Digital Pen and Paper

This is no ordinary pen. It is part of the Anoto® digital pen/paper system that captures handwriting in digital form. The paper is special too - it has a pattern of tiny dots, which are too small to see in normal use - the paper just looks slightly off-white. The pen has a camera which reads the dot pattern and records exactly where the pen is on the page - 70 times a second, to the nearest 0.3 mm

What this means is that you have a digital record of what was written that can be analysed, for example to score a questionnaire or cognitive test automatically. The test is printed onto Anoto paper, the user fills it in exactly as normal - the digital pen writes just like a normal pen. Data are transferred to a PC via a docking cradle (or Bluetooth etc) and the resulting score is worked out automatically, without manual transcription. The pen can time the writing too, so you don't need a stopwatch to score a speeded test.


1 cm squares drawn by a volunteer who could not see the page while drawing. These are the strokes as uploaded from the Anoto pen

There are lots of psychological tests still done using pen and paper, and many of these are quite difficult to automate using a conventional computer. Handheld PDAs with pen input can be used in some cases, but the screens are small, and many of these tests are set up on an A4 sheet. The Anoto system is a good choice for such tests.

Examples are letter cancellation, trail making, shape drawing, and various types of maze tests. Our first test using the system was a drawing task in which the person drew 1 cm squares as quickly as possible. We were looking at the effects of drugs on the size of the drawing as well as speed. This test had the practical advantage of not requiring anything to be printed on the Anoto sheet.

The results were presented at the British Association for Psychopharmacology in 2003 - the first published report of the use of this system for automating a psychological test.



We are currently working on a newly designed maze task, shown on the right. Click here to find out more