Nobo Kapture: Review
Nobo Kapture was designed to prevent employees having to waste time writing up presentation and meeting notes. Typically, the presenter uses a flipchart to create engaging visuals and notes – but these then have to be typed up by some poor attendee later, when it is realised that the content will need to be viewed at a later date.
Nobo Kapture instead makes the process much easier for those involved, by allowing written or drawn content to be captured on a computer automatically, and in real time – as the visuals are sketched.
How Does It Work?
The Nobo Kapture system works by streaming content live from a small video camera in the included system pen. Due to the unique (barely visible) pattern that is on every single page of a Nobo Kapture flipchart, the pen can tell where exactly on the page it is being held – and so can reproduce this position onscreen.
The Nobo Kapture starter kit features a Digital Flipchart pad, plus the special pen, which comes with a USB receiver and configuration card. The software should install automatically, or alternatively it can be downloaded from the Nobo Kapture website. Users can purchase extra Flipchart pads – the special paper has to be used, or the system won’t work – and you can also purchase pens in different colours. The paper will fit any standard easel.
Windows® XP SP2 / Vista™ or MAC OS X 10.5
Available USB 2.0 port
Hard Disk – 500Mb available space required
1 x AAA Alkaline battery (LR03) non-rechargeable
Ease of Use
Capturing is extremely easy, once the Nobo Kapture system has been set up properly. The difficulty arises from establishing how to set it all up in the first place.
Due to Nobo’s international client base, written instructions are not included. Instead, users get an Ikea-esque sheet of diagrams, designed to easily demonstrate how to get the software installed and running. This wouldn’t normally be an issue, as the instructions clearly suggest that the user should insert the USB plug, at which point the software should automatically install.
However, this was not true in my case. Instead, I had to explore the website to find the software to download and watch a couple of how-to videos before managing to open the program, and realising that there is a ‘help’ pdf included in the software. A bit of a hassle, but most users should have been able to get this far without instruction, even if the software doesn’t start automatically.
Once you’ve managed to set the system up, actually capturing the sketches proves a piece of cake. The sketches appear on your computer immediately, and the presenter really doesn’t have to do anything apart from carry on with the presentation.
The editing however is not quite as simple. There are no help documents concerning the editing section of Nobo Kapture, other than one word descriptions of what each icon does. The user isn’t even aware that you can move objects, until it is done accidentally. It took a lot of frustrated attempts as I dragged single letters around the page before I realised that you can move a group of selected objects by holding down Ctrl. Explanations of each function would be great – a readily available tutorial would be even better.
Accuracy of Capture
The accuracy with which pen strokes are reproduced on the computer screen is impressive. The use of the patterned paper means that the placement of each sketch is always spot on, and as long as the presenter writes carefully, he should encounter no problems.
However, during testing certain pen strokes wouldn’t capture, and lines would start or end after they should have. After a bit of experimenting, I discovered that this was due to the pen not being pushed hard enough against the paper. The camera is activated by pressure, and so passionate presenters who scribble their thoughts across the page will find that the camera may miss aspects of their note-taking. In order to ensure accurate capture, all writing and drawing should be slow and deliberate.
Flipchart sheet captures can also be edited from within the Nobo Kapture software. We’ve all watched how draw-as-you-go visuals tend to get scribbled and squashed, and end up at funny angles as someone tries to make use of the available paper. The editing section is designed to counteract that, by allowing you to quickly and easily make the sheets clearer and more legible.
There is a lot of great functionality in this section. Each pen stroke is created as an object, meaning that editing is easy. You can cut and paste objects onto different pages, and rotate them through 360 degrees, as well as move them around between sheets.
There is the whole range of custom colours available on the editor, so notes can be transformed to different colours as wished. Any pen can capture in four different colours (red, green, blue, black) using the configuration card, no matter what ink you’re using. If you’re being really pedantic, you could even create custom colours to match your brand.
However, you can’t add to what’s on the sheet. If you want to add something, you can either go back and draw it again on the flipchart, or export it to a different program to edit. This means that if the pen has stopped capturing halfway through a line, the best way to correct the gap is to go over the pen stroke again on paper.
It would also be nice if you could use standard Windows shortcuts (Ctrl+C, Ctrl+Z etc.). Instead, you have to use the buttons on the editor. They enable this functionality, but it would still be nice to have the option to do this the way that most PC users do.
The edit section is a great touch, and is extremely useful. However, it would be even better if there were clear instructions, or a tutorial explaining how to use the tools. As a time-saving solution, the Nobo Kapture should ensure that businesspeople don’t have to spend time figuring out how to perform each function.
The fact that there is a unique pattern on every single page means that when a new page is started, the software notices this immediately, and copies the next sketch on a new page in the recording software. This is a great touch that means no hassle for the presenter.
It’s also nice that any pen can capture in different colours, even when different pens aren’t used. Of course, these can then be adapted in the editor to any shade in the spectrum.
How could it be used?
The system definitely solves a problem. Typing up flipchart notes is a big timewaster, and Nobo Kapture eliminates the need to spend timing on this.
If your writing is particularly recognisable, the exported images could be used to capture text, meaning that this could then be edited in a program such as Word. However, the likelihood is that your words will not be picked up perfectly, particularly due to the scribbling nature of writing on flipcharts – and to the limited accuracy of the capture device when writing at speed.
The system isn’t limited to storing sketches to be viewed at a later date. If you are presenting to a large group of people, the receiving computer could be connected to a projector, so that the sketches are magnified onto a screen. The capture could even be shared live at the internet, so that remote audiences can watch the visual aids as they are formed.
Is it worth it?
Nobo Kapture definitely solves a very real problem. It’s not entirely perfect: the presenter would have to get into the habit of writing slowly and deliberately, and some help tutorials would prove extremely useful. However, the capabilities of the software itself are innovative, and the new developments on the way are really exciting. Whilst the presenter may have to adapt slightly to using the system, Nobo Kapture certainly provides a useful solution to an issue that is very prominent in many workplaces today.
For more information about Nobo Kapture, including details of the upcoming developments, read our interview with Martin Ruse, who helped create the system.
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Stuart Buckley, CEO and Founding Partner, Calltracks Ltd
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