That's the idea behind the Lernstift, a pen currently being developed by a small German start-up with a big idea. The pen is designed to alert you to errors not with a scolding, but as a gentle buzz in your hand, just a hint that something might have gone awry in the sentence you've written.
According to the company's website, software developer Falk Wolsky got the idea for the Lernstift from his wife Mandy as they were sitting with their child, practicing writing. The Wolskys eventually were joined by investor Daniel Kaesmacher and now the three of them are seeking to take the pen public with a round of crowdfunding.
The way the pen is supposed to work is this:
Motion sensors and handwriting recognition software on a Linux-based system will detect words written with the ballpoint pen, either on a surface such as paper, or in the air. On the Orthography setting, the pen will vibrate once for a spelling error, twice for grammar. On the Calligraphy setting, it will buzz for illegible or incorrectly shaped letters.
It will be up to the user to actually spot the error.
The company said in a press release:
Der Lernstift is not at all a cheating pen! After all, it doesn’t give you the correct answer, it merely points your attention to a mistake. It’s like a reliable friend tapping you on the shoulder, saying: "Wait a minute! Something’s not quite right. Think again." Kids will still have to learn orthography and grammar, but that’ll be much faster and much more fun.
The pens aren't likely to be inexpensive. Wolsky and Co. estimate the components alone will cost between €50 and €80.
They expect to begin the crowdfunding phase in March, with a goal of €200,000 to €1.5 million. The first batch of a few hundred Version 1 Lernstifts should be ready by August, according to the website, which is taking pre-orders now.
(One thing that always bugs us about these types of devices is that the makers get so focused on the tech, they pay little attention to the actual ink cartridge. Here's hoping that won't be the case with this pen).
If they meet their funding goals, if the software works as they hope and if the ballpoint writes well, this could be an extremely cool pen and learning device for kids. Those are a lot of ifs, but it looks like an exciting project to watch.
We hope they're able to pull it off.