explaining how the sPen tech works (and is very diff than other styluses)

steveblue

Senior Member
Jan 2, 2012
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Many folks I communicate with keep assuming the Note's sPen is just another phone stylus ( or maybe a slightly tweeked one). In trying to explain the huge difference, and finding that none of the major reviews do it reasonably, I did some fact finding to help explain it (and why it is special) compared to a capacitive stylus. Thought other folks would like the details. Please reply with a more concise explanation if you have it. -steveblue

Briefly:
The Note has a Wacom dual digitizer, a first in a mainstream smartphone. That means is supports both capacitive multi-touch and active pen input from a precise EMR digital pen and a digitizer layer under the screen. Wacom is the world leader in pen based computer technologies and first developed this technology for Tablet PCs for very accurate handwriting level pen use that works with touch displays.

Details:
Almost all other phone styluses are just capacitive and therefore no more accurate than your finger. The Galaxy Note's active pen uses Wacom's EMR patented technology. EMR which stands for Electo-Magnetic Resonance, which requires no internal power to generate a signal on the pen-side that enables the pen coordinates on or above the screen to be detected (the display provides the power rather than the pen). The Note's screen surface incorporates a sensor board that detects the pen's movement. Weak energy is induced in the pen's resonant circuit by a magnetic field generated by the sensor board surface. The pen's resonant circuit then makes use of this energy to return a magnetic signal to the sensor board surface. The digitizer board under the screen detects information on the pen's coordinate position and angle, as well as on its general operating condition including speed and writing pressure, etc.

With EMR Technology, the sensor unit is installed behind the display screen. Because the sensor does not cover the front of the display, the quality and brightness of the displayed image are not compromised.

Wacom's sensors are high precision and high resolution, which together make it possible to detect even small hand-written letters. The sensor traces the movement of the human hand and reproduces such "human" elements as the feel, force and ambivalence of the pen tip.

The dual capacitive multi-touch and EMR active pen technology is called Wacom Feel It and was developed and honed over 2 years on major ( HP, ...) Tablet PCs. The Galaxy Note is the first use in a smart phone.


References ( and more info):

As a somewhat new user I can't put links in - message me for a full set of refs or google 'wacom emr' and 'wacom Feel It'. Note you'll get a llot of PR page but their will be technology details too.


-steveblue
dipaola.org
 

naimmkassim

Senior Member
Jan 6, 2010
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Selangor
Briefly:
The Note has a Wacom dual digitizer, a first in a mainstream smartphone. That means is supports both capacitive multi-touch and active pen input from a precise EMR digital pen and a digitizer layer under the screen. Wacom is the world leader in pen based computer technologies and first developed this technology for Tablet PCs for very accurate handwriting level pen use that works with touch displays.



-steveblue
dipaola.org


Are u sure S pen can be use on other capacitive screen? I try this S pen on my htc sensation & it did not function at all :(

Sent from my GT-N7000 using XDA App
 
Last edited:

Elusivo

Senior Member
Oct 5, 2008
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So from what i understand the digitizer layer or some other circuit has to be powered all the time to allow the spen to be powered at any time we decide to use it, but, won't that waste away battery during the time the spen is not in use?

If it does waste away battery while the pen is not used then it would be awesome if some dev could check if that circuit could be powered off when we dun need it and only activate it when we intend to use the spen.
 
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TML1504

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Nov 24, 2007
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So from what i understand the digitizer layer or some other circuit has to be powered all the time to allow the spen to be powered at any time we decide to use it, but, won't that waste away battery during the time the spen is not in use?

If it does waste away battery while the pen is not used then it would be awesome if some dev could check if that circuit could be powered off when we dun need it and only activate it when we intend to use the spen.
either way i do believe that the power for this field is very weak, otherwise (or it may be the case as well) samsungs engineers would have built some switch (soft- or hardware (sensor if pen is out)).
but generally high resonance surface fields (as it would be the one here) wont use much power anyway, so don't worry! it's more like a sensor array which detects EM "disturbances" created by the coil of the pen. pressing the buttons on the pen (eraser also possible and working on the note, but not with stock stylus) just alters this disturbance by shortening some wires of the coil and therefore generate a characteristic "fingerprint".
 
Jun 24, 2012
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Thanks for this post.

This may sound really simple, but is there some method employed to stop ones hand from activating the screen when you write?

I really want this technology, particularly for the note-taking feature, but I am concerned that if I write 'normally' my hand will continuously activate the screen which will ultimately mean that I will have to hold the s-pen in a really uncomfortable fashion sort of like I was holding a chopstick to use it? :eek:
 

samo_ak47

Member
Aug 4, 2008
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Thats friggin amazing, seriously I was really curious to find out how the spen actually worked, and its something out of a sci fi movie. for this tech the device should be way more expensive. spen rocks
 

solarboy

Senior Member
Feb 27, 2009
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Thanks for this post.

This may sound really simple, but is there some method employed to stop ones hand from activating the screen when you write?

I really want this technology, particularly for the note-taking feature, but I am concerned that if I write 'normally' my hand will continuously activate the screen which will ultimately mean that I will have to hold the s-pen in a really uncomfortable fashion sort of like I was holding a chopstick to use it? :eek:
In S-memo settings there is an option to tell the screen only to recognise edits made with the s-pen.
Hope that helps.
 

voxano

Senior Member
Dec 12, 2011
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Thanks for this post.

This may sound really simple, but is there some method employed to stop ones hand from activating the screen when you write?

