MacDirectory Magazine

Winter-Spring 2010 (#44)

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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Wacom is recognized around the world as a leader in interactive pen and tablet technology for industries such as animation and digital imaging plus several others that you probably wouldn't expect. Founded in 1983, Wacom draws its distinctive moniker from the combination of the Japanese word "wa" – meaning "harmony" – with the shortened English words for "world computer." It's an appropriate name for a global company that strives to ease the often-complicated interaction between people and computers into a simple, harmonious balance. The latest buzz in computer interfaces centers on the long-rumored Apple tablet device (although it may be more than just a rumor by the time you read this), but Wacom has been developing and perfecting award-winning tablet technology for years. The company's research has led to a special kind of tablet that forms a magnetic field on its surface and runs a charge through an electronic pen when they touch. A coil inside the pen sends electronic signals back to the tablet to let it smoothly read its path as if it were a normal pen writing on a sheet of paper. Sensors in the pen even make it possible for the tablet to sense and relay changes in the pen's angle and pressure. Wacom has designed this remarkable interface into tablets for everyone from the casual user to the demanding professional on both Macs and PCs. The consumer-level Bamboo, for example, replaces a standard mouse with a pressure-sensitive pen and accompanying tablet for precise input. The Bamboo's Multi- Touch technology also allows it to work with simple hand gestures and finger taps (which all Mac users should be familiar with) when users want to navigate the Web or scroll through documents. Wacom has even designed specialty Bamboo tablets for scrap booking and other creative projects. The more advanced Intuos and Cintiq tablets are for professionals who need greater precision and display options in their work. The Intuos offers larger tablet sizes and more precise pen input while the Cintiq line combines Wacom's patented tablet technology with an LCD monitor so users can guide the electronic pen directly on the screen. All three product lines have garnered numerous awards, including the 2008 Macworld UK Award for Creative Hardware Product of the Year for the Cintiq 12WX, and contributed to Wacom being named the "Most Innovative Brand of the Year" in the IT and gaming fields by the 2009 Plus X Awards panel. Naturally, animators are big fans of Wacom products. Animators at the Cartoon Network like the Cintiq in particular because it lets them work directly on the screen, which speeds up the entire sketching and revising process. Cintiqs are now in use on Cartoon Network shows such as "Transformers," "Chowder" and "Flapjack." The network's director of production technology, Antonio Gonella, explains on Wacom's site what a revelation the technology is for animators. "There's a moment with the artists when they say 'aha' and they let go and let it become all it can be, realizing the potential of their computer," Gonella says. "Not only did the Cintiq significantly speed up the [storyboarding] process, it also freed up a lot of the artists' time to make creative decisions." We might expect Wacom's products to be a no-brainer for improving the lives of animators, graphic designers and concept designers – and they are – but the company's tablet technology has also made an impact with cartographers, civil engineers and the medical and healthcare industry. The Radiation Therapy staff at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, for example, uses a specialized Wacom display similar to a larger Cintiq to study images of patient treatments and to adjust radiation target volumes. The head of the program, Dr. Martin Fuss, estimates on Wacom's Web site that interactive display technology has cut time requirements by as much as 60 percent, which in turn has allowed the group to take on more patient cases and pursue new collaborative efforts. "The ability to draw, highlight and write on an image provides collaboration opportunities that are literally changing the communication landscape within the radiation therapy field," says Dr. Fuss. Most people may have less demanding needs for Wacom's pen and tablet technology, but the innovative company has shown that whatever the job, it probably has a pen and tablet to make life easier. MacDirectory 127 COMPANY PROFILE WACOM'S TABLET TECHNOLOGY BRIDGES THE GAP BETWEEN PEOPLE AND THEIR COMPUTERS WORDS BY MATT MARQUEZ

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