Paper enters the digital era.
March 13, 2001 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Paper enters the digital era. Anoto has developed a platform that allows you to send anything you write on paper or another surface to any computer in the world.
posted by zeoslap (17 comments total)
Think of a huge piece of paper, let's say half the size of the U.S. Now, imagine that this paper can be divided into parts of any dimension, large or small. One part for example, could be your note pad.

On this paper is printed the Anotoâ„¢ pattern, consisting of very small dots slightly displaced from a grid structure. A minute section of the pattern will give you your exact location on the full pattern. As you write or draw on the paper with your Anoto pen, the pen creates a digital trace of whatever you do. This information is stored in the pen until you tick the appropriate check-box. The information is then forwarded from your Anoto pen directly to your nearby personal computer, or by a Bluetoothâ„¢ device - such as a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone - to any computer, mobile phone or information bank in the world via the Internet.

posted by zeoslap at 4:35 PM on March 13, 2001

good link

Looks cool. Maybe I'll finally be able to draw in my computer, I've never been able to get a handle on tablets.
posted by owillis at 4:45 PM on March 13, 2001

So all we have to do is retrofit the paper (and any other surface)? What I really need is Anoto compatible napkins.

The good news is that the Anoto pens are backwards compatible w/ non-Anoto paper. ;-)

posted by daver at 5:18 PM on March 13, 2001

allows you to send anything you write on paper or another surface to any computer in the world.

Cool, I think I've heard of this. I think it's called "FAX". Hasn't that been around a few years, though?
posted by daveadams at 5:51 PM on March 13, 2001

it's a *very* cool idea. however, it took me forever on that website to figure out what the hell they were talking about. they should really have gone with something way, way simpler and more straightforward (although the drawing to image dissolves are kindof neat). let's hope the product is better than the web site.
posted by muppetboy at 5:52 PM on March 13, 2001

the obvious next thing to do with this is to integrate it with the emerging e-paper technology so that you can do cool things like magic handwriting that corrects itself or turns into typeface or whatever. paper and ink are only so useful. this anoto stuff + e-paper is more like it. let's just hope nobody gets a patent for something so bloody obvious.
posted by muppetboy at 5:54 PM on March 13, 2001

i agree that the website does a very poor job of selling the idea, the Wired article presents it in a much better way.

daveadams why must you be such a grump-puss hmmmmm ?

This is a tad more than a fax, a fax or facsimile machine does just that, makes a copy of something without any idea what it's copying means, this gives context to what is written, Anoto knows that you just scribbled in a particular area, and it knows who owns that area, if you write your name and address on the back of a business card it knows who's buisness card that was and can do all manner of wondrous things because of that fact.

posted by zeoslap at 6:08 PM on March 13, 2001

Would't you have to do everything without removing the pen from the paper to get the best effect?

How can the pen measure complex things such as drawings that involve you taking the pen off the paper? Surely it loses it's place at that point.
posted by tomorama at 6:13 PM on March 13, 2001

Well that's the key to the whole thing, the paper is covered in these dots and each square is totally unique, not just unique on the page, but unique across all sheets of anoto paper, so Anoto can tell exactly where on this 'map' the pen was and when. The pen is essentially just sending back co-ordinates to the server.

posted by zeoslap at 6:18 PM on March 13, 2001

does it measure pressure and angle too?
posted by muppetboy at 6:24 PM on March 13, 2001

Not sure that last comment was clear, but to clarify, the pen doesn't track movement. All it does is keep a list of where on the page it was placed and when, and it knows where it is because of the unique pattern of dots it can see on the page.

This isn't designed to copy what you are writing, it's designed to give some sense of context to where you are writing and for fantabulous contraptions to act on the fact that your pen just scribbled on a particular thing.
posted by zeoslap at 6:27 PM on March 13, 2001

Are they planning to sell "domains" on this huge piece of paper? I think that's what they were getting at, but it wasn't terribly clear. If so, this could be huge.
posted by gimli at 6:56 PM on March 13, 2001

I've been following this story for a while now. Read these articles from the Boston Globe and the New York Times.

Anoto already has almost all the major office paper manufacturers in the US lined up (no pun intended) to produce the special paper, which is NOT half the size of the U.S.
posted by briank at 7:04 PM on March 13, 2001

How is this huge map going to work with the manufacturing process? What about all the little scraps that get cut off and presumably recylcled at the paper plant? Wouldn't all those little pieces have map area on them as well? Will they have some way of knowing which pieces are scrapped, or are they going to print this map on the paper afterwards? I am a little skeptical about this whole plan. How can they be mathematically certain that two sections won't be identical at some point, and what are their liabilities if something I write shows up in someone else's computer?
posted by donkeymon at 7:05 AM on March 14, 2001

I just like to give you a hard time, zeoslap. It's an interesting concept with some promise, but I'm skeptical of any promised interface revolution until it becomes real enough to affect my life. Yes it is much more than a fax, but to gain its context, it will require everything (all your documents and applications) to participate in its world. That's going to take a lot of work.
posted by daveadams at 11:48 AM on March 14, 2001

Here's a Wired article on the Anoto pen. It does a pretty good job of explaining the details. Apparently, the bulk of the profits for Anoto will come from domain registration. The pen technology will be licensed to many other firms. OCR will only be available in small, specialized fields on the paper, so fax and email will be image-based. One killer app discussed is the convergence of print catalogs with online sales. I can see technophobes feeling pretty comfortable checking off a box in an ad or catalog, then letting the hardware handle the online portion of the transaction. This really may turn out to be big. I wonder if they are publicly traded...
posted by gimli at 10:25 AM on March 16, 2001

"How can they be mathematically certain that two sections won't be identical at some point..." There are such things as quasicrystals, where the pattern is almost regular but not quite, and of course any number of ways to tile a plane without reapeating a pattern. Check out Ian Stewart's column in back issues of Scientific American if you're interested.
posted by emu314159 at 2:17 AM on March 20, 2001

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