Dane-Elec was showing off their Digital Pen at DCC 2007. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical, but they were more than happy to demonstrate it in action, and for a good reason - the sample worked flawlessly.
The device uses 3d acoustic technology developed by Epos, an Israeli startup. Two microphones are used to triangulate the position of the pen. A similar concept can be used to detect the source of loud sounds at a distance, such as artillery or gunfire. I wonder if that's what the Israelis originally had in mind.
Simplicity was one of the design goals and judging from what we saw the device should be very easy to use. Basically you put it on top of a page, push a button and write. Foolproof, unless you're illiterate, but I guess you wouldn't be reading this if you were.
When you're done, just push the button again and you're off to the next page. The images are stored on 1GB of embedded memory which, according to the Dane-Elec guys, is sufficient for "thousands of pages".
The pen base station recharges when connected to a USB port, and the battery should endure as much as 120 hours before it drops dead.When plugged into a laptop the contraption works pretty much like any USB key, you just copy the scanned pages and that's it.
You will get some bundled OCR software as well, and it did a good job at the presentation. The base station is relatively small, maybe half the size of a contemporary candy bar cellphone, but keep in mind that this is an engineering sample and not the final product.
There are a few drawbacks though. You can't actually see what the device captured before getting the stuff on a computer, but if the gadget works properly that shouldn't be a problem. On the other hand, you also need a computer to send it.
If there was a way of connecting it to a smartphone, or if it used a memory card, you would be able to send your notes in no time at all. Now that would be nice for geek journalists. Hopefully, if the concept takes off, this will be taken care of.
Dane-Elec and Intel Capital invested more than a million bucks in this thing and the final product should be available at the end of August, although it was expected a bit earlier. The company plans to mass market it to students and professionals as two separate models priced at 99 euro.
You can also check out a video on YouTube, here.