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What Is a Smartpen?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A smartpen is a device that allows all the usual abilities of a basic ballpoint pen, but also has some more technologically innovative features as well. These features include a microphone, speaker and a small organic light emitting diode (OLED) screen. A smartpen will also typically have a tiny infrared camera built into the tip of the handle, near the actual pen, that tracks the movements of the pen to record the words and images that a user makes. If used with specially designed paper, this allows the user to record full notebooks of information that are saved onto the pen and can be uploaded onto a computer through a universal serial bus (USB) port connection.

A smartpen works primarily with notebooks or loose sheets of specially printed dot paper. This paper is covered with tiny microdots that allow the tiny camera to track the position of the pen on the paper itself. These microdots allow the pen to accurately record every word and line made by the pen’s user. The paper also has controls for the pen printed at the bottom of the page, and touching the tip of the pen to these printed images works just like pushing a button. While notebooks full of this dot paper are available from a smartpen manufacturer, the dot paper can even be made using a standard printer.

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Having a smartpen with speaker and microphone built into it means the user can be recording a meeting or classroom lesson while taking notes, all with a single device. A smartpen has a highly sensitive microphone with noise reduction technology to pick up even fairly distant voices while also eliminating background noise. Most smartpens also have a jack for headphones to be plugged into the top of the pen so the user can listen back to what was recorded without others hearing it.

Since the pen can record audio through the microphone, while recording the lines that a smartpen user makes on the page, a user can access recorded audio based on the paper as well. A user can listen to recorded audio and touch the pen to a word written on a page and the audio will jump forward or backward to the point at which that word was written. This means a user can take general notes and then use the keywords written on the page to jump to a specific part of a lesson or meeting.

The OLED display on the pen allows a user to better interact with applications designed for use with a smartpen. This can include programs that allow a user to write a word on the dot paper in English, and then see a Spanish translation of the word on the pen’s display. The smartpen can even work out mathematical calculations by pushing the paper buttons of a calculator printed on the inside of the notebook and using it to see the answer on the pen.

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