Review: A day with the Papershow interactive paper kit

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Canson’s Papershow works like this: there’s a pad of paper printed with a subtle patten; a ball-point pen with a tiny scanner near the tip that handles tracking, and a USB dongle that plugs into your computer. The pen talks to the dongle via Bluetooth, and software on the computer makes as perfect copy of whatever you write or draw.

It’s pitched at anyone who might want to save (or project) their scribbles, and it’s remarkably well-implemented. Papershow produces accurate results without adding much of a usability burden atop the classic brainstorming setup of pen and paper.

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There are useful extra features, too. For example, the special paper has an icon panel, with line width options and an eraser, and palette swatches. Though it obviously can’t change how the ball-point pen works, it “just works” on-screen.

There are some drawbacks. It’s $200 and the pen is quite bulky. The dongle and bundled software work only under Windows. The special paper is pricey ($20 for a pad of 200 sheets, or $13 for a 48 sheet pad) and proprietary. Given the distinctive tracking grid, corporate logos and icon bar, the “hard copy” is really just an input device.

If you have a setting in mind, such as aa school classroom or creative brainstorming group, Papershow’s almost a no-brainer. Digital artists might also like it, too, though the lack of color choices and painting tools will be a limitation.

That said, it lacks the generic utility that a graphics tablet brings — or any other reason for everyday consumers to drop $200 for it.

Product Page [Papershow]

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Email is dead, but you can try your luck at besc...@gmail.com
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7 Responses to Review: A day with the Papershow interactive paper kit

  1. Alli says:

    Sounds like a “grown up” version of the Fly Fusion Pentop computer. Except the Fusion offers more cool stuff to go with it and it’s cheaper.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I got a couple of old CrossPads from a previous job that did this, but using ordinary notepads over a tablet with a special pen. The pens were exceptional enough that I used them normally for a long time, without the tablet!

    I’ve been somewhat skeptical of the “special paper” technique – sure, it’s cool, but when the company stops making the paper you’re boned. At least the CrossPad worked essentially indefinitely (ok, I admit, both tablets eventually suffered hardware failures… but the pens are great!)

  3. monstrinho_do_biscoito says:

    um, isn’t a better solution a wacom tablet pen with ink?, then you just tape some paper over the tablet

  4. El Stinko says:

    Can you print your own sheets?

  5. Wovixo says:

    I have a similar gizmo: the Pulse Smartpen from Livescribe (www.livescribe.com), and it’s been really useful. I go to a lot of meetings, and hate dealing with a laptop just to take notes. Pen and paper doesn’t work well either, since I wind up with piles of it in my office with various meeting notes. The Smartpen thingy let’s me search my handwritten notes. That’s the biggest selling point to me. It’s OCR works really, really well – my handwriting is bad, and it finds what I’m searching for 95% of the time or more.

    Sure, it records audio, but the built-in mic is crap.

    It’s having searchable, hand-written notes available on my PC that sells it for me.

    I bought the $200, 2gig model, but they have a 1gig for $150, which would work fine for most uses.

  6. Wovixo says:

    Oh, yeah – and you can print out the special livescribe paper. Works as good as the factory paper.

  7. Rob Beschizza says:

    No — I tried a photocopy, and it wouldn’t work. The website doesn’t have PDFs or anything to download, either.

    Maybe a high-quality scan would do the trick?

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