RoWrite Smart Writing Pad: Old-Fashioned Writing Wrapped In Technology

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Writing and drawing has changed drastically over the last several years with rise of the digital tablet. But as with most technology you often lose something while gaining new capability. With the RoWrite Smart Writing Pad you get the best of analog writing/drawing while still taking advantage of digital technology.

RoWrite Smart Writing Pad
The RoWrite Smart Writing Pad (Image from Royole.com)

What is the RoWrite?

The RoWrite Smart Writing Pad by Royole is a compact folio system with just plain old regular paper for taking notes and drawing. Where the technology comes into play is with the RoWrite pen and Royole’s advanced flexible sensor technology.

RoWrite Smart Writing Pad
Royole’s thin sensor technology that converts your pen strokes into digital (Image from Royole.com)

Royole has developed a capacitive, transparent, and highly sensitive sensor technology that is built into the folio just behind the paper that tracks where the RoWrite pen is on notepad. The sensor is sensitive enough that even with a full pad of paper loaded into the folio it can still detect every stroke of the pen. So everything you write and draw on the paper with ink is also captured digitally and transferred to the connected RoWrite app via Bluetooth. The digital capture can either be in near real-time with the app on your connected digital device up and running or the RoWrite will save everything internally and sync it over to the app at a later time.

The RoWrite App, which is available both on the iOS App Store and the Google Play store is where the power of digital is fully realized when combined with the analog notes/drawings you have just created. The app has the following features:

  • Real Time Editing and Review: Every stroke is digitally reproduced on the app as your create it on paper. Review, erase, or enhance your digital pages with the app in real-time.
  • Video Playback: You can capture every stroke of your pen as an MP4 video file and export and share it with others.
  • Digital Writing Instruments: Select from 4 different digital writing instrument and 80 digital ink colors when enhancing or drawing within the app.
  • Sync and Edit After Pairing: All Written work is saved internally on the RoWrite Smart Writing Pad’s internal memory.
  • Convert to Text: Convert your handwritten notes into typed text within the app and then share the digital text from your handwritten notes to the app or service of your choice.
  • Easily Save and Share: Share your digital pages or videos with coworkers, family and friends. Save or export as PDF, JPEG, PNG, TXT or MP4 to cloud services, messaging or social media.

How I Have Been Using the RoWrite

I first learned about Royole and their technologies when I stopped in at their booth at CES this past January in Las Vegas.

RoWrite Smart Writing Pad
The RoWrite display at CES 2018 in Las Vegas (Image by Skip Owens)

My youngest daughter is a very talented young artist and as soon as I saw and tried out the RoWrite Smart Writing Pad I immediately knew this technology had a lot of potential for artists. So the first use case I had for this was to digitally capture art from pen and paper drawings. The other use case was being able to take good old-fashioned handwritten notes and then convert them to digital text.

Let’s start with the art use case. For this I heavily relied on my daughter as my artistic skills are not suitable for public display. My daughter (like many artists today) does most of her drawing digitally. She has the new iPad with an Apple Pencil and uses the iOS app Procreate. The first step in most of her drawing projects is to create a very rough outline structure of what she wants to draw. This can be done in an app like Procreate on the iPad with an Apple Pencil, but there is something to be said about being able to just put pen to paper and scribble out a quick drawing. The tactile feedback of the paper and having the actual physical drawing in front of you as you lay down ink is a real advantage to the overall creative process. So she used the RoWrite Smart Writing Pad to physically create that first rough structure for her art and then used the digital version of that structure as her starting point in Procreate for iOS on the iPad.

RoWrite Smart Writing Pad
My daughter started with a simple pen sketch of a dragon on the RoWrite’s pad of paper and the RoWrite app converted it to digital (Image by Skip Owens/art by Nora Owens)

Below is a short video that the RoWrite Smart Writing Pad captured as my daughter was sketching the overall outline of her dragon image:

 

RoWrite Smart Writing Pad
The final dragon image after taking the original sketch from the RoWrite and completing the art in Procreate on the iPad (Art by Nora Owens)

The other use case I had was a little more common…taking notes. I can type on a keyboard quite quickly, but in a lot of settings I still prefer to take handwritten notes. The downside to handwritten notes is that they aren’t easily searchable after you have written them. The RoWrite app solves that with built-in handwriting recognition. After you are done taking notes on the notepad on the RoWrite you can go into the RoWrite app and select the “convert to text icon” (the upper left most icon in the image below) and the app will convert all the handwriting on the page into selectable typed text that can then be exported out of the app and shared to other apps.

RoWrite Smart Writing Pad
I scribbled a note as quickly and messy as I could. Let’s see just how well the text conversion really works…(Image by Skip Owens)
RoWrite Smart Writing Pad
Only one minor mistake by the software in reading my “chicken scratch”…not bad! (Image by Skip Owens)

As an engineer I rely on my memory quite a bit but on my notes even more. If I can’t search my notes months or even years after taking them then they are of little use to me. With the RoWrite it allows me to take advantage of “old school” note taking but then also convert my notes into text I can search on in the long-term.

Verdict

The RoWrite is what I like to call “technology in disguise” because anyone looking at what you are doing just sees you writing on a pad of paper. Both you and the outside observer don’t see the technology hiding just under the surface of the paper you are taking notes on. If technology is implemented really well you don’t even know its there…it just works. This is the case with RoWrite. Take your old school notes or sit down and scribble out a few sketches of your next masterpiece and then when you are ready to do more with that work you have it in digital form. In the case of using the RoWrite for drawing you also get the additional benefit of being able to record each stroke of the pen as a video.

The RoWrite Smart Writing Pad comes with everything you need to get started (a textured-cloth folio, the RoWrite pen, two A5 notepads and a replacement ink cartridge). If you take a lot of notes or do a lot of drawing you don’t have to worry about expensive refills. First off, the RoWrite will accept any pad of paper you want to use as long as it fits within the sensor pad area and under the securing tab in the notebook. But RoWrite also sells a 10-pack notepad refill for $14.99 and that paper already has the holes punched in the top binding to match the RoWrite hole tabs. It is recommended that you use the RoWrite paper just because the sensor boundaries and the paper dimensions are designed to be the same dimensions. If you use other paper just be aware that the margins of the paper may not align perfectly with the sensor boundaries. RoWrite also sells ink refills for the pen (a 3-pack for $8.99).

I’ve really enjoyed using the RoWrite these past few weeks. There is something familiar and simple about just putting pen to paper. I take a lot of notes so any product that makes that process easier and more enjoyable is something I am interested in. I have also recently started keeping a “Commonplace Notebook” which are notes you take while reading a book. I will be writing a series of articles here on GeekDad in the near future that explains more about this, but the RoWrite is great way to easily get into keeping a Commonplace Notebook and ensuring that you always have both a physical and a digital version of your notes.

The RoWrite is available from both the RoWrite online store and Amazon.com and through Aug 31 2018 the RoWrite is on sale for $109.99 (which is $20 off the normal price).

Disclaimer: Royole provided me with a RoWrite Smart Writing Pad for the purpose of this review.

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