Digital pens

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ptram
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Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:28 am Post

Hi,

I just received an offer from Iris for their Iris Note package, made of a digital pen and a software recognizing handwritten text in digital ink format. I had to discover that their OCR software only works on a PC, so I was no longer interested to this product.

But I could discover a competitor's product: the Epos Intellipen. This one is supplied with the full licence of the MyScritp Notes software, that should work well under Mac. So, things start to be interesting.

This pen looks like an ordinary ball pen, with a standard recharchable cartridge and standatd batteries. The digital part works in conjunction with a small receiver to be attached on a side of a sheet of paper (or block). The memorized pen motions are saved as digital ink, and converted by the software to a standard text file when the receiver is connected to a Mac (or PC).

Has anybody tried it, or any similar product? I have always been very interested to any method to convert handwritten text to computer-readable text. Older solutions based on special paper never got me. The lack of software for Mac was another stopper. But I'm starting to feel interested to this solution, now that I know it can be used with ordinary paper, and our not-so-ordinary computer.

Paolo

(Now, if only they could release a pen using gel ink, like my beloved Pilot V-Ball...)
Last edited by ptram on Tue Sep 07, 2010 5:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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johnz
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Tue Sep 07, 2010 12:26 pm Post

Hi Paolo,

I'm also very interested in every gadget to write fast, and this digital pen caught my attention, even if I haven't bought it (till now - I'm thinking about that...)

BTW, now the Iris pen is also for Mac, see the link

http://www.active-software.com/itproducts/story$dirname=&index=default&num=484&sec=0

Enjoy! :D

Giovanni

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ptram
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Tue Sep 07, 2010 1:40 pm Post

Ciao Giovanni,

Yes, I saw the Executive version, but it costs more than the Intellipen. However, I just installed the Intellipen software for the Mac (MyScriptNotes), and I was a bit disconcerted by how "rough" the installer was (there was not even a single intaller file, but several sparse files).
EDIT: The sparse files were probably due to the fact that the Italian distributor supplied the whole package for all languages. Normally, one would choose his main language, and just download that (smaller) file.

I was also less than pleased to see how it disseminated all my disk with its files, without any logical order. For example, it put in my home folder both a "MyScriptNotes Documents" folder, and a "Vision Object" folder containing another folder relating to MyScriptNotes documents.

Unfortunately I cannot say if the software is good or not, since it does not seem to work in demo mode, without being activated. On paper, it should offer all IrisNotes Executive has to offer.
EDIT: The Executive is exactly the same software supplied with the EPOS Intellipen, MyScript Notes Studio.

Paolo
Last edited by ptram on Thu Sep 09, 2010 5:35 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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robertdguthrie
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Tue Sep 07, 2010 1:43 pm Post

Is it just me, or does the term "digital pen" seem redundant to anyone else?
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Hugh
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Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:40 pm Post

I used a Pegasus Digital Notetaker (http://www.pegatech.com/) when I worked on Windows. It looks very similar to the Iris package.

I had two issues with it:

- I like slim pens and the Pegasus pen was too fat for me (some digital pens, such as the Logitech are even fatter). I found it tiring to use for hours at a time.

- more importantly, the software couldn't read my writing at a level of accuracy that made it a time-saver. When I made my usual corrections and changes, the results were useless, although if I slowed down and resisted the urge to edit, things were better but still not sufficient to make the use of the device worthwhile.

That was several years ago. I see Pegasus have reached a "second generation", and maybe the software has too. But I think the lesson I learnt was that to use these devices effectively your handwriting needs to be neat and clear and you have to resist the urge to change what you've written.

And even then, learning to type faster may be a more effective investment. :)

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Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:58 pm Post

robertdguthrie wrote:does the term "digital pen" seem redundant


If by digital you mean manual, it seems redundant.
If by digital you mean cyber-something, it seems an oxymoron.
Or, the digital pen could be a hoosegow for geeks.
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Hu
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Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:08 pm Post

PJS wrote:... the digital pen could be a hoosegow for geeks.


"Hoosegow". Had to look it up. Like it. :)
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
competitors, working away in the night in
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ptram
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Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:27 pm Post

Thank you for your report, Hugh.

Hugh wrote:And even then, learning to type faster may be a more effective investment


I type fast, but I type all day long. The only time when I can write something is in the evening, maybe going out for dining, and I am not really compelled to return at the keyboard (nor find too nice sitting there with my netbook).

I have always my block with me, and I write a lot with pen and paper. The only problem is that I don't transcribe. I've some kilograms of blocks I accumulated during my existence, that are left covered with dust.

My hope is that I can finally find a way to transcribe my notes quickly. I tried with vocal recognition, and it resulted too slow (or inaccurate). This is another try that I would like to do, in the hope that the barrier between paper and screen is getting thinner and thinner...

Paolo

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ptram
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Tue Sep 07, 2010 5:28 pm Post

ptram wrote:Now, if only they could release a pen using gel ink, like my beloved Pilot V-Ball...

Uhm... maybe it can be done... V-Ball refills exist, and they look very similar to ordinary ball-point refills.

