The Cregle iPen has proved the latest success on Kickstarter by earning over $160,000, well above the $35,000 funding target set by its creators. However, regardless of Cregle's claim on Kickstarter to be the first of its kind, this isn't a new pen at all, but an apparent rebadge of a product already sold under the Aiptek, ByZero, and EFUN names.
Like its peers, the iPen is an active digitizer stylus for iPads that promises accurate drawing and handwriting recognition well beyond the capabilities of passive capacitive styli more commonly used up until now. It works with compatible apps via an ultrasonic and infrared receiver connected to the iPad's dock port, which communicates with a battery-powered transmitter in the pen. Through this, it's able to calculate the position of the iPen on the iPad's screen with far greater accuracy than using the iPad's capacitive touchpanel alone. It also adds proximity sensitivity similar to Wacom graphics tablets, and palm rejection so you can rest your hand on the screen without causing interference. It does lack pressure sensitivity, however Cregle suggests that this will come with the iPen 2. The key difference between this and the competition seems to be new software — the iPen SDK has already been used to integrate the pen with a variety of popular apps, including Ghostwriter Notes, My Notebook!, iWriteWords, and GoodNotes.
Unlike other Kickstarter projects, Cregle doesn't seem to be a small, mom and pop shop as it's already pitching a touchscreen Windows 7 tablet to buyers on its site. A little investigation shows that the Virginia address listed is simply a virtual office (Kickstarter requires a US address in order to process pledges via Amazon Payments). A Taiwanese address is also given. It seems as if, rather than requiring funding to get off the ground, Cregle has used Kickstarter to attract attention and gain developer support. We've reached out to the company for clarification and will update the post with anything we learn. The iPen's set to ship next month for $89.
Update: Cregle has posted a response to our concerns over at its Kickstarter page, and has removed "the first" from the product description in order to avoid any confusion. The statement also says that the company is "flattered that others had licensed the same ultrasonic patents," although this is almost certainly more of an ODM license to an existing product than a totally new idea based on a pile of paper patents.