Irish-designed stylus should sharpen up our tablet control

An innovation by an architect is set to take stylus devices for iPad up a notch

 

The Apple iPad may have been designed so you don’t need a stylus to operate it, but for those who use a tablet for more than just browsing websites or dashing off quick emails, fingers alone can be somewhat limiting.

Apple belatedly seems to have recognised this: the tech giant has filed a patent for a stylus pen and speculation is growing the next generation iPad may be sold with one.

With Microsoft offering the Surface Pen for use with its tablets and a whole host of other manufacturers such as Wacom and Adonit also selling styluses, the market for these devices is increasing.

A new entrant to the market is Scriba, an Irish-designed stylus which has been created by Dublin Design Studio, a company headed by former architect David Craig.

Those old enough to have used a handheld stylus with devices such as the Palm Pilot may be pleasantly surprised by how far they’ve come. Craig claims Scriba goes even further than rival products because of its squeeze motion, which he says completely changes the way people can interact with tablets.

Pinching action

“Most styluses tend to measure pressure sensitivity through the tip but we realised that if we moved away from this and created something which is designed around the hand instead, you could create something that has a degree of freedom and movement you wouldn’t usually have,” said Craig.

Scriba’s pinching action offers a wider range of movement than other styluses, allowing users to adjust line weight, opacity or blurs, all smoothly and precisely.

With a standby charge of over six months and hundreds of hours of user time, the digital pen is also one of the most reliable devices of its type in terms of battery life.

The company is also in the process of developing drawing software and a Software Developer Kit (SDK) to allow other developers to integrate with Scriba.

The product is the first to come from the company, which was founded in 2014 and is based in the Docklands Innovation Park on East Wall Road.

Craig established the company after working as an architect for 18 years. The former practice he founded – Burdon Craig Dunne Henry – was the winner of the competition to design the ill-fated U2 Tower.

He set up the new firm after trying to find a suitable stylus that would allow him to do his work on tablets.

“As part of my work I was using styluses to do quick sketches on the iPad that I could work on later in the office. Over the years I bought a bunch of different styluses to try and none of them quite did what I wanted them to. They just didn’t have that same feeling you’d get from using pen and paper because, while the electronics would emulate real-world features like pressure sensitivity, it inevitably always felt like you ended up with something that was too much of a compromise,” he said.

Incubator programmes

The company has taken part in a number of high-potential incubator programmes, including Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers. It has also received assistance from the Athlone Institute of Technology and the Tyndall National Institute in Cork.

From some early sketches made using open source software, Craig created a 3D model and later print of the stylus that he carried around with him in his pocket for months, showing it off to anyone in order to obtain feedback.

As the concept evolved, hundreds of virtual and physical prototypes were made and trialled but to make a proper working version of the stylus, he sought the input of the sensor group in Tyndall Institute who provided recommendations on the types of sensors that would be appropriate for measuring movement.

With no training in programming or micro-electronics, Craig then went about assembling a proof-of-concept version to test the pen fully. The electronics that made this possible were found in hobbyist kits and the instruction on assembling these parts and programming from YouTube. He also found support and advice at Tog, a collaborative makers’ space or “hackerspace” based in an old warehouse on Chancery Lane in Dublin.

Craig initially thought about targeting creatives once he had a workable prototype in place, but quickly realised there was a far bigger audience out there for his product.

“We were very much focusing on graphic designers, illustrators, architects and so on, which together would have made up a target audience of maybe 3.5 million people between Europe and the US.

“However, then we saw the number of people who were using drawing apps on iPads and realised that we had something that could be used by a much bigger audience. There has been something like 900 million downloads of drawing apps and when we started mentioning those kinds of figures to the likes of Enterprise Ireland, they really paid attention,” he said.

The company now has 10 full-time staff working on Scriba and is about to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise €65,000 in funding by generating pre-sales for the digital pens.

The stylus is expected to go on sale in November for a retail price of €79.99 but will be available for just €65 to those who back its funding campaign.

Having been conceived here, the company is hopeful that it will also be manufactured in Ireland and it is currently in talks with a number of interested parties about this.

“There’s a huge growing market for products like this, and I believe that once people see ours in action that we’ll be on our way,” said Craig.

http://www.getscriba.com/