Flashpen: A High-Fidelity and High-Precision Multi-Surface Pen for Virtual Reality

Hugo Romat, Andreas Fender, Manuel Meier, and Christian Holz. Proceedings of IEEE VR 2021.

Digital pen interaction has become a first-class input modality for precision tasks such as writing, annotating, drawing, and 2D manipulation. The key enablers of digital inking are the capacitive or resistive sensors that are integrated in contemporary tablet devices. In Virtual Reality (VR), however, users typically provide input across large regions, hence limiting the suitability of using additional tablet devices for accurate pen input. In this paper, we present Flashpen, a digital pen for VR whose sensing principle affords accurately digitizing hand writing and intricate drawing, including small and quick turns. Flashpen re-purposes an inexpensive gaming mouse sensor that digitizes extremely fine grained motions in the micrometer range at over 8 kHz when moving on a surface. We combine Flashpen’s high-fidelity relative input with the absolute tracking cues from a VR headset to enable pen interaction across a variety of VR applications. In our two-block evaluation, which consists of a tracing task and a writing task, we compare Flashpen to a professional drawing tablet (Wacom). With this, we demonstrate that Flashpen’s fidelity matches the performance of state-of-the-art digitizers and approaches the fidelity of analog pens, while adding the flexibility of supporting a wide range of flat surfaces.