Hands On: Vestaboard Flips Out as an Artfully Smart Messaging Display

Hands On: Vestaboard Flips Out as an Artfully Smart Messaging Display

If you’ve ever pined for the romantically anachronistic mechanical sound of a flip board similar to those found notifying travelers at Parisian train stations to quicken their step, look no further than the Vestaboard, a smart messaging system with a surprisingly delightful method of displaying messages, weather reports, news updates, sports scores, quotes, and color block art with an audible flair unlike anything else you might ever consider mounting onto your wall.

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White narrow desk on cork floors, with Humanscale office chair, black table lamp, small house plant, and wall mounted Vestaboard in white displaying weather forecast.

Our review unit was installed in a guest house, where the Vestaboard delivers a daily weather forecast and also offers a surprisingly fun option for messaging friends and family staying over in lieu of a typical text message by phone. \ Photo: Gregory Han

Vestaboard sent us one of their smart messaging displays in white to test out within a residential setting. We had an ideal testing space/case for the unit: a separate guest house frequented by friends and family for overnight stays. Even so, installing a Vestaboard is a commitment, noticeably more demanding of a task than required when wall mounting a television of similar size (a task of which we just finished by installing the similarly sized, but considerably lighter, 43-inch Samsung The Frame).

Weather Report for Altadena, CA displayed upon Vestaboard.

There’s a degree of gimmicky delight trying out the various messaging and color “art” display options, but over time the weather report proved the most useful display. \ Photo: Gregory Han

Don’t let the modest size of the Vestaboard fool you. The 41-inch wide rectangular display weighs in at hefty 55lbs, and is best handled by a team of two. An extra pair of hands is advisable while installing the unit to ensure level and secure alignment, and you’ll want to measure twice to see whether the included 19.7-inch cord is sufficiently long enough to reach an outlet (a longer cord is available via Vestaboard).

This weighty spec is attributed to the entire unit being composed of a considerable amount of metal parts, housing 132 individual “Bits” modules within. Each of those parts in turn hold 64 die-cut matte-printed characters of letters, symbols, punctuation, numbers, and colors layered into one rotating card display. And the sum of those Bits equals a dizzying total of 8,448 spinning mechanical flaps engineered to coordinate into a choreographed movement when the Vestaboard updates or changes its display.

Close up view of a Vestaboard Bits module removed from the display with blue color block.

132 character modules, or “Bits” in Vestaboard parlance, combine to work in an orchestration of movement, sound, colors, and characters. It’s hard to deny how much audible joy the Vestaboard delivers with its mechanical movement, perhaps reflective of our desire for simplified notifications harkening to simpler times. \ Photos: Gregory Han

Once installed onto a wall, the Vestaboard becomes an immediate conversation piece. Adults and children alike will find its mechanical design a curiosity, especially when watching the 132 Bits do their thing with lively aplomb before settling in to display whatever it is the user sends via iOS and Android mobile app or a web-based application.

These display options include the ability to text personal messages, “draw” using a visual editor, pair with news and sports sources like CNN and ESPN, connect to Google calendar, and automatically update from a databank of famous quotes. The modest amount of characters available to display are intended as a feature rather than a bug, the equivalent of a succinct Tweet versus a long-winded TD:LR Facebook post.

Sadly, Vestaboard keeps many of its best features behind a membership plan requiring an additional monthly or annual fee to access. Even so, its ability to report the weather on a daily and/or weekly basis proved satisfying enough to warrant its place on our guest house wall.

One of the more interesting smart home integration options is the ability to pair the Vestaboard with a Sonos system as a “Sonos Now Playing” display board.

Detail of Vestaboard without cover, showing how Bits slide into the board's frame.

Each Bit snaps into place and can be removed by sliding the small metal tab located in the upper left hand corner of each module. \ Photo: Gregory Han

While it may share the dimensions of a television, the Vestaboard requires significantly less energy than a traditional screen to operate. The difference is somewhat similar to the power-sipping performance of an e-ink display versus that of a light emitting screen. The company also tested the Bits against UV exposure discoloration for an equivalent 10 hours per day in direct sunlight for a year, and backs their product with a (non-transferable) 2-year warranty covering limited parts and labor.

Cropped shot of Vestaboard's color block displays.

Beyond character and numerals, the Vestaboard can also display blocks of color to incorporate into a variety of display types (e.g. yellow for a sunny weather forecast) or to display rudimentary decorative “art.” \ Photo: Gregory Han

That brings us back to the price. At $2,895 for the display alone, minus the option to pay an extra $95 annually to access additional Vestaboard+ display options, the Vestaboard is a hard sell for the average person where its endearing novelty is outweighed by its significant price tag (Vestaboard told us they’re working on a more affordable version 2.0, one we hope delivers a close degree of the same ASMR-pleasing flippin’ action as this model).

Vestaboard in a chic matte black wall mounted onto a white painted brick wall in a kitchen.

The Vestaboard is also available in a chic matte black. \ Photo: Vestaboard

The best use cases for the Vestaboard would be in an office/studio environment, within a retail or restaurant space, or as a messaging system inside a short term rental unit permitting owners to message/welcome guests. In each of those instances, the ROI becomes subjectively an argument for the undeniable gratification of operating your very own train depot messaging system from your phone. And what a joy it is.

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Source: design-milk

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