Paolo

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Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:51 pm Post

ptram wrote: I have always my block with me, and I write a lot with pen and paper. The only problem is that I don't transcribe. I've some kilograms of blocks I accumulated during my existence, that are left covered with dust.


But do you really need to transcribe EVERY word? I would type an index of the material, so you have a rough idea of the notebook contents.

war, peace, and cappuccino, 6-13
pay the dentist, 14
write sizzling rejoinder to vic, 15
the writing life, 17-24
story set in Genoa, 25-49
introduction, 25-28
great love scene, 29-35

Keep it in a Research folder, or have an entire Scrivener project devoted to Notebooks

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Jaysen
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Wed Sep 08, 2010 3:15 pm Post

druid wrote:war, peace, and cappuccino, 6-13
pay the dentist, 14
write sizzling rejoinder to vic, 15
the writing life, 17-24
story set in Genoa, 25-49
introduction, 25-28
great love scene, 29-35

Isn't the third item missing a few pages?
Jaysen

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ptram
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Thu Sep 09, 2010 2:16 pm Post

druid wrote:But do you really need to transcribe EVERY word? I would type an index of the material

Actually, this is similar to what I do most of the time with notes from university lessons. Instead of an index, I write down an abstract of the notes, leaving most of them untranscribed. They will then be reused (in an elaborated form) only when needed for a paper.

But coming to narrative writing, I think that every single word is important. And when writing narrative with pen and paper, I jot down a lot of pages during each session. These pages remain unused, unordered, often forgot. Transcribing them would be the only way to insert them in the right flux (a tale, a novel, a play...). Just indexing them would simply delay sending them to the oblivion.

Would writing my sketches in digital form right in the beginning, help me reusing them? Everything I've written with my netbook during the latest two years has been reused, elaborated, immediately transformed into something. But I don't have my netbook with me everytime. Or it would be impractical to use it in some situations. Or, it would simply not be attractive enough using it, after a long day of typing and staring at a display.

So, it is my hope that a digital pen could be a mix between the ease and joy of my usual writing longhand, and the convenience of quickly reusing materials through a computer. The fact that I don't know writers using digital pens should make me understand that they don't work. But I've a whole collection of writing gadgets (the Newton, a Palm, IR keyboards, dictation programs...) that I left unused after a few tries. Why not another one?

Paolo

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ptram
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Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:13 am Post

Incidentally, now that VirtualBox supports audio input, I'm trying Dragon Naturally Speaking (version 9) again. As for recognition, it seems to work even better than with the old version of Paralles. The included notepad seems buggy as hell, not even responding to keyboard strokes and commands after a little time of use. But one can restart it, and go on tolerating it. (It's Windows, all considered, so it delivers what it promises). Maybe version 10 has addressed these problems?

So, I see two scenarios:

1) Writing with my preferred rolleball pen, with my usual calligraphy (looking similar to an electrocardiogram and nearly unreadable, but I can decipher it -- more or less). Then, at home, devote about three minutes per handwritten page (including corrections) to vocal transcription (this is exactly the same rate as with touch-typing). With its 750c/125w, a handwritten A5 page is about half a standard typed A4 page (the classic 60 x 30 character page). This means that I need about 6' per page for transcribing. A whole day of NaNoWriMo could be transcribed between 45 and 60 minutes.

2) Writing with the dedicated digital ball-pen, with the most precise calligraphy I'm capable of. At home, let the software MyScript Notes do the transcription. By looking at the videos on the web, it seems this could be done in about a minute per handwritten page, including corrections. This means 2' per standard typed page, i.e., between 15 and 20 minutes per NaNoWriMo day.

The first solution would be probably more pleasant during writing. But it would take longer for transcribing. And transcription can be done when no one is nearby and listening. The second solution might be less pleasant during actual writing -- but how to get to know it? I see no other solution than to buy it, try it, then decide if that is the right route, or another gadget to stock away...

Paolo

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Jot
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Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:42 am Post

My big problem is that I write lots of stuff in notebooks but then never get around to transcribing any of it. I've got little writing pads everywhere with bare ideas, whole paragraphs, notes & whatnot...but it might take me months to get them into the laptop. If ever.

So, I've just bought myself a Livescribe Echo pen with the MyScript program as an add on. Based on the limited testing I've done so far it's very impressive. The MyScript OCR is pretty darn good considering it's "reading" handwriting (although, my handwriting isn't too bad) and I'm fairing chuffed with the results so far. My only gripes are that the pen is a little chunky (especially with my smallish hands) and that the pen itself doesn't have the nice 'feel' of my favourite gel pen.

I wouldn't want to write for hours on end with the smartpen (I've named "Squiggle") but as an alternative to lugging around my laptop and/or making and losing notes, I think it's got potential. Anyway, the NaNoWriMo should be a good test for it (and me).
J

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suavito
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Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:50 am Post

I never understood the idea behind this. If you need special paper to make the OCR program work properly why not use a normal pen, maybe on the same paper, and scan it?
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