Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Ultimate Digital Tool for Dummies and Luddites?

Imagine an ink pen that ~instantly converts your field notes into digital data. That's right. An ink pen that simply, and nearly instantly, converts all you have written into your field book into a digital notebook. There is one, I have tested it, I really like it, I have no reservations about recommending it. There are few reasons not to use it.

The pen and field book combo is made by Adapx. Through a complex combination of sensors in the pen and embedded patterns (Anoto pattern) in the paper (in this case, an actual Rite in the Rain field book), the pen's brain keeps a precise record of all the strokes it has made during the day. Once the day has ended, plug the thing into your computer and it uploads all the pages of notes. The latter, and most important step, requires that you use Microsoft OneNote software. This is not a dreadfully negative factor, however. The software is surprisingly useful.

The screen clipping below shows an example of the digital data pulled off of the pen. This (for what it is worth) does look precisely like my handwriting. The sample below is from a recent field stint on the Owyhee River. The embedded image and clean text were added later using simple tools in OneNote. (Read about OneNote here)

Also, OneNote can attempt to convert your handwriting to text. It does a fair job depending on your penmanship. At the very least, it gives you a decent start on converting your chicken-scratches.
The example above shows: 1. Field notes, 2. OneNote conversion, 3. Corrected note (with mistake, whoops)

Geologic mapperz stay tuned. This device is also designed to allow you to draft on to paper maps, yes paper maps, and automatically convert your analog mapping to digital mapping. It works with ArcGIS (must have the .NET framework installed) and has lots of promise. I will be testing this application in the field soon.

Notes: the pen and OneNote add-on cost me $300. Battery power is good for more than 1 day. The ink used by the pen is Rite in the Rain's proprietary ink. It gets a little thick in the cold. I would kill for a pencil, my preferred note taking device. Alas.