A Brisbane-based inventor is working on a snazzy (and now well funded) stylus and software package to be used with practically any tablet (and if you so desire, smartphone), communicating across platforms by both touch and, interestingly enough, sound. We ask him a little more about this project, known as the jaja.
Jon Atherton, who formerly worked as a Signals corp lieutenant in the Australian Army, is now a software developer and electronics enthusiast, having started his interest in tech and electronics as a youngster playing Start Trek on the (very) old PDP-11 minicomputer.
The underlying software for lastest project of his has, according to him been in the works on for over a year - design of the stylus itself has been ongoing since September last year.
The basic aim of the project is to create a stylus usable by anyone, but with a particular mind towards graphic designers and the like, who want to be able to use their pre-existing tablet device to design and draw. This is envisaged as an alternative to buying a separate package from the likes of Wacom, with the pen to cost $69.95. The only hardware requirements are a microphone and a touchscreen.
One of the most notable features of the jaja, which comes equipped with a set of buttons for tool selection and menu item selection, is that it communicates wirelessly with your tablet, but not by WiFi or Bluetooth. Instead, it essentially squeals down your device's microphone at particular, inaudible frequencies which are then interpreted by Jon's own software solution known as ii.
"I have designed some toys that use the high frequency sound method to communicate between the toy and a smartphone, the stylus idea was prompted by discussions with a graphic designer friend," Jon told us via email.
"High frequency sound has a lot of benefits - for example it is very low power, we estimate that our circuitry will run for about 8 days continuous use, sound communication is also able to be used in Airplane mode whilst Bluetooth & wifi cannot - the battery consumption would only be a few hours if we used Bluetooth."
Of course, as with any air bound, wireless technology, interference is a problem liable to rear its ugly head at any moment. According to Jon, however, the frequencies used rarely occur naturally or in man made situations while also saying that he has added some "tricks" to put a stopper on any other potential interference.
The device also comes with a transparent, pressure sensitive head, which in conjunction with the software, will allow users to vary brush and line thickness when drawing or 'painting'.
According to Jon, he's already in discussions with "many of the top app developers" about incorporating his SDK with their apps, and plans to have several apps, currently in development, ready to roll at launch. He certainly has cause for optimism - the Kickstarter page for the jaja has, at time of writing, already registered $31,000 worth of pledges, $7,000 more than the set goal. This is with two whole weeks left until the funding deadline.
Although, as Jon notes: "I'm not sure what stressed me more - waiting to get to funding position and watching the backers come in on Kickstarter, or now knowing the work ahead of me!"
"I've already started building the sales and distribution infrastructure, and I'm fielding calls from large phone and hardware distributors wanting 1000's of pieces asap! Quite incredible the doors being opened from the Kickstarter campaign to be honest."
For the moment, the project will launch solely on iOS, but Jon says the plan is to have an Android release following close behind.
So, the only question left now is, "When do we get ours?"