A phone can be a good way to read relevant and more local news, without watching a dedicated hour of 6pm TV national news, covering shootings and murders.

Or maybe people don't like technology, and they're just forced to be a part of this to exist in modern society.

Will a tablet with a orange display actually allow for less technology use, or just replace things that already allow people to disconnect - like a notepad and a pen. Or even a book from a local public library.

I do wonder this a lot, as a person who has been sucked in somewhat by aspirational tech in the past. One of my favourite recent tools for work has been trading in digital notebook apps for a big blank physical notebook that I don't have to charge or sync with anything. Sometimes I feel a bit silly opting for Kindle books vs just visiting my free local library. But I also have to work 8 hours a day, so I don't read as many books as I'd like to regardless of how much time I could spend on TikTok.

Then there's also the crypto-background of founder Anjan Katta. Which isn't to paint this product with a broad brush, but instead to just provide a bit of pushback on the whole notion of a US$729 tech product being a life-changing anti-tech device. Cryptocurrency is a similarly aspirational technology - money with anonymity and without government control and regulations. But that freedom isn't a black-and-white good thing for society. A lack of regulation hurt innocent people who lost big in the hopes of striking gold on the unregulated crypto exchange market. There are laws that attempt to prevent market manipulation in slightly more regulated stock markets, but there aren't yet many ways to protect people from buying Dogecoin after a billionaire with a large following tells them to.

Daylight founder Anjan Katta is a big proponent of cryptocurrency, regularly appearing on Bitcoin podcasts and working in that startup space. You'd think the anti-tech vibe of Daylight would be reflected his opinion on introducing more technology, like a digital currency that isn't regulated. But it apparently doesn't.

Which doesn't say anything about this product, but just makes me cautious about its viability of the company to compete with tech giants, and the level of support it might get into the future. A lot of crypto, NFT and AI startups seem to be very temporary, and that isn't great when you're spending US$729 on a good looking tablet.

I'd still love to try the Daylight, even though it currently isn't shipping to Australia. I'm glad that new gadgets can exist. I just wish there wasn't so much slimy marketing surrounding so much of the startup space at the moment.

Without over-promising, the Daylight DC-1 looks like a great alternative to the iPad or Kindle - a black and white device that you can create art and browse the web on. One with a 60fps display and an ability to use easily outside without glare and as much reflections. But it probably isn't going to change the world and I wish it wasn't being sold as a device that will save the arts and end our apparent over-reliance on technology.

It's still another tech product. And I wish more products could just be about their technological advancements, such as the cool anti-reflective display, rather than the snakeoil vibes that startups like Rabbit, Humane and Daylight bring by overpromising and underdelivering. The Daylight website is cool though - and better than anything Apple or Microsoft has made in recent years.