The latest generation of “digital pens” trounces the old idea of simply scanning handwriting into computer text. These tools promise to substitute stylus and paper for keyboard and screen. And they’re wireless, too. One caveat: It pays to know what’s on its way to market, because forthcoming versions are more sophisticated. Only you know how much sophistication your pocket protector can stand.
ChatPen from Anoto and Sony Ericsson, available now in Sweden for approximately $260, U.S. release later this year
PROS: With ChatPen’s camera technology, you can store handwritten notes, send e-mail directly from paper, or call up a Web page by writing a URL.
CONS: The pen can be used only on paper covered with dots — invisible to the eye, but necessary for deciphering handwriting and transmitting e-mail and Web commands.
BOTTOM LINE: Although the paper is restricting, quick e-mail and Web access are worth the effort.
VPen by OTM Technologies, available in 2003 for less than $200
PROS: A laser point allows use on any surface that reflects light. Partnerships with heavyweights like Microsoft and Motorola ensure multisystem compatibility.
CONS: Long wait for its arrival.
BOTTOM LINE: OK, so the wait seems extreme, but so are the promised benefits. The ability to write on any surface is key, and with big-name partners, other innovations seem likely.
InkLink by Seiko, available now for $100
PROS: Use with any paper up to legal size. Allows user to cut, copy, paste, e-mail, and store handwritten notes.
CONS: Less sophisticated than the others; no mouse-like capabilities
BOTTOM LINE: The InkLink isn’t as advanced, but it is inexpensive and on shelves now.