Forget smartwatches… get a smart-pen

A new smart-pen promises to fix the delay that occurs between having an idea and getting a device, like smartphone out to record it

Phree smart pen
Credit: Phree

Smartwatches, been there done that? For those not particularly enamored with the idea of the nagging wristwatch, a nagging pen may be the answer.

At least, as with a smartphone, you can slip a pen into your pocket or a drawer—out of sight. And you can’t say that about an appendage tapping incessantly, affixed to your wrist.

But, there are advantages to observing message notifications on devices other than the more bulky smartphone. Tel Aviv, Israel-based OTM Technologies, looking for funding right now on Kickstarter, reckons the way to go is with a smart-pen.

Mobile input device

Phree, is its proposed mobile input device. It’s ostensibly a way to jot down notes and numbers without getting a phone out—or using something as antiquated as a ballpoint pen—but it also displays messages on its digital-ink screen.

If the device gets built, you will be able to receive, write and send messages.

Build looks likely: The project has been pledged $105,644 of its $100,000 goal by 642 backers. The campaign has 44 days left to run, as of writing.


Expressing yourself “more quickly and easily” is really what Phree is all about, though. It’s aimed at those who feel that they have more “dexterity and control” over a tool held by fingers, the website explains.

Although I’ve pretty much stopped using pens—I use Android’s simple and free Keep app for taking notes—there are many who still use pens.

And I do find pencils and pens superior for drawing.


But, one of the problems that I’ve encountered with digital styli in the past has been the delay between making the mark, and the image rendering on the screen. It’s not real-time, I’ve found.

It’s a known issue that doesn’t “feel right” the company says. It reckons it has fixed the problem, in part with faster readings, but also with the fact you don’t have to get a smartphone out at all. The pen will capture and display the information—if it works.

3D laser interferometer

OTM says its unique low-cost optical 3D laser interferometer sensor operates in a wide dynamic range. It quickly tracks hand motion across “virtually any surface,” such as a hand or table, thus reducing latency.

Interferometry works by superimposing waves onto each other to extract information. Interferometers can measure very small displacements. They’re used in engineering for that.

In this case, three-dimensional measurements are taken from a laser beam that projects onto the surface and is reflected back. An algorithm calculates the motion and traces the shape of the characters written, or drawings made.

It’s the same kind of laser that’s used in optical mice.


Phree is designed to connect to devices like phones and laptops with Bluetooth.

Compatible apps listed on the website include Acrobat, EverNote, Google Handwriting Keyboard, Office, OneNote, and Viber, the telephony app.


Although the main idea is that you should be able to record thoughts, e-mail addresses, notes and so on, the aforementioned notifications function within the pen could be a major bonus, as are some of the other feature-creep functions:

For example, an integrated Bluetooth headset lets you hold the pen to your face for calling and dialing numbers; and a Bluetooth mouse function lets you use it as a laptop input device.

Plus, the pen’s case converts into a mobile workstation—removing part of the case creates an ergonomic rest for a smartphone.


An open API is available, and the company reckons its product would be a suitable accoutrement to augmented reality, virtual reality and gaming among others activities.


Available pledges start at $148, which gets you one Phree for delivery in April, 2016.

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