With mobile apps and tools, gone are the days of having to scan page after page manually through a cumbersome scanner for optical character recognition (OCR) and translation. While there are quite a few apps that will allow you to take a picture of a block of text and convert it via OCR technology into editable text or translate from a different language, they are often limited to the device you are using. PenPower has released their on the go pen scanner/translation tool which started out as a Kickstarter project. We take a look in our WorldPenScan X review.
- Size: 115 x 33 x 22.5 mm
- Weight: 55 g
- Interface: BLE 4.0/ USB 2.0
- Built-in lithium polymer rechargeable battery
- Scanning speed: 10 cm/ sec
- Character size: 6-22 pt
- Transmission distance: 1 meter
- Requires iOS 7, Android v4.3, OS X v10.6.8, Windows 8/7/Vista/XP
Before we get into our review, have a look at the WorldPenScan X product video.
The WorldPenScan X looks like a fat highlighter, for lack of a better comparison. At one end is the microUSB port used for charging and connecting to a Windows or Mac computer, the other end has a cap that covers the scanning portion of the device. The power button sits near the microUSB end while a function button sits just above the status light and rubber grip near the opposite end. The scanner portion is housed in a clear plastic piece with a cutout guide and wheel to assist with smoother dragging when scanning across pages.
The pen itself is pretty comfortable to hold and the the function button placement and rubber grip are well placed. One minor complaint I do have about the design however is that the plastic cap doesn’t fit on the back end when you are using the pen, it would have been nice to be able to place the cap on the pen so as to not risk misplacing or losing it when using it with a mobile device.
The included USB cable is nice as well in that it has a flat cord to it as opposed to the traditional rounded cable.
On both Android and Windows, the WorldPenScan X was really easy to set up. For the mobile version, simply download the WorldPenScan app from the Play Store (or App Store for iOS) and install. After the WorldPenScan X pen is turned on, launch the WorldPenScan app on your device and it will search for and connect to the scan pen. In order to use the pen however, you will have to go into your input settings and switch from your default keyboard to the WorldPenScan. On a Windows (or Mac) computer, insert the installation CD and install the app. After the app is installed, plug in the scan pen with the USB cord and complete the hardware wizard (on Windows). Launch the WorldPenScan app (on Windows or Mac) and the software will walk you through connecting the pen the first time you launch it.
Scanning is easy, simply align the arrow in the scanning portion on the line of text you want to capture and drag the pen along until you reach the end of the line. Press the function button to create a line break and scan the next line. While you don’t have to create a line break after each line, the tool doesn’t appear to recognize it as such. The last word of the previous sentence scanned and the first word of the next line will appear as one word without a space in between in whatever word editing program you are using, even though the Windows app has a setting to insert a space after each scan. The function button can be set to insert a space or line break though, so you can use that to get around the run on words.
As far as accuracy of the scanner, it seems to be fairly accurate and a lot of the errors seem to depend on the speed you drag, as well as the font/size of the text you are scanning in. Once you get the hang of the proper scanning technique and speed, you can get near perfect scanning input. Overall though, I’d estimate it’s between 95-98% accurate and while the document created from scanning requires minor clean up, it’s definitely faster than having to type notes by hand.
While the pen does work as a translation tool, it is somewhat limited on the mobile apps and currently supports 28 languages including simplified and traditional Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, and various other basic languages. The Windows/Mac version supports many more languages, works with programming languages such as Basic, C/C++, JAVA, and even supposedly works with simple chemical formulas. The pen can also be used to scan barcodes and MICR codes on cheques and invoices.
While the WorldPenScan X works fairly well and is something that I can see as being a great benefit for students, researchers, and others who do a lot of reading I think it’s a bit on the pricier side, especially for students. If you can afford it, it’ll definitely save you some time when creating study guides or inserting quotes into papers. It does have the added attraction of being compatible with iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac though so that’s something else to consider. It does have other features as well like translation and barcode scanning which does add some value, but I think a better price point would be in the $99-$129 range as opposed to the $169 it retails for. A slightly lower price point and I could see this as a great tool that would be more accessible for students.
PenPower’s WorldPenScan X is a handy little portable OCR scanning tool for those that require it. It’s easy to set up and once you get the hang of the proper scanning technique can achieve near perfect scanning results into the word editing program of your choice. Additional features like translation (although I can’t see myself pulling it out to translate a menu at a restaurant but can see the use for translating a large printed document), dictionary lookup, and barcode/MICR scanning increase the scenarios it can be used for.