Logitech slims down its digital pen

Logitech Monday introduced a new version of its digital pen, which can digitize handwritten text, featuring increased storage capacity and improved handwriting recognition capabilities, according to the company.

The Logitech IO2 Digital Writing System includes the digital pen and software that can convert the digitized handwriting into Microsoft documents, plain text files or JPEG images, among other file types, according to Vanessa Mills, senior marketing manager at Logitech.

A camera behind the pen's ballpoint tip reads the text on special digital paper and records the pen strokes into its flash memory. Digital paper is normal paper that contains thousands of individual dots used to plot the movement of pen strokes. The pen can write on normal paper, but in that case it won't record the data. It only records data from special paper sold by Logitech and a few other vendors, including MeadWestvaco, Mills said.

Digital pens make handwritten notes searchable after they have been converted into text, Mills said. Hospitals have found the digital pens handy as personnel can instantly digitize medical records, she said. In addition to targeting the vertical markets, Logitech is also working with Salesforce.com so sales teams can instantly digitize documents into Salesforce.com's CRM (customer relationship management) software.

The new IO2 Digital Pen is about 30 percent smaller than the Logitech IO, which was launched late last year, Mills said. The IO2 Digital Pen is 21.6 millimeters (0.85 inches) wide, 156.7 millimeters (6.17 inches) long, and weighs 37.4 grams (0.037 kilograms). The flash memory in the pen has been increased to 40M bytes.

"For insurance agents, the (Digital Pen) can now hold 200 forms as opposed 100 forms," Mills said.

A USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0 charger cradle can transfer the digitized handwritten documents from the pen's flash memory to the computer using the IO2 Software.

A new software-based training module for the system, the MyScript Notes Trainer, can train the pen to understand an individual's handwriting. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes of training for the pen to understand a person's handwriting, Mills said. But the better the handwriting, the better accuracy of text conversion, Mills said.

The pen now can also store "identities," or handwriting profiles for different individuals, said Karen Hoskins, a company spokeswoman. The company developed the handwriting recognition software with France-based Vision Objects, said Mills.

The IO2 Digital Writing System comes with the Digital Pen, one notebook and one notepad measuring 8.5 inches (21.6 centimeters) by 11 inches (27.9 centimeters) each, one travel notepad measuring 3.75 inches (9.5 centimeters) by 5.5 inches (13.97 centimeters), color identification tags to individualize the pen and five ink refills. The IO2 Software is compatible with Windows XP and Windows 2000.

The US$200 IO2 Digital Writing System will become available in the U.S., Germany and the U.K. in late September. The spokeswoman could not comment on availability in other countries. A set of three 120-page digital paper notebooks measuring 8.5 inches by 11 inches costs US$14.95 on Logitech's Web site.

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