I bought and received mine, taking funds from my geeky-and-probably-unnecessary-device budget. A close look reveals that there are two parts to this gadget; The pen and the base station. The base station clips to a piece or pad of paper, and is used to record the movement of the pen, it features a single button that can be held-down to turn the base station on and off2, and can be pressed quickly in order to indicate that the user is sketching a new page (up to 50 pages worth of scribblings can be recorded at a stretch). The base connects to the computer via USB cable, and the included software will instantly transfer any recorded notes to a specified location on the computer as TIFF images. The USB connection also charges the base station’s internal battery. The pen uses a couple of those tiny watch or hearing aid batteries, and shuts itself off whenever its not moving, so apparently they don’t need to be replaced often.3
I connected the base to my computer, updated its firmware to 1.76 so that it’d work with Mac OS X, rebooted my computer, unplugged the base, clipped it to some paper, wrote a bit, then plugged the base back into the computer. Everything I wrote transferred over to the computer automatically as a tiff file (deposited into a folder I’d pre-designated), and looked very very good. I’d guess that the base unit stores pen movements in a vector-based format, which is then rendered to a tiff file after it’s transferred to the computer.
I tried the bundled OCR4 software, “MyScript Notes Light” on Windows XP inside VMware Fusion. On my first test, it worked surprisingly well. Subsequent tests were not so successful. I think it gets confused when it tries to emulate the layout of text written in lines that are not completely horizontal. I also scribbled a couple of Chinese characters (ni hao) and it recognized those and converted them to text (in a separate pass with the OCR software set to simplified Chinese). There’s no reason that the high-resolution TIFF images created by the pen couldn’t be opened in more capable OCR software, perhaps resulting in more usable transcriptions.
Mouse mode does work, the pen can be used to draw and drag on the computer. A click can be executed by pressing the point of the pen down or by clicking the pen’s side button. There’s a bit of lag, which would suck for gaming, but mouse mode could potentially be of use with photoshop (note: the pen is not pressure sensitive).
I half-busted one of the base unit’s clips trying to clip it to a stack of paper larger than it can accept. So my recommendation would be “don’t do what I did”. Other than that hiccup, my thoughts on the IOGear Mobile Digital Scribe (or GPEN200N) are positive so far.
- It’s currently marked down from $129 (WTFLOL) to $64.95, and then there’s a $20 mail-in rebate. [↩]
- It took me a day to figure this out –the little guide it ships with says nothing about this, and holding the button produces some bizarre twiddlings of items on the base station’s LCD display, animations that don’t appear to portend an imminent shutdown, before it indeed shuts down. [↩]
- Whether or not those batteries will ever need to replaced will depend on whether or not I tire quickly of this new toy or actually find it useful and take notes with it daily. [↩]
- Optical Character Recognition – it converts one’s writing into text. [↩]