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
For a few days, see a video on how Electropen
works, in our Tech Video spot on the home page.
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