Pen and Paper Goes Digital

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There’s one shortcoming that iPads and other tablets will always have: they’re not pen and paper. For many people, there just is no substitute for a good old-fashioned notebook, but Wacom’s new Bamboo Spark can digitize your notes automatically.

At a price of $160, the Spark comes with a folio, paper, notebook, and a special ballpoint pen. Once the folio pairs with its partner app over Bluetooth, the user can start writing or doodling notes in ink, and see them appear on their iPhone or iPad as digital images.

Once the folio pairs with its partner app over Bluetooth, the user can start writing or doodling notes in ink, and see them appear on their iPhone or iPad as digital images.
Once the folio pairs with its partner app over Bluetooth, the user can start writing or doodling notes in ink, and see them appear on their iPhone or iPad as digital images.

The Spark’s design uses an electromagnetic resonance sensor in the pad to record the user’s strokes, and transfers them to the pen, so no, you can’t use your favorite Pilot G-2 pen. The Spark’s Bluetooth pen can save up to 100 pages of notes without any data connection, so you can work offline and then transfer everything to the app later.

The app will store each note as a separate page, determining when one note stops and the next begins by the press of a start and stop button on the folio. The user can also export each note as in image file, PDF, or as a .WIL file — an up-and-coming new standard for digital notes. It even has a cloud service called Inkspace so that you can access your notebook from the web.

It’s not unlike other devices that digitize notes. You still have to boot up an app, and pair it to a device, but the Spark makes all this a bit easier to do.

“The digitization of notes is absolutely product innovation headed in the right direction,” says Tom Ajello, Founder/Creative Director, Makeable. “But you need to live with digital note hardware for a while to fully realize its potential. I personally use a Galaxy Note as my mobile device. The thing that drove me to use it is the integration of a stylus – and the note taking apps that support it.”

However, you don’t have to actually pair the Spark with a device before you use it. You can just jot your notes down anytime, anywhere. You just flip a switch, press a button, and write. Then, press the button again to finish it up. Once you do pair the Spark to the device, it uploads your work.

The question is, though, will people pay $160 for a digital notebook? Or will they stick with their dollar notebooks they can get at Wal-Mart, and type things up later?

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