Friday, February 26, 2010

IR Pen Product Review: Updated

The infrared (IR) light pen is one of the essential pieces of hardware for the Wiiboard. The evolution of the IR Pen has progressed rapidly as the Wiiboard technology has taken off. About a year ago I posted my original review of several IR Pens. Since my original post the pens that I reviewed have been updated and improved and several other manufacturers have begun selling IR Pens.

Four companies were kind enough to send me samples of their IR pens for my review. These pens were tested for several months in my high school science classroom. Here are the results.

Click to enlarge image
4/15/2010 Update: Penteractive has recently updated their classic IR pen. John Mitchel was kind enough to send me a sample of version 2.0. After some testing I'll post my review.

John Mitchel's $8 $10 (price recently changed) pens are simple and effective. They run on three hearing aid style batteries and feature the brightest LED available. I purchased this IR pen over a year ago and it has yet to need the batteries replaced. The Penteractive pens are switch operated. I like the fact that when you press the switch you will hear and feel a "click" that indicates the switch is working. These pens are the size of a small highlighter which makes them ideal for small hands. The durability of these pens is awesome. They have been dropped countless times with any adverse affects.

In addition to providing a quality product, Penteractive offers great customer service. Emails are answered promptly and orders or fulfilled quickly. I made several purchases from Penteractive and highly recommend all of their products.

The Groove 1.5 by irpensonline
The Groove is an IR pen with a pressure sensitive tip. The Groove can also be activated through the red button found on top of the pen. The second generation of the groove (ver. 1.5) is remarkably better than the original version which I previously reviewed. Owner Tino Aginitti listens and responds to his users suggestions. The most notable improvement is a reduction in the amount of pressure required to activate the LED. This is especially important in instances where images are projected on a soft surface such as a free-hanging overhead screen. The pen casing has also been improved and is much more aesthetically pleasing and more durable.

The LED intensity of The Groove is excellent. One of the most convenient features of The Groove is the fact that it runs on one AAA battery that can easily be replaced by removing the cover on the bottom of the pen.

I would highly recommend The Groove for use in the classroom, especially with younger ages. The pressure sensitive tip makes using this pen very intuitive.

A new entry into the IR pen market is Whalebone owned by James McLain. The pens built by James have the distinction of being the most creative and fun of all the pens. The version which I reviewed is the "Gum Box" pen made out of a small tin in the shape of a Wiimote. James also sells a pen shaped like Frankenstein as well as an extra long IR pen he calls "The Laser Sword."

Although it looks cool the gum box pen did not perform as well as its counterparts. The LED used in this pen is noticeably dimmer than those of other pens. In this pen the IR LED faces up and back. This makes precise navigation difficult. Ergonomically the gum box pen is awkward to hold. Its width makes it difficult to hold naturally in your hand and the activation button is poorly placed. At $9.95 each (including shipping!), these pens are affordably priced. They are powered by one 3v watch style battery which is not easy to replace.

If you are looking for an extremely durable IR pen, turn no further than to Riley Sowle and his pen the WIB Scrib. This pen is made from heavy duty steel and features an unique metal to metal activation switch. The LED brightness is comparable to both the Groove and Penteractive pens. I like the size of the WIB Scrib however the weight is noticeably heavier than any of the other pens due to the solid steel case. Battery replacement is easy with the twist off end which reveals two AAA batteries.

Although the activation switch on the WIB Scrib is effective, it does not have the helpful sound and feel of a click upon activation. From my observation of students using IR pens I have found that this feature helps students feel like something is happening, especially since IR light is invisible to the human eye. This would be my recommendation for future improvements of the WIB Scrib.

My thanks to each of these companies for allowing their pens to be rigorously tested and critiqued. I hope that this post will generate business for each of them. All four companies are small business operations run by good guys. None of them are large corporations. I would encourage you to support their innovation and creativity and to provide feedback to them to help improve their products.

If you have had experience with any of these products I welcome your feedback and critique. Help make sure that each of these companies have a fair review! If you're a manufacturer of IR pens or other products related to the Wii interactive whiteboard and are looking for a rigorous tester, send me an email: jsowash [at] southfieldchristian [dot] org.

5 comments:

  1. Looks like penteractive has replaced their v1 with v2 and it now costs $20

    ReplyDelete
  2. wowo!!! i like this

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi, I came across your website and am quite excited. I teach in the UK and with financial constraints limiting us all, the irpen whiteboard looks great. I found a few pens searching Google at www.irpens.co.uk and all the stuff I need. Can't wait to try it out. Can you suggest any resources?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Welcome, Ros! Please see my posts tagged "wii" (see link below). I have written about or linked to pretty much everything you need to know in order to have a successful experience with the Wii IWB.

    http://electriceducator.blogspot.com/search/label/wii

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for your opinions. I am trying to figure out which one to buy for my class and it sounds like the Groove is the way to go.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for contributing to my blog. I enjoy being a part of the conversation and do my best to respond to comments and questions that are posted.