Gadget review: InstruMMents 01 measurement tool
We try a crowdfunded ‘dimensioning tool’ that pairs with your mobile device and promises to capture measurements in even the trickiest situations.
This innovative tool uses multiple sensors to measure even complex surfaces and beam the results to its companion app. The idea is that you simply roll it over an object or drawing to measure anything instantly. A laser helps you get the position right. Then the results are beamed to an app on your phone or tablet.
The product was successfully funded (four times over) on Indiegogo at the start of the year so it's exciting to see the result already. Some crowdfunded products are delayed time and time again. The company is based in Canada and its founders were also behind the Misfit Shine activity tracker.
If you find the spelling and capitalisation of InstruMMents annoying, it gets worse. The marketeers describe it as “world’s first dimensioning tool” as if rulers and tape measures never existed. But the 01 does do unique stuff so we gave it a try.
Mightier than a pen
The 01 acts as a pen, pencil or capacitive touchscreen stylus (you choose which when you order, you can't chop and change). It has an aluminium body with an elegant design that feels good in the hand. The pen has a reassuring weight, but it’s a little top-heavy because that’s the end where all the clever stuff lives.
The drawing aspect feels important because this is clearly a product for creatives who write and draw. It’s been designed as a tool for designers, makers, engineers, architects, tailors, carpenters and DIY enthusiasts.
Measuring tape 2.0
“There is a real need to rethink how we capture and use dimensions,” says InstruMMents CEO Mladen Barbaric Founder. “The measuring tape, for example, hasn’t really changed since its creation in 1860.”
The idea of the 01 is that the head of the pen/pencil/stylus contain multiple sensors. There’s a laser simply to help you align the roller correctly for accuracy, and a magnetic sensor and a six-axis sensor overlaid to measure the dimensions via a roller.
It’s attractively packaged and setup is straightforward, you pop in the battery and then download and pair the companion app (available for iOS and Android) with it. The battery isn’t rechargeable and is a proprietary size, so you’ll have to go back to InstruMMents for replacements for this (ink cartridges are standard Parker refills). The battery life is said to be up to 6 months.
It comes with a notebook in which a dozen or so pages at the back act as an instruction manual. But setup really is simple so you hardly need them. The rest of it is a good-looking notebook with dot-grid pages, a ribbon bookmark, an elastic strap and a pocket at the back. It’s not as minimal as a Moleskin but you wouldn’t be embarrassed to whip it out at a meeting. In fact, use it along with the 01 and you’d have an immediate talking point (read: bragging rights, we all love a new toy).
Measure for measure
Setting up was indeed a doddle. Download the InstruMMents app and then it gives you a quick tutorial and leads you through the setup process, telling you when to tap the top of the 01. It connects wirelessly with no need to go into your device setup menus, it all happens seamlessly within the app.
And then there you are with your new toy, basically looking for objects to measure! It rolls along any surface and can measure things big and small, so we tried everything from a doorframe to small measurements on architects’ scale drawings, to check the ease of use and accuracy. You can even use it to measure contoured objects – anything so long as the roller can move smoothly along a path.
A long press on the top of the 01 wakes it ready to measure. Then you must ensure the companion app is open on your device. Roll to measure, then make a quick tap on the top to sync the measurement and move on to the next field. The app is set up to expect width then height then depth and then length 1, length 2, etc. But you can tap in the app to create fields for diagonal, diameter, radius, circumference, perimeter or your own custom field. You can also switch between mm, cm, mil and inches.
The doorframe measurement was very precise on the width. So within a couple of millimetres of a careful measure with a tape, so less than 0.5% out. But the height was significantly out because it was hard to find a line to follow top to bottom without bumping the skirting: we paused and resumed but the 01 failed to add on the second measurement. After double-checking and finding it a good 15cm off, we measured again, this time finding a better line to roll along. It’s clear that, despite the use seeming intuitive, there’s an art to this. So it’s best to practice initially, taking some measurements and double-checking them with a tape measure or ruler till you get the knack.
We found rolling it round 3D objects harder. For example, if you want the circumference of a mug you have to figure out how to move the 01 or move the mug in such a way that the roller travels smoothly and the laser continues to face the place you’re measuring. It’s harder than it sounds.
On scale drawings – much smaller measurements – accuracy is even more important. Just a millimetre out makes a big difference. And the 01 proved to measure faithfully when used with care. Your real challenge here is user error. If you’re measuring 1cm then it’s crucial you get the laser aligned precisely with each end point.
One advantage of the 01 design though is that if you overshoot you can roll back to get it right. With practice we learned how to measure small stuff accurately but it’s still a challenge. For example, as you lift the 01 from the paper it’s easy to give the roller a slight nudge in the process and alter the measurement, so you really need to learn how to start and finish cleanly.
In all we found this a handy tool for measuring small and mid-sized stuff. You wouldn’t use it to measure a whole room, for example. It’s handy for anyone who works off drawings a lot, and frankly good for bragging rights in a meeting too.
If InstruMMents ever launches an 02 though we’d love to see the device automatically know what measurement it’s taking and would love the built-in laser to double as a laser measure for larger spaces.
Bosch PLR 40 C Digital Laser Measure
This pocketable tool measures up to 40m accurately and fast using a laser. It can calculate areas and volumes too. It can also beam the results to a companion app. £79.99 bosch-do-it.com
eTape16 Digital Tape Measure
An easy-to-read display on the top tells you your measurement plus it can store two more measurements in its memory. And if the battery runs out it works like a normal tape measure too. £29.99 maplin.co.uk
Ruler (for iOS and Android)
Measure objects via app in two clever ways. The first is to photograph it alongside a “stock” object of known size, for example a credit card. The app does the rest. Or measure small items using an on-screen ruler. free grymala.by
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered direct to your inbox every day.