How Wacom plans to bring pen and paper into the digital age

At CES Asia, Wacom CEO Nobu Ide discussed what's next for the company in AI and VR.


Nobu Ide, Wacom President and CEO

Ant Pruitt

Wacom has done a great job offering tools for creative artists in a variety of form-factors and budgets. (For several years, I've advised new photographers to get their hands on a Wacom tablet to include in their post-processing workflow .)  But Wacom says there's more to the company than just a stylus and connected tablet. 

During CES Asia, Wacom CEO Nobu Ide discussed the company's future focus and collaborations, which will provide even better experiences for its customers. 

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Ink in the air

Designers and graphic artists take pride in creating art with depth and texture utilizing 3D space. However, Wacom's current devices are two dimensional. The company recognizes and plans to tackle this.  

"Wacom's not a VR company. We are collaborating with some strategic partners, trying to come up (with) some very interesting solutions," said Wacom CEO Nobu Ide.  

Working with companies such as Gravity Sketch, an intuitive and immersive 3D design tool, Wacom has updated its pen device, which will allow designers and graphic artists the ability to "ink in the air." While using a Wacom pen device, artists can wear a set of VR goggles, which are attached to their workstation, to draw and paint within a virtual 3D space (Figure A). This allows a more intimate and intuitive user experience. While creating or modifying a project, artists can remove the goggles to view the project on a Wacom display tablet as they normally would in 2D. 


Figure A: Creating in 3D space


In addition, artists can simultaneously collaborate with other artists on the same project when other artists wear their own VR goggles. Currently, the project with Gravity Sketch is in prototype, but according to Ide, it is working and will be available for commercial use in the "very near future." 

Ide also mentioned a collaboration with the Magic Leap spatial computer, which will use Intuos hardware drivers in a future product to allow the  Intuos tablet  to work in mixed reality. 

The comfort of everyday pen and paper

Wacom wants to expand the relationship between pen and paper in today's digital lifestyle. The company has some ideas on how to do so. 

"We're a pen company, but pen itself can't do anything. We need a partner," said Ide, who discussed how comforting stationary is for many people around the world. He even mentioned the joy you can see on a child's face when they first grab a crayon and begin to make marks on paper. 

The key to this satisfaction is the tactile feedback users get from Wacom pens with ultra-thin tips combined with thin digital tablet devices, which have a "paper" feel. Wacom is working with the prominent China-based AI company iFlyTek to make note taking in meetings or conferences easier using digital paper. In this case, your own notes (or voice notes) are automatically transcribed via AI as you write, and the data is stored locally or in the cloud. 

It was fascinating to listen to Ide discuss the next plans for for Wacom in the digital space and see what Wacom is working on with its collaborators. Time will tell just how well all of these collaborations will pan out, but I look forward to their next breakthrough.

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