InPlay Technologies Announces New WriteSense Digital Pen Technology

InPlay TechnologiesSeveral weeks ago, I made reference to some potentially game-changing technology being developed by InPlay Technologies, and today, they have taken the covers off. InPlay Technologies has announced their new WriteSense digital pen technology which eliminates the need for a separate electromagnetic digitizer. InPlay’s RF pen communicates directly with the capacitive touch sensors rather than requiring a digitizer. The immediate benefits result in much smaller form factor slate and convertible tablet pcs, as well as reduce costs for bringing tablet pcs to market. As more OEMs begin to integrate capacitive touch sensors in to their screens (think Windows 7), InPlay’s solution could bust the gate wide open for Tablet PC technologies. Look for the WriteSense pen technology to come to market in mid 2009.

““Our new technology enables active pen capability at an incremental cost when capacitive touch systems are used,” said Van Potter, InPlay President and CEO. ““We believe that our technology could be rapidly adopted in the tablet PC and e-reader markets. We are also seeing strong interest from the Smart phone segment.”

““WriteSense eliminates the cost and performance barriers to integrated capacitive touch and pen in all these applications,” Potter continued. ““Target applications also include integration into track pads.”

WriteSense advantages:
• No additional ITO or glass layers required, resulting in high optical performance
• Low cost integration and thin stack-up by eliminating the digitizer behind the LCD or a specially configured LCD
• Active RF pen enables high resolution pen capability, gesture support
• Digital architecture allows for feature expansion
• Low power, battery-free
• Simple supply chain, standard components

Press release:

InPlay Technologies (NASDAQ: NPLA) today unveiled its
patent-pending WriteSenseâ„¢ digital pen technology, coupling active RF pen input with capacitive
touch systems. WriteSense eliminates the need for a separate electromagnetic digitizer by
communicating directly with the capacitive touch sensors, resulting in a smaller three-dimensional
form factor and a cost effective solution.

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Popularized by the iPhone, capacitive touch technology enables many advanced features over
other types of touch input. However, it is limited in that it requires a finger’s ability to provide
capacitive coupling to interact with the screen. The traditional stylus will not work with a capacitive
screen. Nor will fingernails, or even use with gloves, causing frustration to users.

Working with InPlay, OEMs can integrate WriteSense into the existing capacitive touch
architecture already being adopted for mobile devices. The active digital pen enables the
precision, accuracy and speed of pen input, and the ability for advanced features based on
InPlay’s unique digital architecture. Unlike most pen input systems that utilize analog
communication, InPlay technology uses digital stream communication bringing stronger
performance and enhanced feature capability.

““Our new technology enables active pen capability at an incremental cost when capacitive touch
systems are used,” said Van Potter, InPlay President and CEO. ““We believe that our technology
could be rapidly adopted in the tablet PC and e-reader markets. We are also seeing strong
interest from the Smart phone segment.”

In a recent report, ABI Research notes a significant opportunity in Asia for touchscreens that
support handwriting recognition using a stylus because of the character alphabet used in the
region. Resistive touch technology, along with an active pen or passive stylus, currently
dominates this market.   OEM’s prefer the gesture and multi-touch features capacitive pen
technology offers in mobile applications, but where handwriting recognition is required, they are
forced to use resistive technology in small form factor applications or the more complex and
costly traditional digitizer for larger applications such as tablets and notebooks.

““WriteSense eliminates the cost and performance barriers to integrated capacitive touch and pen
in all these applications,” Potter continued. ““Target applications also include integration into track
pads.”

WriteSense advantages:
• No additional ITO or glass layers required, resulting in high optical performance
• Low cost integration and thin stack-up by eliminating the digitizer behind the LCD or a
specially configured LCD
• Active RF pen enables high resolution pen capability, gesture support
• Digital architecture allows for feature expansion
• Low power, battery-free
• Simple supply chain, standard components

InPlay has demonstrated prototypes of WriteSense to various OEMs and strategic partners.
WriteSense will be commercially available mid 2009.

