ENR tested a new stylus that works with any tablet and could make a fine combination with the Morpholio Trace app.

Most tablet stylus pens work via WiFi or Bluetooth technology, but both methods are battery hogs. A new device offers an alternative, communicating with tablets via high-frequency sound and allowing for pressure-sensitive control on touch screens.

The JaJa Stylus—designed and built by Brisbane, Australia-based HEX3, funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign and produced by Hex3 Ltd., Hong Kong—adds capability to the iPad and other tablets. Unlike a Wacom drawing tablet, the iPad and most other tablets and smartphones are not pressure-sensitive. The JaJa pen changes that. By emitting variable high-frequency sounds undetectable by the human ear, the stylus communicates with a tablet via its built-in microphone.

Jon Atherton, founder of Hex3, says the pen has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity—using the stylus to draw on an iPad is like writing on paper. The pen can communicate with any device that includes a microphone, Atherton adds. It has two buttons that can be programmed with different functions.

The sound-emitting speaker is built into the JaJa itself and requires no add-ons. Since the stylus doesn't run on WiFi or Bluetooth, it can be used while the tablet is in "airplane" mode.

ENR discovered one of the pen's drawbacks: The device did not work on a moving subway car. The sound and vibration may have disrupted the stylus' ability to communicate with the iPad's microphone. When we tested the device in other noisy locations—on New York City streets, for example—the stylus performed with no loss of functionality.

The JaJa Stylus costs $89.99 through Hex3's website.