Imagine being able to take notes on your iPhone by waving the phone in the air, imitating the physical act of writing. The PhonePoint Pen, developed by engineering students at Duke, will allow just that, using smartphone accelerometers like a pen. "By holding the phone like a pen, you can write short messages or draw simple diagrams in the air,” said Sandip Agrawal, who developed the app with Duke grad student Ionut Constandache "We're trying to get past the whole idea of typing on a keyboard or using a stylus to enter information into devices,” said Roy Choudhury, Duke assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and Agrawal’s mentor.

The developers believe they can integrate the technology with smartphones’ cameras, which would allow people to take a picture then add notes to it with the app.

The PhonePoint Pen might not only mark a step away from keyboard interfaces, but will also speed up communication while physically simplifying it.

"And today, especially now in the age of Twitter and micro-blogs, the speed in which you send information becomes more important," Choudhury said.

"To be able to write quickly using only one hand would be very attractive to many people," Choudhury said.

Agrawal received the inaugural Hoffman + Krippner Award for Excellence in Student Engineering Tuesday in Chicago. The award presents $2,500 to the best student engineering project in the field of human-machine interfaces (HMI) applications and input devices.

The PhonePoint Pen prototype will be available to the public in the next few months, Choudhury said.

By Mark Alvarez