Instrumments 01 measuring tool: Our first take

Can this sleek pen replace your ruler? We used Instrumments' 01 to measure everything in sight

There’s a finite limit to the number of ways you can measure an object, but some are more labor intensive than others. Take a tape measure, for instance: You’ve got to grab hold of one end tightly and extend the retractable end, all the while trying to maintain a semblance of perpendicularity against the fixture you’re trying to measure. It’s enough to give even the most seasoned contractor an ulcer.

But technology’s here to help. Enter the 01, an ultra-compact, pen-shaped measurement tool by Canadian startup Instrumments. It has an enticing promise: The ability to measure the sorts of obtuse angles and contoured edges that conventional rulers and calipers can’t.

It’s a lot to deliver, but in our short time with a pre-production 01, we were impressed by what the little measuring tool could do.

It may look like a pen, but it does a lot more

A little background: The 01, which doubles as a refillable pen, packs a high-tech multi-sensor capable of recording the surface profile of objects. A rubberized wheel on the topmost axle handles measuring duties, and a red laser near the tip serves as a visual alignment guide.

Instrumments put a lot of care into the measuring pen’s design. The 01’s aluminum frame feels solid in the hand and comfortable in the palm, and that polish extends down to the packaging. The 01 ships in tightly padded foam casing, and comes with a hard-cover instruction manual with graphics that explain the setup and pairing processes. The attention to detail isn’t terribly surprising — Barbaric founded the design studio Pearl, and served as the industrial designer for the Misfit Shine fitness tracker and Empatica Embrace seizure detector.

Those measurements get sent to your phone. The 01 pairs to an Android or iOS device via Bluetooth and populates the Instrumments companion app with real-time length data, producing a reassuring, audible clicking noise as it rolls. The minimalist app lets you switch between metric (millimeter, centimeter, meter, kilometer) and U.S. (inch, foot, yard, and mile) measurements, and saves those measurements in a log for later perusal.

A paid, $10 a month subscription will soon unlock additional capabilities. The 01 will gain the ability to capture the curves of a 3D object and save that data in a format that modeling programs can understand.

Setup is a cinch. Once the 01’s tiny cylindrical battery is removed from its foam enclosure and placed in the 01’s battery receptacle, the unit powers on right away. We didn’t have any trouble activating the 01’s Bluetooth pairing mode or getting the companion app to recognize it. Minutes later, we were measuring every office nick knack within reach.

A new way to measure with a few quirks

We put the 01 through the wringer, rolling the diminutive measuring tool over a table, computer monitor, several chairs, smartphones, and our reviewer’s arm and palm. Subsequent measurements of the same objects produced results within millimeters of each other, and impressively, the 01 never once crashed or lost Bluetooth connectivity over the course of a workday afternoon.

instrumments 01 dimensioning tool press

We found some of the 01’s features particularly nifty. The laser can be programmed to blink at predetermined increments to help space measurements equally. The app can automatically translate scaled quantities on a map or drawing to real-time units, which is presumably useful if you’re working with blueprints.

If the 01 has a fatal flaw, it’s consistency. It may be accurate to within, but the 01’s rubber wheel is extremely difficult to keep on a steady trajectory. It’s impossible to roll the wheel in a perfectly straight line. Barbaric said that the 01’s software compensates for errors by straightening out wavering lines, but for ultra-precise applications where millimeters matter, it’s probably best to break out a meter stick.

Ultimately, the 01 doesn’t clear the sky-high bar set by its advertising, but when it comes to a measuring tool that can get around angles and curved edges, there may not be a better — or more cost-effective — solution out there.

The 01 raised $464,000 on IndieGoGo, and in February, the 01 went on sale in London. It starts at $150, or an additional $30 for an optional leather case.

The 01’s replacement batteries, which last up to six months, are $20 for a two-pack, and Instrumments is selling non-proprietary ink and lead refills in three-packs for $16. You can read all about it and order one on Instrumments’ website.


  • Polished app with useful features
  • High build quality
  • Works as advertised


  • Expensive for what you get
  • Requires a subscription to unlock additional features
  • Produces inconsistent results

Google Pixel Slate vs. Apple iPad Pro

The iPad Pro and the Google Pixel Slate are similar looking on the surface, but with the fresh release of the Google Pixel Slate considered, we're diving a bit deeper to compare the two devices.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado gets serious about MPG with new four-cylinder engine

In an aggressive bid to improve fuel economy, the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado will be offered with a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Chevy claims comparable performance to other Detroit automakers' V6 trucks.
Product Review

The Xperia XZ3 is the slick Sony smartphone you’ve been waiting for

Can Sony compete with the best by adopting OLED tech in the Xperia XZ3? Find out how its latest flagship measures up to the competition, and precisely what it’s capable of in our Sony Xperia XZ3 review.
Home Theater

Is bigger really better? How to figure out what size TV you need

What size TV do you need? Here are a few tips for picking the right size, including where to find a TV’s measurements, ideal viewing distance, and picture quality versus size. Not sure what to look for? This guide is for you.

Huawei can make superb phones, but the Y7 Prime isn’t one of them

We've adored some of the recent Huawei smartphones, including the excellent P20 Pro; but the firm also makes some cheaper hardware. We've been using the $220 Huawei Y7 Prime to find out if it's similarly tempting.

PayPal will soon let you withdraw cash at Walmart, but there’s a catch

PayPal has teamed up with Walmart to allow its account holders to withdraw and deposit cash at the store. The service launches at all Walmart stores across the U.S. in early November, but there's a catch.
Social Media

Instagram is testing a new way for you to look through your feed

Instagram is constantly tweaking its app to help give its users the best experience possible, so how do you like the sound of tapping — instead of swiping — to look through your feed?

Check out our handy step-by-step tips for the awesome new Sony Xperia XZ3

This slick, stylish new Sony smartphone has hidden depths, and we’re here to help you unlock them with our Xperia XZ3 tips roundup. We’ve got advice on how to get the best picture, sound, and more in this easy step-by-step guide.

Verizon's newest deals can net you $500 off the LG V40 ThinQ

Looking for a new LG flagship? The LG V40 ThinQ is here, and it's bringing a familiar style, two more camera lenses, and upgraded specs. Here's absolutely everything you need to know about the LG V40 ThinQ.

The news is stressful, but easier on the eyes with new Google News dark theme

Being blinded at 6 a.m. when you wake up and check the news will soon be a thing of the past, as Google is rolling out an update that adds a much-needed dark theme to Google News.

Pocket transforms articles into podcasts with an assist from Amazon

Read-it-later app Pocket is adding an option to turn articles into easily navigable podcasts with its new app redesign for iOS and Android. The feature relies on Amazon's voice-to-text service Polly.

Here’s our guide on how to get ‘Fortnite’ on your Android device

'Fortnite: Battle Royale' is one of the biggest games in the world right now, and it's finally on Android, even if getting set up is a bit long-winded. Here's how to play 'Fortnite: Battle Royale' on an Android device.

Save up to $1,000 with the best smartphone deals for October 2018

Need a better phone but don't want to spend a fortune? It's never a bad time to score a new smartphone and save some cash. We rounded up the best smartphone deals available that can save you as much as $1,000.

Put your iPad Pro to the test with these great games

Did you recently purchase a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, or are you enjoying the 12.9-inch version? If so, we've rounded up a few of the best iPad Pro games currently available on Apple's mobile platform.