GRAPHICS SOFTWARE FIRM Adobe announced last month that it would take a serious step into hardware for the first time, and bring its internet connected stylus experiment Project Mighty to production along with its accompanying digital ruler called Project Napoleon.
The digital drawing tools were considered merely a test case when Adobe announced them at the Adobe Max conference earlier this year. However, they will soon become a reality when the company brings them out in stores sometime in early 2014, thanks to new hardware partner Adonit, which was the first company to develop a thin tip stylus for the iPad.
We managed to get some early hands-on time with the Mighty stylus and Napoleon ruler when Adobe's VP of experience design, Michael Gough (who is not to be confused with the English actor who played Alfred in the original Batman films) was in town.
Pulling out his Mighty stick and placing it in our hands, Gough said Adobe's stylus targets workers that consider themselves "creative professionals" due to the general mainstream uptake of social and digital media.
"Creative professionals are changing the way they work, not using just one or two pieces of software, they are using a huge range of software and services all connected to one another and are very social in the way they create and design and build," Gough said.
"More creative people means we have a bigger market and more potential customers to serve, so [Adobe] started thinking: ‘How do we serve this next generation of creative?'."
Enter Mighty and Napoleon.
Design and build
As soon as we got our hands on Adobe's Mighty stylus, it was easy to see that it has been built with design and ergonomics as the paramount criteria, as it has a unique look and a high-end feel. The Mighty pen has a triangular shape, which Gough said is more ergonomic, thus making it easier to hold.
"We did some research and it turns out that early pencils were triangular and they became octagonal because you can get more pencils out of a block of wood that way, so they figured out the ergonomics a couple of hundred years ago, and we're just catching up," Gough explained.
Insisting that we put our middle and index fingers and thumb together as we would to hold a pen, Gough showed us how the space in between makes a triangle shape, to further justify the Mighty's unusual design.
We can't deny the Mighty does feel great to hold in the hand. The triangle shape of the barrel twists as the pen comes to a point so it rests more comfortably in the hand. It also rests nicely in either hand, so it's good for either left or right-handed users.
The shell is made from hydro-formed aluminium, a process where fluids are blown into a mould under heavy pressure and the aluminium expands into the form. Gough explained that this is the same way they make high-end bike parts, and you can tell, as it does seem to be premium quality while being very lightweight.
The button on the Mighty pen is designed to avoid accidental presses, so it is put in a place where you won't hit it while drawing. You reach down with your finger and click it while drawing to evoke a menu or make a change. However, we weren't able to test this function in the prototype version of the Mighty pen that we tried.
The Napoleon ruler follows the same design theme as the Mighty pen, and is made from a matching material so is exceptionally light to hold. It has two smooth pads on each of its feet underneath, so it doesn't affect the surface or screen it is sitting on, with an arching body in the middle making it easier to slide around a screen. We will talk about how well it fared during testing later.
Unfortunately, the Mighty pen photographed wasn't the pen we got to use with the software, as Adobe didn't have a working sample for us to play with. Instead, we used an alternative stylus, which worked using the same "thin-tip" technology but with a different body design than the Mighty pen. Strangely, we weren't allowed to photograph this one. But we are able to tell you how well the technology of the pen worked with the software.
Next: Software and performance.