The writing’s on the wall with Phree smart pen

A smart pen which can translate doodles written on almost any surface into readable text on your smartphone has been developed in Israel.

HERZLIYA, ISRAEL (RECENT) (REUTERS) – A digital pen that allows users to document and share a digital copy of a scribble, sketch or note written on any surface has been developed in Israel.

When paired with a smartphone, ‘Phree’ frees users from the need to write on paper or the screen itself. Resembling traditional hand-held pens in size and shape, its developers say that Phree’s appeal is in preserving the ancient act of writing or drawing while keeping up with technological advancements.

Gilad Lederer, co-Ceo and co-founder of OTM Technologies, said the Israeli smart pen shoots a laser beam from its tip. Handwriting or drawings are digitalised on virtually any surface almost instantaneously to a smartphone, having been processed by algorithms, and converted into a motion signal.

“You write anywhere you want on any surface but you create directly digital ink on the target device,” said Lederer.

Regardless of the surface on which it was written, the target device – a watch, smartphone, television or virtual reality glasses – can capture it all. The pen is compatible with existing software such as EverNote, Google Handwriting Keyboard and Viber and connects to anything with a Bluetooth connection.

“You can virtually write on any surface and just scroll the screen as you write. So you are unlimited in space that you have to work,” Lederer told Reuters at the Herzliya High Tech zone.

Handwriting is simultaneously visible on the target device, which is then translated into Word font, in almost any language, or as an image in one’s own handwriting, enabling users to share clear notes via text, email or any other mobile application.

Phee works up to a distance of one inch (25 millimetres) from the Phee tip to the surface and be used at up to 10 metres from the target device.

The possibilities for different professionals to use Phree are endless, said Lederer, who founded the company with two of his fellow comrades from Talpiot, an elite Israel military training program whose graduates frequently assume technological leadership positions in their civilian lives.

“Professionals want to work and annotate documents and red line documents on the go. Kids want to play like draw something and send their drawings or sketches in snap shot of photos. Construction workers can work in a construction site and annotate a building plan straight into the cloud, and gamers can finally have a tool to use in the virtual reality world to interact even when they are totally immersed in the virtual reality,” said Lederer.

The patent registered technology, an optical tracking engine, is located at the tip of the pen. The optical sensor at the tip – which its developers call the world’s smallest 3D laser interferometer – tracks motion on any surface in three dimensions with laser interferometry and transmits the motion data to the Bluetooth-enabled target device.

The pen has physical buttons and a touch display that is used to interact with the connected devices.

“It’s like a mouse: you can choose menus, interact, do whatever you want with your digital device,” said co-founder and co-CEO Opher Kinrot.

OTM launched a crowd-funding Kickstarter campaign for Phree in May with a target set at $100,000 USD. Pledges totalling seven times that figure have already been reached ahead of its June 26 deadline.

The final retail price is expected to be around $200 USD, Lederer said.

Lederer said the next stage will be to deliver the product to its Kickstarter backers in March 2016.

Kinrot said the smart pen is so accurate that it can be used as a biometrical identification by providing aspects such as the angle users employ to grip the device, the pressure put on it, and velocities and acceleration to the extent that “we really know that it is you even before you start writing.”