One of the things I have tried in the past is Anoto functionality, which combines pen and paper in a unique way. I first read about Anoto in the April 2001 issue of Wired magazine.
The story was about this hot new company that had invented a way for a pen to remember everything it wrote, and beam the information directly to a computer. It involved a tiny digital camera and hard disk in the pen, and a complex dot patterm, which was invisible to the naked eye and somehow never repeated itself exactly so the pen could always "know" where it was.
I didn't fully understand it, but I have been wanting something like this forever: a way that I could write on paper and synchronize the files with a computer or PDA, where they could be stored digitally.
The article was titled "The hot new medium: Paper", and at the time, I was convinced that it was an April fool's joke Wired was playing on all of us. I mean, the company was called "Anoto" and I was waiting for the "This was Anoto real story" joke.
Later that month though, a friend convinced me it was real and I looked up Anoto's website. Turns out it was a real company after all.
So I got online and bought the pen and some of the special paper. I had to buy it from a site in the UK because I couldn't find one in the States.
When I got the thing I tried it out and was amazed. It worked perfectly; better than I had anticipated. I could carry the pen around, write in the sketchbook any time I wanted, and when I got back to my laptop I could synchronize the drawings with my PC. I could even go back later and modify a drawing I had worked on two days earlier: the pen could always remember where I was.
I got a Nokia version of the pen, which was cool because I could use the same charger that I use with my phone. The pen synched with a "digital diary" on my computer. I could turn sketches into PowerPoint slides with the touch of a button.
I brought the digital pen and a digital sketchbook to an XPLANE training session and passed it around. Everyone took a turn.
I was very happy with the whole system but for some reason it didn't become a part of my daily routine. Why? I'm not sure exactly, but if I had to put my finger on it I would say it was the complexity of the entire system:
- You had to have special paper, and remember to bring it with you
- You had to have a special pen, and it was battery powered so there was always the potential for it to run out of juice
- Since it didn't fully replace my PC, it didn't actually lighten my burden when traveling
- In fact it increased my load, because I had to carry the PC, the pen, the special paper and the docking bay.
Now I'm moving on to my next great hope: the tablet PC. It's not quite the ultimate tool yet, but it's starting to get close.
If you want to try the digital pen/paper scenario, you can get everything you need at Datamind, the UK company where I got mine. As far as I know, they will ship it to you just about anywhere.
If you don't mind managing a number of moving parts it's a great system.
If you have had an experience with Anoto functionality -- positive or negative -- please leave a comment. I would love to hear about your experience.
Keep in touch! Sign up to get updates and occasional emails from me.