Wacom Inkling: Analogue-to-digital sketching

Love to doodle? I’ve been doing art with digital devices for ages and very little (for me at least) matches the joy of scribbling with paper and pen. Although 53 digital’s Paper comes close. Wacom are something of the de facto standard when it comes to tablets and even they know the joys of old fashioned sketching. Of course one of the fun things about living in the future is that we can take old fashioned things and ram cutting edge technology in them.


Inking is digital sketch pen that captures a digital likeness of a user’s work while sketching on old fashioned paper. We’ve seen other fancy pens – notably (pun intended) LiveScribe’s offerings – although Inkling is doesn’t require special notebooks and instead works with any piece of paper.

Rather than a complete input solution, Inkling is more of a “front end” for artists, illustrators and graphic designers for their rough concepts and creative brainstorms. Rough ideas are capture on real paper in real ink and then brought to life on a computer.

Inkling works via a wireless receiver that’s positioned on the edge of the page. As long as there’s an uninterrupted line of sight to the pen tip, you can capture the sketch and manipulate it digitally later on. The ballpoint pen uses Wacom’s pressure sensing technology (1024 levels of sensitivity) to detect how hard the pen is being pressed to the paper so you can apply shading and various other forms of nuance to your work. The bridge between the digital and analogue worlds works both ways and you can create layers in the digital file while sketching on paper.

When you’re done sketching simply connect the receiver via USB to transfer all sketches as bitmap or vector files. It’s odd that something so futuristic as analogue-to-digital sketching uses something that feels as old as USB but it is a universal input method. Wireless background syncing would be nice but I’m clearly spoilt.

Files can be edited with Inkling Sketch Manager (included) to edit, delete, add layers or transferred to creative software applications for further editing including Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator CS6 (both 32bit and 64bit operating systems), as well as Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 6. Alternatively, files can be saved in JPG, BMP, TIFF, PNG, SVG and PDF formats for use with other applications. Inkling Sketch Manager also supports Mac OS 10.8.

The Inkling sketch pen is priced at £149.99 (including VAT) and is available now from Wacom partners and the Wacom eStore.

CATIA Natural Sketch gives digital sketching a whole new dimension

They say many of the cutting edge products we use today began as simple sketches or doodles on a pad. Just ask any automotive designer about it and the first thing they’ll tell you is they always sketch out an idea first. So, it makes sense in our digital world, to utilise the power of computers to replicate sketching doesn’t it?


Up to now though there has been a distinct void between artistic two dimensional sketching software and the seriously heavy duty three dimensional modelling software used in the construction or automotive industry for example. There are also drawbacks to starting an idea in 2D and realising it is perhaps not feasible after all when it is converted to a 3D model. All that time and mental energy wasted.

CATIA Natural Sketch however, is a breakthrough three dimensional sketching program which finally combines the intuitiveness of a creative artist’s two dimensional painting skills with the power of accurate and realistic three dimensional modelling.  The possibilities for skilled users are endless and the cost savings in time and effort are likely to be significant.

Developed and produced by Paris based Dassault Systèmes, a highly respected name in the developing 3D software market, CATIA Natural Sketch has already received plaudits from both artists and engineers alike. Pauline Deltour, a Product Designer remarked: “Discovering the new CATIA for Creative Designers solution was very fascinating as it enabled me to literally draw in 3D.  It offers a direct translation of the idea I have in mind into the 3D world and takes care of all the uncomfortable steps of the process.”

Quite frankly, any product that is offering an opportunity to save time and costs without compromising on quality and imagination will be seen as a potential life saver in any form of industry.


Don’t get mad – get Virgin help?

So runs the tagline for the new website set up by those thoughtful people at Virgin Digital Help. The site has been set up to tackle the problems facing the millions of Britons that depend on their digital gizmo’s for their work and play, but know absolutely naff all about them.  A mere layman as I am, its probably best to hand over the explaining of the concept to God himself, Sir Richard Branson- ‘Digital products are fantastic but the industry, as a whole, has done very little to support consumers when they get back home and try to make it all work… “Virgin Digital Help is dedicated to relieving consumers’ stress and helping them get the most out of the technology which is so important to them – without being limited to particular bits of kit, technologies, or service providers.’

You access most of its information by downloading its Desktop Digital Helper onto your desktop (for free), and from there it will scan your computer and offer solutions to make it faster, cleaner, safer or better for the environment.  You can also set up a remote account with them which means you can call the Virgin team as and when you have problems, and, if necessary, they will then access your computer remotely to fix whatever need to be fixed.  They will also come to your home if the problem is not solvable at their end.  Of course, if you actually want to do these things you have to pay, with prices ranging from anything from £4.99 a month to set up a remote account, to £69.99 to have them remove a particularly virulent virus.

The site itself also has over 100 free self-help guides for your most recognisable problems like How Do I Perform  Disk Clean Up On Windows Vista, or How Do I Sync My Smartphone and PC. For £2.99 a month you can also, amongst other things, get access to 70,000 of these guides and over 1000 video tutorials.  These guides are actually all pretty conclusive , and a lot easier to read and navigate than Windows Help which has surely caused more than a few people to hit the bottle out of sheer frustration.

Marketing itself as part customer-service haven, part 21st century stress reliever the idea initially seemed, to these eyes at least, as a bit of a gimmick and a reason to push a load of Virgin products onto you.  However, even though there is a sense with it that if you do want to get anything really good you will have to pay, the prices in general are reasonable and dealing with Virgin is somewhat preferable to dealing with one of the plethora of second-hand computer shops that line our streets.

Unfortunately, I am unable to report back what the customer service team is like, nor if you have sit through half an hour of ‘your call is important to us’ messages, as when I called the helpline with a made-up digital emergency  it just went to an answering machine which wouldn’t let me leave a message (useful that). Experience of being with Virgin Media in the past suggests that they talk a good game but actually fail on delivery but, if they get waiting times down and the service good, they could be onto a winner.