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It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.

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Review: A day with the Papershow interactive paper kit 2:39 AM

Canson's Papershow works like this: there's a pad of paper printed with a subtle patten; a ball-point pen with a tiny scanner near the tip that handles tracking, and a USB dongle that plugs into your computer. The pen talks to the dongle via Bluetooth, and software on the computer makes as perfect copy of whatever you write or draw. It's pitched at anyone who might want to save (or project) their scribbles, and it's remarkably well-implemented. Papershow produces accurate results without adding much of a usability burden atop the classic brainstorming setup of pen and paper. There are useful extra features, too. For example, the special paper ha

s an icon panel, with line width options and an eraser, and palette swatches. Though it obviously can't change how the ball-point pen works, it "just works" on-screen.

There are some drawbacks. It's $200 and the pen is quite bulky. The dongle and bundled software work only under Windows. The special paper is pricey ($20 for a pad of 200 sheets, or $13 for a 48 sheet pad) and proprietary. Given the distinctive tracking grid, corporate logos and icon bar, the "hard copy" is really just an input device.

If you have a setting in mind, such as aa school classroom or creative brainstorming group, Papershow's almost a no-brainer. Digital artists might also like it, too, though the lack of color choices and painting tools will be a limitation.

That said, it lacks the generic utility that a graphics tablet brings -- or any other reason for everyday consumers to drop $200 for it.

Product Page [Papershow]


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