E Ink debuts a new electronic drawing technology

E Ink — a name synonymous with e-reader screens — just debuted a new writing Display technology called JustWrite. The tech offers the company’s familiar monochrome aesthetic — albeit in negative this time, with white on black. The key here, as with most of E Ink’s technology is minimal power consumption and low cost, the […]

E Ink — a name synonymous with e-reader screens — just debuted a new writing Display technology called JustWrite. The tech offers the company’s familiar monochrome aesthetic — albeit in negative this time, with white on black.

The key here, as with most of E Ink’s technology is minimal power consumption and low cost, the latter of which it was able to accomplish by dumping the TFT (thin-film-transistor LCD). Instead, it’s a thin roll that could be used to paper surfaces like conference rooms and schools, in order to let people write on the walls using a stylus with practically no latency, as evidenced in the below GIF. 

“The JustWrite film features one of E Ink’s proprietary electronic inks and offers similar benefits as E Ink’s other product lines: a paper-like experience with a good contrast and reflective display without a backlight,” the company writes. “The JustWrite film is an all plastic display, making it extremely durable and lightweight, with the ability to be affixed and removed easily, enabling writing surfaces in a variety of locations.”

The technology could go head to head with the likes of Sony and reMarkable on drawing tablets, but E Ink appears to be more interested in embedded it in non-traditional surfaces. No word yet on how or when it will come to market, though the company is showing it off in person for the first time this week at an event in Tokyo.

The Freewrite Traveler offers distraction-free writing for the road

If you’ve ever tried to write something long – a thesis, a book, or a manifesto outlining your disappointment in the modern technocracy and your plan to foment violent revolution – you know that distractions can slow you down or even stop the creative process. That’s why the folks at Astrohaus created the Freewrite, a […]

If you’ve ever tried to write something long – a thesis, a book, or a manifesto outlining your disappointment in the modern technocracy and your plan to foment violent revolution – you know that distractions can slow you down or even stop the creative process. That’s why the folks at Astrohaus created the Freewrite, a distraction-free typewriter, and it’s always why they are launching the Traveler, a laptop-like word processor that’s designed for writing and nothing else.

The product, which I saw last week, consists of a hearty, full-sized keyboard and an E ink screen. There are multiple “documents” you can open and close and the system autosaves and syncs to services like Dropbox automatically. The laptop costs $279 on Indiegogo and will have a retail price of $599.

The goal of the Freewrite Traveler is to give you a place to write. You pull it out of your bag, open it, and start typing. That’s it. There are no Tweets, Facebook sharing systems, or games. It lasts for four weeks on one charge – a bold claim but not impossible – and there are some improvements to the editing functions including virtual arrow keys that let you move up and down in a document as you write. There are also hotkeys to bring up ancillary information like outlines, research, or notes.

If the Traveler is anything like the original Freewrite then you can expect some truly rugged hardware. I tested an early model and the entire thing was built like a tank or, more correctly, like a Leica. Because it is aimed at the artistic wanderer, the entire thing weighs two pounds and is about as big as the collected stories of Raymond Carver.

Is it for you? Well, if you liked the original Freewrite or even missed the bandwagon when it first launched, you might really enjoy the Traveler. Because it is small and light it could easily become a second writing device for your more creative work that you pull out in times of pensive creativity. It is not a true word processor replacement, however, and it is a “first-thought-best-thought” kind of tool, allowing you to get words down without much fuss. I wouldn’t recommend it for research-intensive writing but you could easily sketch out almost any kind of document on the Traveler and then edit it on a real laptop.

There aren’t many physical tools to support distraction-free writing. Some folks, myself included, have used the infamous AlphaSmart, a crazy old word processor used by students or simply set up laptops without a Wi-Fi connection. The Freewrite Traveler takes all of that to the next level by offering the simplest, clearest, and most distraction-free system available. Given it’s 50% off right now on Indiegogo it might be the right time to take the plunge.

Sony’s 10″ Digital Paper Tablet is an ultra-light reading companion that needs to do more

Last year I had a good time comparing Sony’s DPT-RP1 with the home-grown reMarkable. They both had their strengths and weaknesses, and one of the Sony’s was that the thing was just plain big. They’ve remedied that with a much smaller sibling, the DPT-CP1, and it’s just as useful as I expected.

Last year I had a good time comparing Sony’s DPT-RP1 with the home-grown reMarkable. They both had their strengths and weaknesses, and one of the Sony’s was that the thing was just plain big. They’ve remedied that with a much smaller sibling, the DPT-CP1, and it’s just as useful as I expected. Which is to say: in a very specific way.

Sony’s e-paper tablets are single-minded little gadgets: all they do is let you read and lightly mark up PDFs. If that sounds a mite too limited to you, you’re not the target demographic. But lots of people — including me — have to wade through tons of PDFs and it’s a pain to do so on a desktop or laptop. Who wants to read  Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox by hitting the down arrow 500 times?

For legal documents and scientific journal articles, which I read a lot of, a big e-paper tablet is fantastic. But the truth is that the RP1, with its 13.3″ screen, was simply too big to carry around most of the time. The device is quite light, but took up too much space. So I was excited to check out the CP1, which really is just a smaller version of the same thing.

To be honest, there’s not much I can add to my original review of the RP1: it handles PDFs easily, and now with improved page jumping and tagging, it’s easier to navigate them. And using the stylus, you can make some limited markup — but don’t try to do much more than mark a passage with an “OK” or a little star (one of several symbols the device recognizes and tracks the location of).

It’s incredibly light and thin, and feels flexible and durable as well — not a fragile device at all. Its design is understated and functional.

[gallery ids="1687652,1687655,1687656,1687657,1687653,1687654"]

Writing isn’t the Sony tablets’ strong suit — that would be the reMarkable’s territory. While looping out a circle or striking through a passage is just fine, handwritten notes are a pain. The resolution, accuracy and latency of the writing implement are as far as I can tell exactly as they were on the larger Sony tablet, which makes sense — the CP1 basically is a cutout of the same display and guts.

PDFs display nicely, and the grid pattern on the screen isn’t noticeable for the most part. Contrast isn’t as good as the latest Kindles or Kobos (shots in the gallery above aren’t really flattering, since they’re so close up, but you get the idea), but it’s more than adequate and it beats reading a big PDF on a small screen like those on your laptop’s LCD. Battery life is excellent — it’ll go through hundreds of pages on a charge.

A new mobile app supposedly makes transferring documents to the CP1 easy, but in reality I never found a reason to use it. I so rarely download PDFs — the only format the tablet reads — on my phone or tablet that it just didn’t make sense for me. Perhaps I could swap a few over that are already on my iPad, but it just didn’t strike me as particularly practical except perhaps in a few situations where my computer isn’t available. But that’s just me — people who work more from their phones might find this much more useful.

Mainly I just enjoyed how light and simple the thing is. There’s almost no menu system to speak of and the few functions you can do (zooming in and such) are totally straightforward. Whenever I got a big document, like today’s FCC OIG report, or a set of upcoming scientific papers, my first thought was, “I’ll stick these on the Sony and read them on the couch.”

Although I value its simplicity, it really could use a bit more functionality. A note-taking app that works with a Bluetooth keyboard, for instance, or synchronizing with your Simplenote or Pocket account. The reMarkable is still limited as well, but its excellent stylus (suitable for sketching) and cloud service help justify the price.

I have to send this thing back now, which is a shame because it’s definitely a handy device. Of course, the $600 price tag makes it rather a niche one as well — but perhaps it’s the kind of thing that fills out the budget of an IT upgrade or grant proposal.