Despite the strong beliefs of the late Steve Jobs, the stylus refuses to die. Just ask Samsung, Livescribe, Adonit, Wacom, and a whole host of other manufacturers that bridge the divide between the digital and the analog. Productivity experts will also testify to the psychological and mental benefits of writing by hand. But existing solutions so far have one critical limitation: they work only on screens or on special paper. Phree, the latest wonder Kickstarter campaign, wants to set you completely free, by turning the whole world into a writing surface.
Technically, the Phree pen has what is claimed to be the tiniest 3D interferometer, a contraption that tracks motion by measuring the reflection of laser on a surface. When paired via Bluetooth, Phree transfers the handwriting, or drawing, information to the mobile device. In practice, it pretty much functions like a Livescribe pen, except it really works on any surface, whether it be a table, a wall, your car’s dashboard, or even the back of your hand.
That is really Phree’s strength. I can work with anything and everything. It works on any surface and works with apps that already accept doodling, like OneNote Evernote, Google’s Handwriting Keyboard, and more. And it can work with any device that accepts Bluetooth input. This last part makes it possible to even use Phree as an input device for VR headsets, since you can’t really see the surface you’re writing on, which means you can use any surface just as well.
But Phree has some tricks that no other digital pen has. At least not in a single package. It has a small built-in touch display that not only lets you choose different modes, like pen to highlighter to eraser, as well as choosing between messaging and calls. Yes, the pen can display short messages and you can even reply to them immediately using the pen. And yes, you can actually take calls on it, as the pen doubles as Bluetooth but not hands-free headset.
Phree’s promise can be found in Kickstarter at the moment. They have blazed past their $100,000 goal with as much as 37 days to go before it closes. Since all the early bird tiers are gone, one Phree will now cost you $168. Shipping is estimated to happen around April next year. Ironically, it seems that the only thing Phree can’t write on is your phone’s screen.