Special notebooks and pens that back up your handwritten notes to the cloud are not new, but Wacom's version of the technology has a couple of key advantages. The Bamboo Spark is a special folio-and-pen combination that lets you write out notes with real ink and then digitizes them and sends copies to your smartphone, tablet or PC.
But unlike the Livescribe system, which can only digitize your notes if you write on special paper, the Bamboo Spark works with any old notebook. And unlike with HP's Pro Slate 8, you don't have to keep a tablet awkwardly lined up alongside your notepad as you write. You're good to go, as long as you're writing with the Bamboo Spark ink pen. Plus, it's placed inside a special folio that comes with the pen. When you're finished writing, your notes can be digitized instantly with the push of a button on the folio's left edge.
The $160 Bamboo Spark first became available for purchase last fall, but it lacked one crucial feature: text recognition. This week, Wacom has upgraded the Spark iOS app to enable it to capture your handwritten notes as digital text, so they can be indexed and searched using keywords. Not to mention, the digital text is more legible, which is good for note-takers with messy handwriting. You can also beam your notes to compatible apps, including OneNote and Evernote.
The updated Bamboo Spark isn't the only item Wacom showed off this week. It also debuted a new stylus called the Bamboo Smart, which lets you take notes on compatible Windows devices with full pressure sensitivity. But the Bamboo Smart can't turn any tablet into a Microsoft Surface-like note-taking machine; so far, only a handful of devices have the Active Electrostatic technology needed to pair with the pen, including the Dell Venue 10, the HP Elite x2 1021, the Lenovo ThinkPad P40 Yoga and the Toshiba DynaPad N72.