Some say our reliance on spell check has turned us into horrendous spellers and typing has worsened our handwriting, but the inventors of a new pen are hoping to mend those digital byproducts. Ironically, the pen itself has a small computer inside.
The brainchild of two German entrepreneurs, Lernstift is a regular pen with real ink, but inside is a special motion sensor and a small battery-powered Linux computer with a WiFi chip. Together those parts allow the pen to recognize specific movements, letter shapes and know a wide assortment of words. If it senses bad letter formation or messy handwriting, it will gently vibrate. The goal is also to make it smart enough that when you misspell a word it will vibrate as well.
"The pen will have two functions -- calligraphy and orthography mode," Daniel Kaesmacher, the 33-year-old co-founder of Lernstift, told ABC News. "When it comes to orthography mode -- the pen will be able to recognize words and compare the word it recognized to a language database. If the word isn't recognized it will vibrate."
With that spelling and writing functionality, Lernstift, which means 'Learning Pen' in German, is aimed at kids just learning to write. In fact, co-founder Falk Wolsky, 36, had the idea for the pen last year while his 10-year-old son was doing his homework.
"His son had been struggling with his work and staying focused and Falk thought there should be a pen that gives him some sort of signal so he stays focused," Kaesmacher explained.
After a year and a half in development, the founders have now brought Lernstift to Kickstarter to begin raising money and gauging interest. For 89 euros, the first 100 backers will get one of the first pens when it is ready later this year. When it officially launches it will be closer to 130 to 150 Euros.
However, there is a lot of work and fine-tuning to be done before these start shipping to buyers and the general market. "We have a lot of testing to do and we will start soon with a whole school class," Kaesmacher said.
Eventually they plan to have the pen work with smartphones and tablets. An app could allow parents to see their child's progress, and similar to other digital pens, like the Livescribe Pulse, notes could be uploaded and sent via e-mail. Unlike the other digital pens on the market, though, the Lernstift doesn't require special paper.
"The basic functionality is all in the pen, there is no app needed to perform the basic activities," Kaesmacher said. "But there are a lot more possibilities."