PORTLAND, Ore. — The Kickstarter crowdfunding site has helped launch a startup leveraging micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) chips to create the perfect iPad add-on for engineers -- a cover that allows pen-and-paper schematics to be digitized in real time.
The iSketchnote iPad cover digitizes anything written on a plain piece of paper (right) and duplicates it on the iPad screen (left).
The company, ISKN LLC (Grenoble, France) was spun-off just this year by the Laboratoire d'électronique des technologies de l'information (Leti) a French research institute for electronics and information technologies and a subsidiary of the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA).
Launched by a Kickstarter program that raised its goal of $35,000 in just 11 hours, and ultimately reached $346,127, the iSketchnote digitizing iPad cover will be available commercially in July 2014 at a price of $189.
A array of STMicroelectronics three-axis magnetometers on a printed-circuit board enables the Kickstarter iSketchnote project to track a passive pen with an embedded ring magnet.
Using an array of MEMS magnetometers from STMicroelectronics, users can draw on any sheet of plain paper laid on the inside flap of the open cover to digitize their schematics in realtime, which appear on the iPad screen as they draw. Passive pens with embedded ring magnets are tracked by the magnetometers to reproduce the drawings on the iPad screen with sub-millimeter accuracy, according to ISKN.
"ISKN has developed algorithms that can very precisely locate the position of the pen's tip, from the location of the magnet in the pen body, using the three-axis magnetometers from STMicroelectronics," said Stephen Walsh, a consultant for ISKN who also teaches electronics classes as an adjunct faculty member at North Carolina State University (NCSU).
Walsh plans to use the iSketchnote to draw electronic schematics for his classes when it becomes available next year. A special animation feature will also be useful, since it allows the sequence of a drawing to be played back, allowing him to pre-draw schematics one stage at a time, then play back the animation in class explaining each stage as it is redraw for the students.
The iSketchnote was not conceived by ISKN with engineers specifically in mind, but rather for iPad users who miss the freedom of drawing or taking notes by hand on real paper. It will come with a variety of different colored pens, which the iPad will reproduce in the matching color.
Next, the engineers at ISKN plan to expand from iPad covers into whiteboards, game boards, 3-D animations and other applications of their pen-tracking technology.