Phree lets you take notes from just about anywhere, on anything.
While the pen remains the natural instrument of choice for a majority of people, the proliferation of mobile technology has ushered in a new wave of touch-enabled input devices. Contrary to the strong beliefs of the late Steve Jobs, the stylus refuses to disappear. Though as sleek and futuristic as today’s screens may be, writing and drawing on them isn’t always as spontaneous and intuitive as most of us would like them to be. That was until now at least.
Developed by Tel Aviv-based startup OTM Technologies, Phree allows users to write, draw, annotate and express themselves in ways never before imaginable. While smartphones are more than capable dictaphones and notepads, for many, there are still plenty of everyday scenarios where putting a pen to paper is the only way. And when those moments arise, it requires a hard surface to get the job done. With this smart pen, however, notetakers can simply jot down thoughts or take messages on virtually anything within Bluetooth range of their gadget, revealing the resulting input on-screen.
As if that wasn’t enough, Phree enables users to answer calls through its built-in speaker and headset jack, as well as receive and manage notifications on an OLED touchscreen. Don’t worry, responding to those messages aren’t done on the super tiny display, but instead, written on the back of a hand, a dashboard, a desktop or anything else. Furthermore, the touchscreen lets its owner select from different modes, like pen to highlighter or from SMS to phone call.
“For real-time on-screen digital ink rendering, the latency between our writing motion and the perceived ink trace needs to be an eye-blink – nearly instantaneous – for it to feel ‘right.’ We also want to be able to write and sketch wherever we are and whenever we want to. When you want to jot something down, you don’t want to unlock your phone, open an app and wait,” the OTM crew writes.
OTM stands for Optical Translation Measurement, the startup’s patented 3D laser interferometer sensor that tracks motion. Particularly, it employs motion tracking lasers to follow the movement of the pen and trace the shape of the letters as they are made out on a surface with extremely high accuracy, up to one inch away. This is accomplished by measuring the interference signal between the laser beam projected onto the surface and its reflections. These words are then magically typed onto the phone’s screen via Bluetooth. Phree can also distinguish drawings and symbols so users can send emojis. That probably makes many of you happy. 🙂
“Phree’s graphical touchscreen is used for Bluetooth connection and context-sensitive interaction with various applications. The standard icons on the display include notifications – messages and phone calls. When used with specific applications the display will change to allow quick interaction with common features. For note taking, for example, the display may show pen, eraser, and highlighter. The touch panel recognizes single fingers and swipe left/right,” the team adds.
Phree will connect to practically any Bluetooth-embedded device, whether that’s a tablet or TV, and is compatible with apps including Microsoft Office, OneNote, EverNote, Acrobat, Google Handwriting Keyboard and Viber. And it works as a wireless mouse for your laptop, too. Impressively, it can even be used as a biometric identification tool by learning a person’s handwriting style and the way that they hold a pen.
Weighing in at just 30 grams, this pocket-sized gizmo can be easily carried around and is currently available in black, graphite, silver and gold. Beyond that, Phree boasts a wireless charging case.
“The case cap attaches magnetically to the body of the case to form an adjustable stand for any smartphone. Just place your phone in the stand, begin writing or drawing off-screen with Phree and voilà – you have an instant mobile workstation that actually works,” its creators add.
As computing continues to migrate towards smaller-screened devices, the appeal of something like Phree increases tremendously. Intrigued? Pre-order one for yourself on its Kickstarter page, where OTM Technologies has soared right past its $100,000 goal. Shipment is expected to kick off in the spring of 2016.