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Cool new Ericsson tool

This one could be a killer app for Bluetooth. 6/19 ReleVents hed: Cool new Ericsson tool dek: This one could be a killer app for Bluetooth. By James Mathewson

I don’t normally go gaga over a new device, especially one that isn’t shipping yet. But an announcement on our site today has me drooling. The device, called the Chatpen by Ericsson, has me dreaming of the possibilities of what I will do with it when I do get my hands on one.

One thing I’ve always wanted to do is take notes on a standard yellow note pad and have those notes automatically transcribed and waiting for me in my word processing program when I get back to my PC. Another thing I’ve always wanted to do is highlight lines of text and have them instantaneously scanned and entered into a document as a means of summarizing important works I’ve read.

There are devices that do these things, but they are a bit bulky and too awkward for me to go out and get them. IBM has a notebook computer that has a notepad attached to it. The notepad is specially designed to capture handwriting (if you press hard enough) and turn it into ASCII text in the notebook computer. While this is a cool device for the conference room and especially for the classroom, why not just type your notes in as you go as long as you have a laptop right there? With handwriting a near lost art, most of us are better at typing than longhand anyway. And you can hook a handheld scanner onto this set-up for cutting and pasting important quotes from your research. But this adds to the overall bulkiness and the mess of wires you have to lug around.

If the Chatpen performs as advertised, it will be able to fulfill both my dreams, and more. The pen can either capture printed text through a scanner and built-in OCR software, or can capture text such as signatures and notes while you write them and turn them into ASCII text. Granted, it will require an Internet-connected device such as a mobile phone or PDA with Bluetooth capabilities, but the overall package is far less bulky than a laptop with connected note pad. And my little dreams are just the tip of the application iceberg. For example, the release talks about capturing your signature when you sign for any number of items, either replacing paper-based signatures or augmenting them.

Finally, this is the kind of lift Bluetooth needs. We have been covering Bluetooth as an emerging technology since 1998. The spec is done. The technology is ready. But few manufactures have bothered to put Bluetooth capabilities into their gear. Most analysts point to the fact that the price of the unit goes up by about $100 if it is Bluetooth-enabled. The fact is, users would pay that additional $100 if there was a compelling reason to do so. The Chatpen is the kind of device that provides the compelling reason. In this case, Bluetooth provides the wireless link between the pen and the handheld device. If you’ve got a cell phone on your belt, you can be taking notes on a yellow legal pad and the Bluetooth will enable the pen to transmit the data to the phone, which relays it to your PC. Pretty cool, huh?

James Mathewson is editorial director of ComputerUser magazine and ComputerUser.com.

Ericsson Unveils Bluetooth-Enabled Chatpen 06/18/01 STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN, 2001 JUN 18 (NB) — By Steve Gold, Newsbytes. Just over a year after it launched its Chatboard text messaging plug-in for its mobile handsets, Ericsson [NASDAQ:ERICY] has unveiled the second device in its “Chat” family, the Chatpen. The Chatpen comes in the same shape as a regular pen, but includes a digital scanner and image-to-text conversion system, as well as support for the Bluetooth wireless personal area network. These features, the mobile phone vendor says, allow the digital pen to scan handwritten writing in, convert it to ASCII text and transfer the files to other Bluetooth-enabled devices, including mobile phones. Peter Bodor, a spokesperson for Ericsson, told Newsbytes that the Chatpen will ship worldwide in the first quarter of next year, but will also be tested in the fourth quarter of this year with Europolitan-Vodafone, the Swedish cellular network. “This will be a service trial, to test how the Chatpen can be marketed to users, as well as to gauge their acceptance of the product,” Bodor said, adding that, following the trials, a commercial price for the unit will be set. One of the most interesting aspects of the pen is that it can scan and transmit via Bluetooth in real time, allowing users to write on and even sign a standard piece of paper, such as a contract, and have the image of what they are writing appear on a local or distant screen almost instantly. Applications for the Chatpen, Ericsson says, include the instant (and verifiable) remote purchase of airline tickets, as well as signed-for deliveries of flowers or pizza. Ericsson is also using the Anoto dot-pattern system that it says is almost invisible when printed on normal paper. When scanned by a Chatpen, this data can be related across mobile phone networks, allowing users to respond directly, for example, to newspaper advertisements to request more information. Originally announced in April 2000, the Anoto technology was developed to allow any able-bodied person to use a computer, no matter how Luddite their approach. The Anoto technology was developed by Anoto, a subsidiary of C-Technologies, a joint venture company that Ericsson has a stake in with Time Manager. The Chatpen is not just limited to text applications. Ericsson says anything that can be drawn or written can be sent instantly, making messaging more personal and simplifying the process of sending text in languages that do not use the Roman alphabet. Anoto’s Web site is at http://www.anoto.com . If you have some time on your hands, you might be interested in reading a 1960 essay by online pioneer J.C.R. Licklider, “Man-Computer Symbiosis,” which predicts a device very much like the one that Ericsson is now unveiling. (That section is near the end of the essay.) It can be found in PDF format at http://memex.org/licklider.pdf . Ericsson’s Web site is at http://www.ericsson.com .

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