I give a lot of conference talks, and yet I’m still clicking the arrows on my laptop to advance slides. Given the chance to check out the new Mara Pen seemed like a good opportunity to change that.
The Mara Pen is a combination device. You can use it as a mouse or as a presentation device for advancing slides. Its real strength is for people who do demos with 3D models, as its dual functionality lets you easily rotate and zoom on those models. And that is the audience it is designed for–architects, engineers, teachers, and other people who present content in that fashion.
Its other huge strength is that it doesn’t need any software to function. They claim that as long as your device supports a USB mouse, it will work. As a (non-Ubuntu) Linux user, I often challenge such claims. But the Mara Pen did, in fact, work as expected straight out of the box. That means you don’t have to worry about compatibility or drivers if you switch machines or use presentation computers in different places.
If you’re the type of presenter who tends to wander rather than stand at the podium, it’s a great combination tool, as you can both advance your presentation as well as do anything else that doesn’t require a keyboard, like basic web browsing, demonstrating software, highlighting text, etc. The pen switches from mouse mode to presentation mode with a click of one button without fail.
I found only two shortcomings, and one was due to my attempt to push it slightly out of scope. The Kickstarter page describes it as having “highly precise sensors,” which, for its intended purposes, it does. If you’re hoping “highly precise” also means you can use it as a sort of air stylus or graphics tablet replacement, this isn’t the device for you. You can, of course, interact with your graphics software, but, unless you have much steadier hands than I, you’re not going to get very far.
The second shortcoming was more of a problem for me. The presentation clicker wouldn’t work with slide decks on slides.com. It does work perfectly as expected with Impress (open source presentation software), and, of course, with PowerPoint. You can use it with slides.com, but you have to use it as a mouse and click the arrows to advance your slides rather than using the presentation buttons on the pen.
If you’re interested in learning more and pre-ordering the Mara Pen, its Kickstarter page provides several videos to help you see it in action.