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The Bamboo Spark bridges the divide between digital sketching software and traditional pen and paper, combining the two in one device.

Spark product shotWacom has created the perfect analog/digital hybrid sketching pad: the Bamboo Spark. Currently available with a single-size live note-taking area but with a few different configurations to sport not just a paper writing pad but also your smartphone or a tablet device, it is designed to connect to your Android or iOS device to transfer up to 100 pages stored in memory. Once a page has been transferred, it can be further edited, played back to split off and create another version of the image, or shared as a JPG, PDF or Wacom’s own image language, WILL (Wacom Ink Layer Language).

Here’s my unboxing video, where I use the Spark with the paper pad supplied with the unit and  then with a large plain piece of paper.

I am a convert; after years of using digital software on iPads, Wacom’s Intuos and Cintiq devices, and, most recently, Microsoft’s Surface devices, I have always had to adjust to the feel of writing with a stylus on a glass surface as opposed to pen on paper.

The Spark requires no adjustment; the pen that is part of the Spark’s kit is a lightweight ball point pen. The digital interface is underneath the pad’s surface, and you can use the paper pad supplied or just grab a piece of paper, lay it on the pad, and write with the pen to capture what you are writing, sketching or doodling.

Sketchnote-mindmap-SPARK

A sketchnote done on the Bamboo Spark in 5 minutes.

And, unlike other similar devices that are driven only by a pen, the combination of pen and pad makes the digital recording of your writing and drawing completely accurate (as long as you don’t move the paper).

The active area of the pad is 148 x 210 mm (5.8 x 8.2 in); a good size for note taking in your lap, on a desk, in class, or while traveling. The image is strictly black and white, although the pen does respond to 1024 levels of sensitivity. I was more impressed with the accuracy of capturing writing and drawing, and knowing that I’m working with a single color makes it simple to use it for quick sketchnotes.

The Spark has already become part of my creative and professional toolkit. I take sketchnotes on it and then drop them right into Evernote as a quick filing and organizing system for work. Wacom has its own storage cloud, and while I’m not ready to have yet one more cloud services to store documents and have to keep track of that, it’s easy enough to transfer the images to other popular services…and there’s always email to send your visual notes.

The Spark can be bought directly from Wacom or Amazon

as well as other outlets, running about $150 – $159 for the side gadget pocket model at the time of this writing. It comes with two of their proprietary ball point pen replacements; I did get to talk with Wacom about offering a gel/rollerball type ink as well, and from the digital side, of being able to create a video from the saved files, making it possible to create quick “whiteboard videos”. Whatever comes in future versions, the basic premise of being able to work on paper and digitize it painlessly should stay first and foremost as its purpose. I’m sure I’m not the only digital tech junkie who just wants to write and draw on paper with an ordinary pen too.

 

 

 

 

 

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