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Digital pens: Write choice, Baby!

Handwriting  technology  which flopped on tablets and phones , is born again  --  as a Digital Pen.

Bangalore, May 18 2015: Remember  those  chunky smartphones of ten years ago which  had a stylus stuck in the  side? Their virtual keypads were so small ,  you needed to  punch the keys with the  toothpick-sized thing.   You could also   stylus-write text if you choose. But handwriting was a hassle  if  you  wanted to use with one hand.  Users gave a big thumbs down to such devices.  Smart phone grew in size till the screen was large enough  for punching letters on its  virtual pad.
True,  a few stylus -based phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note are still  around  -- but  that is a  minuscule market.  You would have thought smart watches would have seen a revival of the stylus -- but the new Apple Watch has shown how to avoid it by making the icons bold -- and leaving  writing tasks to the phone it works with.
Handwriting technology is not dead, however -- it is reborn as the digital pen. Here too, the evolutionary curve  zoomed skywards,  only after it reached a crucial  tipping point:  the ability of  e-pens to work  on any paper -- not just on a special slate.
Google the word digital pen and you will  find dozens of  models available online. Some global names in  fine writing instruments   -- like the German  Staedtler --  have moved with the times into the e-pen arena.  In India however,  the  brand that pops up on most e-biz sites,  is Portronics. I have been trying out  their latest  smart pen product, the Electropen2,  that lets you write, draw or doodle  with a special  ink-filled pen on any piece of paper;  converts your writing into a soft copy that you can upload to your phone and then share with any other device -- phone, tablet, PC, laptop,  much as you would do with apps like Evernote.
To  scan what you write,  the Electropen,   works with a small Positional Receiver that  you need to clip on top of the paper you are using.  It  uses infra-red and ultrasound waves to "track" a  sensor on the pen’s tip.   You also need to get it working by  downloading the “Cloudwrite”  app, from the App store for Apple devices  or   the Google Play store for Android phones. This converts the handwritten document   which you can view wirelessly   through Bluetooth, as images or notes on the mobile   or tablet screen.   You  can export the images  to Facebook, Twitter, Watsapp, Wechat, etc -- very convenient if you want to collaborate on a project or just share some fun
Character recognition -- converting hand written  words into soft text,  but can be achieved by using other  iOS or Android apps like MyScript.   But in my  experience,  handwriting recognition is still a work in progress and you are lucky if half the  letters are correctly  read
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For a few days,  see a video on how Electropen
works, in our Tech Video spot on the home page.

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The Portronics Electropen2  comes with its own  rechargeable battery and USB charging cable.    I was excited by how much  technology went into  its tiny package -- for the asking price of Rs 5499 ( prices at  some sites like Amazon,  are  almost Rs 800 cheaper)
Another  popular international brand is IrisNotes  from Belgium,  which costs around $ 130  but I found  delivery in India to be unreliable
They digitized the good old slate when they invented the tablet.  Digital whiteboards are already here.  Now pens have gone digital.   So what's left of the traditional classroom? Maybe only the  humans-- student and  teacher!  -  Anand Parthasarathy




    


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