French startup ISKN (also known as iSketchnote) just launched preorders for its first product, a smart slate. It’s different from competing technologies, such as Livescribe pens or more traditional graphics tablet — it’s inexpensive, you can use regular paper and a dumb pen, as long as it has a magnet ring.
Today isn’t the first time that the company unveils its product to the world. In fact, it has previously done a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising close to $350,000. But we missed the boat on the original campaign, so we’re making up for it with this post. Similarly, if you missed the boat, you can now buy the slate for $179 on the company’s website.
The slate is a light rubberized surface that is large enough to put a sheet of paper on it, and small enough to carry around in your bag. It comes with an optional iPad folio case. A few weeks ago, the team showed me a recent prototype and I was impressed by how simple it looks.
When you turn it on, it connects via Bluetooth Low Energy to your iPad or computer — you can even use it without turning on your iPad or laptop, it will just sync your data later. You put a normal sheet of paper on it and start writing. Everything you write is very accurately transferred to the screen.
Even more magical, the pen was a simple ballpoint pen. I opened the pen to look inside and couldn’t find any battery or camera. The secret sauce is the small ring on the pen body — it is a small inexpensive magnet. The slate effectively acts as a sensor matrix that tracks the magnetic pen in real time.
There are many potential use cases for this slate, and this is what got me excited in the first place. As you can see in the top picture, artists could use it to interact with their drawing applications while using their favorite pens. You could also have a different rendering on the screen, pick another color or pen tip. It is more accurate than entry-level Wacom graphics tablets.
Finally, the company will release an API. Developers will be able to add ISKN support to their desktop or tablet apps. The company itself is working on an app to store your notes and drawings, and share them later. The device will ship in August.