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Tech to Bring Text Alive

TING may look like an ordinary ballpoint pen, but this compact device is packed with technology that turns it into an audio pen, capable of recognizing and reading text from books and other printed material. Users simply point the pen at the text, and TING will read it out loud.

“TING is the sound of an ‘idea lightbulb’ being lit up, and it also means ‘listen’ in Chinese,” said Ivan Owyang, Founder of Concept I Media and Technology, and TING Co Ltd, which owns the technology.

He explained that the spark of inspiration came in 2007 during a business meeting with the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann SE & Co. The conversation ultimately led to the creation of TING – and the ambition to change the way students and teachers interacted with books.

TING enables the melding of traditional and modern media. Once a book has been uploaded to the device, the TING audio pen is then able to read the text through a sensor at the tip of the pen that recognizes lines of code inserted into the images and text. TING’s uses include helping language learners and other students to improve their pronunciation and understanding of the text they are reading.

The idea of TING came at a time when online media was beginning to flourish and new revenue streams were materializing. This product was a hit, and within a few years TING had become the largest audio pen platform in Europe. Much of TING’s success can be attributed to the group’s philosophy of inclusion.

“We recognized that consumers did not want to buy several audio pens for different sets of titles,” said Owyang. “They would rather have one universal pen that could be used on various publications produced by many publishers.”

This strategy proved to be successful, as many publishers adopted the TING platform and integrated its technology into their books. The group then expanded into the Hong Kong market after receiving an appreciative letter from the parent of a child attending a local international school, who found the TING-enabled books very useful for learning Chinese.

It has not always been smooth sailing for the company, however. When TING started trying to enable audio on materials produced by schools and other learning institutions it faced some new challenges.

These worksheets and booklets are often printed and photocopied by office laser printers, so they were not compatible with the TING audio pen as they lacked the built-in coding that TING-enabled learning materials had. But switching to mass production of the materials on specialized printers would have been difficult and pricey.

Instead, TING made a series of modifications and system upgrades to the audio pen, and teachers are now able to print TING-enabled notes and worksheets from regular printers.

“Today, TING has been adopted by over 300 learning institutions ranging from private schools to government-aided schools,” said Owyang.

After securing a place in the Hong Kong education sector, Owyang now hopes to bring the TING audio pen to a bigger audience across the border in the Greater Bay Area. “By joining HKGCC, we hope to work with the other members of the Chamber to develop the market in the GBA and beyond.”


Company : Concept I Media and Technology Co Ltd

HKGCC Membership No. : HKC1235

Established : 2012

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