New Creative Tools Bridge the Analog and Digital Spheres

New technology feeds the hankering for old-school productivity and creativity tools.

If you don’t fall into the category of “early adapter,” there’s a good chance you’re still pining for the days when books were made out of real paper and telephones were connected to the phone line in a spiral cord. Luckily for those of us who consider ourselves more analog than the rest, tech companies are taking advantage of the creative opportunities that analog tools can offer.

Major players like Polaroid, Nomad, and Adobe are developing tools that seamlessly blend the analog sensation (for example, holding a paintbrush in hand) with the digital world (using a screen as a canvas). Writers can still have the encouraging clack of the typewriter while using their computer. Here are 10 examples of the fruitful marriage between analog and digital.

Polaroid’s Socialmatic camera ($300) is modeled after a smart phone camera, with a lens on the front and back for all your selfie needs. The device can print old-school Polaroid prints and simultaneously upload them to the web for sharing. Android users connected to wifi can upload photos taken with the camera to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Though there have been several different types of styluses on the market for tablet use, Nomad’s Digital Paintbrush ($35) is the first and most advanced of its kind—a digital paintbrush that acts just like a real paintbrush would on canvas or paper. The paintbrush also doubles as a pen.

Adobe’s answer to the digital paintbrush, the Ink and Slide pen ($200) is geared towards professional illustrators who are working in Adobe programs like Illustrator and Photoshop for mobile and tablet devices. Illustrators rave about the lightweight and easy-to-use pen which is great for ideas on the go and precise enough for professional work.

Moleskine, the maker of elegant leather-bound notebooks, has jumped on the digital bandwagon with its Livescribe Notebook ($30), which looks and feels like any Moleskine notebook. But when you write with their Smart Pen ($150), sketches, notes, or doodles are immediately backed up to an app on your digital device. For organizational purposes, the paper comes equipped with icons you can tap to tag each document, and if you’d rather make a recorded note, you can simply tap the play, pause, and record icons on the paper to do so.


Writers who need the clacking sound and feel of typewriter keys to get creative juices flowing, need look no further than the USB Typewriter ($700). The creators have repurposed beautiful vintage typewriters by wiring their keyboards to connect with any tablet device. DIY-inclined creators already in possession of a vintage typewriter and tablet can purchase a conversion kit for $94.

There are many options when it comes to iPhone docks, but these docks also come equipped with an actual desk phone. Though it might seem unnecessary, the idea of a desk phone, particularly for someone who works at home, might increase productivity and help to build an atmosphere of an office, all the while charging your iPhone, giving it speaker phone capabilities, or just playing sweet tunes.

The child in all of us remembers the analog delight of Legos. Now comes the invention of Legos that can be automatically saved as 3D schematics for design projects. Made by design team Gravity, this project, called Lego X, equips Legos with accelerometers, tracking the position of each block in real time. The company will even send you a 3-D printout of any design you make with Lego X.


Wrestlers, models, and anyone who’s ever been on a strict diet realizes the importance of a scale in the kitchen for weighing portion sizes. But The Prep Pad, which looks a like cutting board, is more than just a scale. The Pad is connected to an app on your device, and will tell you the nutritional information and syncs it to your diet plan to keep you on track.

Die-hard tennis lovers can track the progress of their game with Babolat’s Pure Drive racquet ($400), which records detailed information about your strokes and sends it to a corresponding app. You can even compare your tennis game to some of the best players in the world.

Though some analog-to-digital tools are more directly useful than others, being connected to the digital world through a smart phone doesn’t mean you have to kiss your beloved analog tools goodbye. By marrying these tools to your digital device you can still get the same satisfaction of that photo print or the clacking sound of the keyboard. The same satisfaction—just evolved.


Technology has put nearly everything at our fingertips and enabled us to engage with the world on a deeper, faster level than ever before. In this series, we examine our increasingly on-demand culture and what it means when access is everything.


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