Writing using a paper and pen is so last century: now, a new 21st-century smartpen gets you to jot down your notes on any surface, which then automatically appear on your digital device’s screen. Phree uses an optical translation measurement (OTM) laser sensor to track the motion of your hand while using the stylus to ‘write’. The Bluetooth-connected gizmo also lets users make calls and displays phone notifications. OTM Technologies, the Herzliya, Israel-based firm behind Phree, is currently raising funds on Kickstarter for mass production of the $169 device. “Our goal is to reinvent basic human handwriting, so that we can continue to interact with our digital devices in a very personal way,” Gilad Lederer, co-founder of OTM Technologies, told Metro.
Q: Why did you create the device?
– Our goal is to reinvent basic human handwriting in the 21st century, so that we can continue to interact with our digital devices in a very personal way. Today’s phones are as strong as laptops, with HD screens, but human fingers operating them have stayed the same. Phree lets users fully interact with their phones in complex ways – writing, entering text, sketching – turning any phone into a mobile creation station. And, of course, writing directly with digital ink saves paper.
Q: But how does it work?
– Phree uses a sensor called a 3D laser interferometer. This tracks the relative motion of a nearby surface by measuring the interference signal between a laser beam projected on the surface and the reflections from the surface. So, it measures hand motion while writing and between strokes.
Q: What are its basic functions?
– Phree can be used to take notes using various applications on the target device. The notes will appear on the target device whenever you open it. You can even receive, write and send text messages using the device display and it can function as a headset. Phree can also be used as a regular computer mouse whenever it is connected to a target device with mouse cursor. To be honest, we’re still finding more functions for it all the time, and our Kickstarter backers have also been sending us suggestions. It will let users of Office Suite products, as well as Adobe, annotate and Redline documents. This capability has existed for some time but nobody uses it because there was no practical device to enable the use of inking.
Q: Any surprising requests for Phree?
– We’ve been getting a lot of attention from Asia because with the device you can write in any language. But there are also some very exciting professional applications. It will let engineers, graphic artists, interior designers and architects quickly sketch and transmit a drawing to a colleague or client while on the go.
Q: How is the future written for Phree?
– We see Phree as a standard input device in the mobile world, in the same way the mouse became a standard part of PC use. We also see benefits to emerging technologies like AR and VR headsets, interactive TV, and IoT (Internet of Things).