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iSketchnote: an iPad Cover That Digitizes Your Paper Scribbles

iSketchnote: an iPad Cover That Digitizes Your Paper Scribbles

Get in on the ground floor as we look at the most exciting crowdfunded tech projects out there right now. This week: iSketchnote, a cover for the iPad that allows users to digitize their paper-based sketches and notes in real time. No electronic pen is required, yet the magnetic technology can recognize the color of the ink being used.

By Patrick Nelson TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
09/18/13 5:00 AM PT

There's no denying the popularity of Apple's iPad and its Android-based kin, not just with adults but with kids as well. Now, for all those parents out there who wish their kids would play with something else once in a while -- simple drawing paper and pens, for instance -- a new Kickstarter funding project offers fresh hope.

iSketchnote

Enter iSketchnote, a new effort that promises to bring sketch functionality to Apple's tablet. By no means just for kids, the technology is suitable for adults' sketches and for note-taking as well.

Drawing on a portable device screen has always been a cumbersome, laggy experience. iSketchnote creator ISKN Team reckons it's got a solution.

What Is It?

The prototype device uses a sensor matrix built into an adjacent iPad cover. Regular sheets of paper overlay the sensor, somewhat like a pad of paper in an executive writing portfolio.

The user makes doodles, notes or sketches on the paper normally, with an almost-normal pen. The sensor reads the classically drawn image created and re-creates it on the iPad in real time. Tagline: "From pen and paper to your iPad!"

Technical Details

The ballpoint and felt pens have no battery or electronics, and simply use a permanent magnet ring for identification of nib and color, which the matrix recognizes.

The digitizer uses its own chip: a STM32 microcontroller F4 series running at a 168MHz clock frequency. ISKN says connectivity will ultimately be Bluetooth, although this element of the project is not yet developed -- currently it uses USB.

A 4GB SD card can hold 100 pages, so the matrix can be used separately from the iPad. Latency is 50 ms. An API is available.

The Numbers

ISKN Team, a company founded by members of French microelectronics institute LETI, currently has more than 1,000 backers who are pledging US$127,106 of a $35,000 goal on Kickstarter. Its goal is funded, in other words, with some three weeks still to go.

A pledge of $29 gets you the pen, while $149 gets you a complete iSketchnote pack with three pens. Pledges of $499 allow you to become part of the development process including testing betas and co-designing apps.

The estimated shipping date is May 2014.

The Upsides

TechNewsWorld thinks the system has a significant advantage over standard digitizers -- the digitizer is the glass sandwich often called the touchscreen -- in that the electronics are designed for purpose rather than a compromised hacking of a touchscreen, as has been the case with previous like-minded products.

We like all of the features, including the obvious knee-top sketching and iPad-less functionality.

The Downsides

This product needs to be robust and can't just be a set of super-smart electronics in a pretty leather portfolio. We would like to see some mock-ups and serious development going into a bomb-proof, silicone outer-layered, polycarbonate precision shell next -- and not just renderings.

Having said that, ISKN Team are clearly taking this project seriously, and according to the project materials, they have a formidable and experienced team in place.

Our initial concerns that $35,000 in funding wasn't going to be enough is alleviated by massive interest in this product and resulting excess pledges from backers.


Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.


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