I really want this technology, particularly for the note-taking feature, but I am concerned that if I write 'normally' my hand will continuously activate the screen which will ultimately mean that I will have to hold the s-pen in a really uncomfortable fashion sort of like I was holding a chopstick to use it? :eek:
Most apps for writing on the Note employ what's called "palm rejection", so writing with the S pen is surprisingly natural. No awkward hand position :)
 

evilgeeius

Member
May 2, 2010
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In rain?

Would the EMR pen work in the rain? Capacitive screens generally don't work well in rain so this would be an advantage in the field.

Great article.
 

dbolivar

Senior Member
Nov 24, 2012
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Sao Paulo, Brazil
Thanks for the post! I have a few questions I would like to ask the experts on this subject:

1) How does the screen calibration work? Some people say there's an auto-calibration mechanism, but in my experience, even doing some "tricks" to calibrate it, I noticed the pen is centered only in a certain angle (not necessarily what people are used to when writing).

2) If we use a capacitive stylus on a regular tablet (say, the Galaxy Tab 2), even if it has a small head, is it correct to assume it will never be as precise as the S-Pen on the Galaxy Note series (including the tab)?
 

steveblue

Senior Member
Jan 2, 2012
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> 2) If we use a capacitive stylus on a regular tablet, even if it has a small head, is it correct to assume it will never be as precise as the S-Pen on the Galaxy Note series (including the tab)?<

I can help w/ Q2: A capacitive system has low resolution - which means it only picks up a circular area of say the size of the ball of your finger tip - no after market pen will allow it to be more precise in size just in placement ( center of circle). They are working on different "plus" pen solutions ( some to get the pressure sensitive going) but again none will give you precise hit and high pressure sensitivity - not able to make more precise the circular area under the pen. The Galaxy note has that too for fast, casual and gesture based touch, but it also has this secondary WAcom created input explained in my original post in this thread, where there is a FULL DIGITZER under the surface of the display - thats what give this spen its real edge (not just the pen but the surface). So yes you are correct to say an after market capacitive based pen will NEVER give you the precise control as the spen and Wacom made digitizer tech.

I like to say that the Note has 3 input modes, touch for casual, gestural and fast, spen for precise, creative and note taking, and then also dead accurate voice recognition for voice based commands and dictation. It is this last one that is under discussed ( in the hyped up SIRI world) - it is amazingly good - best on any phone. I use it constantly especially in my car with a card doc. I never type my emails and texts on my Note - I always speak them. Using Google Now/Google voice input and vlingo.


----------------

Here how I explain it on more Apple based sites like cNet:

If you are a power User - here is what I said about by Note 1 - same holds and more for the Note 2. An game changing phone.

There is something perfect about this phone for power users. Spend a few hours or a day with it and you will be hooked. If Apple came out with it, the world would be going crazy - so for now it is simply the users (without much press) who buy it and love it - hence > 20 million fans of it.
WHY?
It does fit in your pocket, you can do allot with one hand ( but it is a new paradigm so you want to be able to use two and the pen too at times). It is mainly a phone for power users (those who use all the of computer/web/app functionality). For them the display ( would fit under the definition as a Retina Display - but of course the only Retina Display with a simple Wacom tablet under is surface), the real estate, the pen and dead on voice recognition (better than Siri) - takes the frustration out of serious mobile device use - no more missing a link, having to constantly zoom up/down, unable to use a web app because it is too small to see - all this just works.

The wacom pen/digitizer is pixel accurate and pressure sensitive, again basically having a simple wacom tablet under the 5.3" display, so anything I do over a minute (touch is there and great for fast and casual,) I pull out the pen and kick butt - can hit at button/link with full accuracy (even a tiny tiny one), take notes, annotate anything ( maps, web pages, screen shots, pdfs, ...) make charts and drawings and paintings ( artists love it! -- wacom and photoshop on your phone) but I switch to dead accurate voice (due to the one of the fastest processor out and google / vlingo voice tools) - which means in one voice command I can open up any app, play any song, call , ... and dictation - I always use voice dictation on emails and messaging now (often while walking! on campus)- I did this whole cnet comment with my voice.

So argue about numbers and apple versus samsung all you want - buy any phone you want. By I am a 20 yr veteran of UI research ( Apple offered me leadership jobs twice, ran a mac based division of EA, and I have created UI systems for web companies - now as grad chair I run a major research university with 60 PhDs in interface design) and I am telling you this phone is a game changer - just try it with an open mind. It is not for everyone but if you are a power user especially who wants to get the web ( web apps, gmail, gcal, todo web apps) back on your mobile device with zero frustration - this is the phone. I personally have the international version with the faster processor, unlocked, ICS JB and device choices now and a dev community that rivals any out there ( I have better than stock Android JB). So I can find/get access to any pro tool I want. I run my servers from my phone now, read 100 page thesis pdfs where I fully annotate them now, using special gesture commands to automate things and in the middle of doing so , I say 'hey galaxy" play "shock the monkey"' and change the music while using my pixel accurate pen - it is heaven. Sorry for the long post but remember I am purposely walking on campus now ( it is raining here in Vancouver), voice inputting this all with only minor corrections made on the fly with my wacom pen - do that with your phone. OR try this one. ( Or save money and buy a used international Note 1)
 

uzeroni

Member
Aug 3, 2012
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This does make me wonder why other manufacturers of digitizers (like the one in the Flyer, Vaio Duo 11 and LG Vu) don't use this kind of tech? I've seen a Vu and a Note N7003 (The one with the LCD screen) under direct light and boy, did the Vu have HORRIBLE glare.