Remember handwriting? The old-timey art of transferring ink or charcoal to paper has been largely sidelined by technology, but a technology-infused pen is looking to bring handwriting into the current century.
The Lernstift pen packs motion sensors that analyze your chicken scratch — you can use the pen with standard paper or simply write words in mid-air — and a vibrating motor that buzzes when the pen detects errors. Future versions will sport a Wi-Fi connection to be leveraged by an open development platform that people can use to create specialized apps for the pen as it connects to various devices.
There are two modes for the pen: calligraphy and orthography. Calligraphy mode senses “if a letter is written wrong or illegibly,” according to the company, and then vibrates once to alert the user to the error. With the Orthography setting, “the pen vibrates once for a misspelled word and twice to point out grammatical errors in a sentence.” Note that the pen simply alerts the user that an error has been identified; it’s then up to the user to figure out the problem and correct it. It’s a teaching pen, not a spellchecker.
There are a couple potential hurdles the Lernstift needs to overcome before it can be branded a success. For starters, the pen is being crowdfunded and is currently in the early stages of raising money. The company – based in Germany — says that, starting in March, it’s looking to “raise 200,000 to 1.5 million EUR via crowdfunding” before deciding “whether we want to A) continue building the pen with our own means or B) sell the idea by licensing the patent.” There’s no price for the pen yet, either, though the company has revealed component costs to be “between 50 and 80 EUR.”
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the pen needs to be accurate. This seems an awful lot like the handwriting version of voice recognition, a technology that’s been in development for decades and still isn’t 100% accurate. People write differently just as they pronounce words differently; if the pen makes a habit of buzzing even when certain words are written correctly, it could confuse young learners.
Still, if the technology works and the company can raise enough money to produce the Lernstift (it’s hoping to launch the first version in limited quantities this summer), it could be a useful tool for teaching kids the fundamentals of handwriting – or reminding adults like us how to write by hand.