Well, I just used Papershow for my first customer webex. So, how did it do?
Actually, pretty well! I had a couple of false starts, because I started out by plugging the USB dongle into a different USB port. That seemed to confuse it a bit with regards to the USB Mass Storage device, Bluetooth Drivers, etc, and it ended up ejecting itself (logically, not physically!). So, plug it into the same USB port as when installed, and it worked better.
Since it’s entirely USB-key based (ie. I assume you can plug into any other PC and keep going with the same pen, files, config, etc), I wasn’t sure how to start it running, since I have autoplay disabled. Running papershow.exe caused it to unplug itself again; Running start.exe proved more reliable, and I was into the presentation.
In terms of reliability, accuracy, real-time update, etc. it was fine: I put it into fullscreen and shared it via Webex Desktop Sharing. The customer said they could see my diagram updating in real-time fine. Operationally, and psychologically, it was quite easy as well – I quickly found myself just looking at the paper and talking to the customer as if he were looking at the pad with me. A quick glance at the screen now and then showed that the digitisation was keeping up. There were a couple of missed colour changes due to my not keeping track of which colour I was on, which looked confused on the diagram – I just changed colour and re-drew over the line. I also found myself gesturing over the pad, which of course the customer can’t see, so I therefore switched to waving the mouse pointer over the screen using my trackpad for those moments.
My drawing and writing were abysmal, but I’ve said that already. I ended up not using any of the ‘assisted drawing’ features such as rectangles, circles, etc. But as a communication tool, it was great.
Oh – and after finishing my presentation, I couldn’t get out of Fullscreen Papershow! Switching to any other app was ignored; no keypress would close it. Eventually, I killed the process, and then removed and inserted the key, and opened it again. To its credit, it had autosaved a backup draft, and it asked if I wanted to open it – and there was my diagram, as if I’d never killed it. Not bad!
Papershow does force a strong link between hardware and software – closing the app will automatically dismount the USB key, even if you didn’t want to. But I can see why they’ve done this for non-computer-savvy users, and it doesn’t seem too obstructive. I still have to play with it a bit to figure out exactly how it’ll behave in certain circumstances, but I’m comfortable that it seems to be a well-finished, reliable product.
My search for a digital pen has taken a new direction.
I’m basically looking for something that will allow me to draw on a notepad, and display it on my laptop and a projector live and in real-time. Yep, a tablet can do that, but I travel, so it needs to be light, easy to carry just in case I need it, and work without fuss.
I was looking at the Anoto PenPresenter. Anoto are the force behind the ‘digital paper’ used by many of these products, where a nearly-invisible unique pattern is printed on paper, and a pen with an embedded camera can recognise exactly where it is. PenPresenter looks great, but it’s hard to find in the UK, and costs over £300. The big sell is that it allows you to print a presentation with the pattern overlaid, so you can then write comments on the paper copy as you’re giving it. Great. But I just want to draw a few diagrams, don’t need, or want, to print my presentation first, and I don’t have the 600dpi Oki laser printer that’s necessary to create the pattern.
Logitech IO2, which seemed to be similar, appears not to display in real-time (apparently the pen is streaming- capable, but not enabled with Logitech’s software or licence). Also, you can’t find them anywhere, and they’ve now sold out to Destiny, who are using the tech more for real-time form filling in blue-collar jobs. No sales presentations here.
So – by a chance search for ‘Digital Pen’ on Amazon, I’ve found a few other options.
A load of companies appear to have OEM’d a system based on a corner sensor – one of them being IOGear. Look at Amazon, and several companies are basically selling the same tech, with the same sensor and pen. This looks great, in that it even works on normal paper – you place the sensor on the corner of the pad, and then it detects the precise position of the pen. The disadvantage is a bulky ultrasound transmitter near the nib, which requires quite vertical writing. The sensor’s small and, now, wireless, so it’s portable. This was my preferred option, until I found Papershow.
Livescribe looks fantastic – if you’re taking notes. It not only records what you’re writing, but the audio at that time. You can then play back the audio by tapping on the text you wrote at that time. Genuis idea. But doesn’t help my presentation.
Papershow, from Oxford, looks much like PenPresenter. It also seems to do what PenPresenter can, including real-time display, and even live presentation markup. Its a lot cheaper – around £120. The main differences seem to be that you have to use their USB dongle as a receiver and file store, and you can’t print the pattern – instead, you print onto special paper purchased with the pattern pre-printed (by Oxford, of course). Sounds like a good option, as I can buy pads, and don’t then need the 600dpi printer. They’ve also got some fairly entertaining videos with Phil Jupitus.
Papershow it is!
In my role, I do a lot of presentations, and a lot of whiteboarding. Sometimes I do webex presentations, where whiteboarding isn’t really an option, and drawing with your mouse isn’t either.
Now – I had seen a few digital pens on the market, but I wanted one that would be wireless, easy to carry, and actually update the screen in real-time. Now it seems that product is finally here. Take a look at this:
So – finally! Looks great. At a simple level, you can print or buy a ‘plain’ sheet of paper, and then draw on it. As you draw, the pen movements are transmitted live to the screen. So you can draw a block diagram, a flow diagram, etc – show and share it in real-time, and then print it off for minutes. Actually, that’s all I really want it for.
The really cool feature, that I probably wouldn’t use, is that you can print off the presentation, and then draw on the printout. The pen automatically works out the page, and position on the page, and the drawing appears on the slide in real-time. Really impressive!
OK – so what are the disadvantages?
1. It’s around £225-300.
2. It’s new – no-one stocks it yet.
3. Only OKI 600dpi Laser printers are certified to work with it. Otherwise, you can try your own printer, as long as:
a. It’s Laser
b. It’s 600dpi – or a multiple (1200,1800,2400)
c. It supports Postscript 3.
So – that’s 4 ‘no’s for my Canon Inkjet then. You can see why they need it though – to print the ultra-fine pattern that the pen uses to detect where it is on the page.
So… perhaps I could buy a pad of the Anoto paper instead (comments?) – or even find someone with a 600dpi laser, and print off enough to keep me going for a while! As for the price… it’s a luxury, but possibly worthwhile if it really helps.
Alternatives? A simple digitiser tablet for £50; but I don’t have the space to carry one around constantly. Or that corner-mounted virtual whiteboard-on-projector system, which again, required a sensor on the wall, sensors on the pens, and a huge power cable to the wall sensor (hopeless!).
For now, I’ll wait and see…