15:13, Saturday 10 Jun., 2000 Link
I'm still trying to get my head round Anoto. I think it's really cool, but I'm not quite sure yet. This is the Anoto technology as I understand it:
Paper. There exists a pattern of dots which does not repeat. The pattern contained in a square less than 2mm side is unique across the whole pattern and maps to a 'position' in pattern space. Okay, so this pattern is printed onto paper, or newspaper, or shown on your monitor. Only a tiny part of the pattern need be printed at a time, and by looking at it you can tell where it's from.
Pen. The Anoto pen is like a ballpoint pen, but when used on the Anoto pattern it stored what it sees then sends what it sees to a computer, via Bluetooth.
Sell the map. Now you're moving your virtual self (your pen) around a map. Does this sound like a cursor in a GUI to you? Anoto AB will license out parts of the pattern to organisations so they can attach services to them. Imagine a newspaper advert with a 'send me info' box, inside which is a tiny fraction of the Anoto pattern. You check it using your Anoto-enabled pen which tells your computer what you've seen. Your computer looks up the pattern in the Anoto databanks, which triggers whatever actions have been associated with that checkbox. Paper GUIs.
Oh, and another thing. It's not one of those systems that simply has to be used by everyone to be useful. It could capture and store/send your sketches, writing, handwritten macros. It's an input device for your computer or palmtop.
I admit the whole Anoto thing is very cool. I hope it catches on. I'm a little concerned about the proprietary nature of it all. The internet's done well because it's quite hard for large organisations to carve out huge spaces; the volume grows as we need it. But this map... If it's successful (and I hope it is) they should be nationalised by the UN.