Connected Objects Input

Phree lets you scribble on any surface, saves notes to your phone

editors-choiceWhat do Texas and mobile device interfaces have in common? Everything’s bigger there. Touch screens such as those in nearly every smartphone and tablet today set a new bar for ease of use. But their fingertip friendliness came at the price of precision compared to the mouse, which could pinpoint things on the screen.

patent-claimedPhree, however, takes a fresh approach to the idea of a pointing device for smartphones. Unlike other smart pens that work directly on the surface of the smartphone or on paper, Phree allows scribbling on virtually any surface and sends its output to the screen and is compatible with existing pen-aware applications.

The Bluetooth device has some secondary functions as well. It can display and navigate notifications on its relatively wide frame. It can even serve as an impromptu headset although it’s too long to hang off the ear. OTM Technologies seeks $100,000 by June 28. Alas, Phree isn’t Phree. The device costs $168, which is an unspecified discount from the retail price. And it isn’t due to ship until April 2016.

Phree stands on the shoulders of previous smartpens such as the Livescribe Smartpen 3, which also boasted a display and once solicited apps. However, the its laser-based approach differs from either that product or ultrasound-based ones such as the Equil Smartpen 2. it also seems to be designed for a different purpose — jotting down quick bits of info as opposed to the extended note taking of the Livescribe pens that require special paper. Just as the smartwatch is a quick way of getting content from the smartphone, Phree is a quick way of getting content into it.

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