As a writer, maybe it’s a little cliché that I found myself attracted to a tech product that has everything to do with pens and paper. But if I’m being honest, digital “smart pens” are not something that have typically struck a chord with me over the years. There are a number of different devices out there that allow users to convert their handwriting into a digital file. And most, in all honesty feel very gimmicky and lack a certain sophistication or applicability to seem like worthwhile investments. That’s not the case at all with the M1 smartpen from NeoLAB.
The product, which was on display at CE Week 2018 this week and received a CE Week Best in Show award, uses a combination of sensors, bluetooth connectivity, and Ncode Technology in its paper to transfer the user’s handwriting or sketchings into a digital file. The two components—the pens and paper—come in a range of styles. The M1, the latest version of the pen, was very lightweight in the hand but still provided an amount of sturdiness that made the pen feel like a high-class product. Neo describes it on its website as being the thinnest and lightest smart pen on the market. As for the paper, Neo has a whole host of different options, from schedulers to standard journals, to blank sketchbooks.
The pens and paper sync to the Neo Notes app, which is where all of the magic really happens. The app gives the users transcription services, the ability to edit the color, size, and other aspects of the writing; offline syncing so you can store and digitize notes at a later point in time; record and play; and much more. Each notebook syncs with the Neo Notes app, and they smartly display the actual cover of the notebook so you know exactly where your notes are being held. The user can also “pull pages” from each digital notebook to create a customized digital notebook right through the app.
Two things in particular stood out about the NeoLAB smartpen. First, was the new PaperTube service that NeoLAB recently launched. This video-based service gives users the ability to record live video of themselves alongside video of the notes they’re taking as they become digitized—basically a digital chalk board. The program has a very real potential to provide tremendous value to the education community as teachers can record video lessons for students to go back and watch later, in case they missed something or just need a refresher.
The second aspect of the pen that stood out, and that retailers will appreciate, is the opportunity Neo presents to help create recurring revenue streams and loyal customers. The accessory and add on options for the NeoLAB smartpen range from the various notebooks to different ink tips. Paper and pen get used with this product, and to keep using it, the user will need to replenish that ink and paper.
So, consider me impressed with the Neo smartpen and their new services.