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Apps pair with smart pens to bring digital handwriting

By Natasha Baker

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Writing with pen and paper is entering the digital world thanks to new apps that work with smart pens to capture the written word and share and edit the content.

New apps take what people write or sketch on paper with a smart pen and enhance it with highlights, graphics and text. The written word can also be shared by email or to other apps such as Dropbox, for cloud storage, or Evernote for archiving.

EquilNote, an app for the iPhone and iPad, is paired with a smart pen called the Equil JOT. Its creators said the appeal is to preserve the art of writing, while updating it with digital enhancements.

"The best ideas often start on paper," said Greg Appelhof, president of the Americas for Equil, a South Korea-based company.

"But people use all sorts of ways of capturing notes, from sheets of paper to very expensive journals. We wanted to create something that could capture it all, regardless of where it was written," he said in an interview.

As a note is written with the smart pen, it is simultaneously visible in the app and accurate to a pixel, according to Appelhof.

The app communicates via Bluetooth with the smart pen and a receiver that sits at the top of a piece of paper. The receiver determines the smart pen's position using infrared and ultrasonic waves.

The app also lets users take photos, which can be enhanced by circling areas with the smart pen or adding written notes in the margins.

EquilSketch, another app released by the company for iOS devices, lets artists and designers create multi-layer sketches with different brush colors and styles that can be sent to Photoshop and shared to social networks.

The app is aimed at students and professionals who don't want to recapture their handwritten notes on a digital device, said Appelhof.

"If I'm a student taking notes in a classroom, I can quickly highlight them or change the colors of certain pieces of text," he said.

Livescribe, which is based in California and has similar technology, released a smart pen last week called the Livescribe 3 that lets users capture notes as they are being written to an app. The app, called Livescribe+ and available for iOS devices, can also record audio for each note.

Both apps are available worldwide online and in Apple Stores and sell for about $149.99. Livescribe 3 requires special paper sold by the company.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

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