Livescribe Pulse Smartpen
Save your scribbles
Review Who would have thought something as basic as the pen could be up for a geek-friendly makeover? The folk behind the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen, obviously, because what they’ve come up with is a pen which can record your writing and anything you or others say, and then squirt it all into a computer for keeping and sharing.
Livescribe's Pulse Smartpen: bye-bye, biro?
Out of the box, the pen is limited to playing back recorded audio through its own loudspeaker or earphones. To get anything onto a computer you need to download free PC or Mac software.
You can then use the bundled dock to transfer pages of writing to your computer, and download apps into the pen. Yes, apps. The pen comes with 2-4GB of storage and you can fill as much of that as you like with apps, many of which are free. There are foreign phrase books, unit converters and even the odd game among the small app library at the Livescribe website.
You’ll also need to download the Livescribe Desktop software to get access to 500MB of free online storage which you can use to share notes and audio with others online.
Dock the Smartpen to transfer your text
If you want to transcribe handwritten text into editable text, you need to purchase an application called MyScript. That’ll cost you $30 (£20).
Not about the PC
"The pen is a clever concept, but is there really any benefit to adding audio to what you could get out of a cheap scanner and document management software?"
For me scanning the document doesn't even come into using my Pulse.
The whole point of it is not getting the document to the PC, it's about knowing what was going on at a meeting.
As long as I take minimal bullet points I can get back to relevant points in the conversation instantly. Meaning I can spend much more time worrying about the meeting than taking detailed notes.
It also stops me trying to decipher what my awful handwriting actually meant a week later as I can hear what was happening when I wrote it.
Missed the point
I think you've completely missed the point of this device. There IS an explicit link between the ink data and the audio, such that if you write something in the notebook while someone is speaking, you can then go back, tap the pen on the paper and the pen will play back the audio that was recorded as you made those pen strokes.
The same is true when you have the files in the computer - if you click on some text on screen you hear the audio that was recorded as the pen strokes were made. If you hit the 'play audio; button the text that was written as the audio was recorded is highlighted on screen as you go along.
Uses? If you need to get something down verbatim and mess it up, you can just write a note such as "QUOTE HERE" and then later go back to the audio to transcribe "We're leveraging our synergy to accelerate our paradigm shift to cloud based virtualisation of our app store."
If you look online, the LiveScribe website also has some public documents which link audio and drawing/writing, so you get a sort of 21st century Vision On/Rolf Harris style 'can you see what is yet' experience....
audio text link
"Written material and audio don’t seem to be explicitly linked to each other. You have to physically find the audio note that corresponds to a page and can then play it back while viewing the page."
This isn't my experience, I have a few of these at work. With the ones we have, when you touch the text on the page playback of the audio happens from the point when that text was written. The same functionality is available from the desktop application once the data has been transferred.
I'd have killed for one of these things when I was at University.
Looks interesting. Personally I like a slightly thicker pen than the usual, but this looks a bit much.
Reading the review I'm left with a few questions. First, I'm a leftie, so does the pen support that? Both in display and in recording writing.
Next, what about open source? Binaries that run on linux are nice even though they are invariably for some outdated distribution on x86_32 only, but to really take off and build a community, source is much better. It'd allow people to support the latest dragon core netbook or android phone or let you sync the pen against your openwrt nas or what-have-you. The thing is geeky enough that it just might attract developers, except of course that plenty rarely use pens.
And of course, why is what looks like the main gimmick (`recording written material') only usable after buying an optional extra? Maybe that is why the review doesn't mention recognition quality at all.