These days, we are so reliant on computers that many of us rarely pick up an actual pen or pencil and rely on auto-correct to fix our spelling mistakes. But Falk Wolsky and Daniel Kaesmacher think there's still a place in this modern world for good penmanship and correct spelling and have taken to Kickstarter to get their Lernstift (German for "learning pen"), which vibrates to indicate when the writer makes spelling mistakes or exhibits poor penmanship, into production.
We first heard about Lernstift in February 2013, when the company revealed an early prototype and began seeking investors. After the press attention the idea received at that time, the company raised US$200,000 from a mix of individual and corporate backers. It has now turned to Kickstarter to raise an additional £120,000 (US$180,000).
The idea for Lernstift was hatched when Wolsky's wife was helping their son do his homework and discovered he was making mistakes without her noticing. After she had expressed her wish for "a pen that points out errors right when he makes them," Wolsky decided to create such a device. The result is a digital pen that gently vibrates when it detects that a mistake has been made.
On the outside, it's a bulky pen that's designed to be ergonomic for the hands of children, but on the inside it boasts a mini-computer. Using an embedded Linux system, the board contains a motion sensor, processor, memory, vibration module, and Wi-Fi module. Lernstift allows for exchangeable writing tips, meaning kids can choose between using a pencil, a fountain pen, and a ballpoint pen.
Lernstift has two primary functions: Orthography Mode, which recognizes spelling mistakes; and Calligraphy Mode, which recognizes flaws in form or legibility. To begin with, Lernstift will only be able to spell check single words, but future software updates are planned that would allow grammar-checking of whole sentences.
Although it is being mainly aimed at kids aged between five and eight years old, anyone who is learning to write, or trying to improve their writing skills, can conceivably benefit from using the device. The digital pen will initially be capable of correcting just two languages – English and German (though which form of English isn't clear) – but there are plans to add many more languages, including Russian, Spanish, French, and Italian, after launch.
Thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi, Lernstift can connect to other internet-connected devices. This means apps will play an integral part in the experience, with plans for software intended both for individuals and schools. An open API will also allow developers to build software for use with Lernstift.
The retail price of a single Lernstift is being set at $190, but early backers of the Kickstarter campaign can get one for between $135 and $150. The video below shows the founders of the company explaining the thinking behind Lernstift and a brief explanation of how it works.