Comments

  1. Sturat says

    If I understand this properly, they will allow the addition pen input to capacitive toucch screens for only a small increase in price as long as their touch screens are the ones that are used. I don’t think it can be used with any 3rd party touch screens. Am I correct? Would this type of pen have pressure sensitivity build in?I wonder how much more expensive is this solution than Wacom’s new pen/capacitve technology?

  2. Rob Bushway says

    the OEMs only have to install InPlay’s sensor for it to work, which is nothing like adding in an additional digitizer layer, thus the cost and physical dimension savings. it would work with all 3rd party capacitive touch screens that have InPlay’s sensor installed. Pressure sensitivity is supported.

  3. Steve S says

    <>

    …Just to be clear, here, we’re not getting something for nothing. The “capacitive touch sensor” is, itself, an “electromagnetic*” digitizer; it’s simply more thoroughly integrated with the display than the earlier generation digitizers. InPlay’s approach is interesting, but one could argue that N-trig got there first, but with a dedicated, rather than a more generic, solution. Perhaps there is more to this than is discussed in Rob’s summary, but based on the information presented, this isn’t a breakthrough…

    *Note that “electromagnetic” and “electrostatic” are simply two orthogonal components of the same phenomena…

  4. Heather Beshears says

    When added to a capacitive touch system, WriteSense taps into the existing cap sensor, eliminating the need for a separate digitizer layer. So size, cost and complexity are all reduced. OEMs can choose any capacitive touch system, add WriteSense pen, controller and software/firmware and its done. No complex manufacturing and supply chain. Plus, for small form factors, the size/cost reduction is a must. Our technology is based on digital communication, which combined with the application software can enable a multitude of new features and user functions.

  5. dcbCreative says

    Perhaps this is a naive question… …But how does this compare to Wacom’s Penabled Technology?

    I ask because I’m an artist (Ever on a budget) not a technology expert and I’m looking to purchase a tablet PC in the near future to use a digital sketchbook. From what I read InPlay’s WriteSense sounds pretty exciting (No jitter). Is it just hype, or is it something practical that is worth waiting for the mainstream manufacturers to adopt?

  6. ambidextrose says

    What are the technical specifications like:

    - pressure levels
    - resolution
    - maximum data rate
    - accuracy
    - tilt range

    When can we reasonably expect to see this out in the market?
    Does the pen require an internal battery?

  7. Heather Beshears says

    We haven’t published detailed specifications but pressure sensitivity, resolution, etc. will all be at least equal to other digitizer products on the market. The pen is battery free.

  8. ambidextrose says

    Well, Wacom is the dominant player in this marker segment and since most (if not all) Wacom digitizer boards used on Tablet PCs are based on the (older) UD digitizer board, most current Tablet PCs have the following specs:

    Resolution: 2540 dpi (1000 lines/cm)
    Abs. accuracy: ± 0.15 mm
    Pressure Levels: 256
    Max. distance: 5 mm
    Max. pen tilt: 60 °
    Tilt Accuracy: 2 °
    SampleRate: 206 points/sec

    Tablet PC using updated firmware for the UD digitizer board actually have increased pressure sensitivity (as in Axiotron’s ModBooks) of 512 levels.

    I’m guessing that InPlay’s solution relies on the capacitive sensor’s sensity. If we take InPlay’s own MPD900, we get the following specs:

    Resolution: 2540 ppi (0.1mm)
    Abs. accuracy: ± 0.4 mm (> 0.5in from display edge)
    ± 0.7 mm (< 0.5in from display edge)
    Max. distance: 5 mm to 14 mm
    Max. pen tilt: 50 °
    Jitter: ± 0.05mm
    SampleRate: 133 points/sec

    The new pen will probably have 256 levels of pressure (like InPlay’s own MPP92x pen). Can we have more than 256 levels of pressure sensitivity?

    On the surface, it looks like both solutions are evenly-matched with a slight edge going to Wacom in terms of sensitivity. It will be interesting to see how InPlay’s new pen technology matches up against Wacom’s new digitizer technology.

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