Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Heard What You Wrote Last Summer

Have you ever been in a class or a meeting where you were feverishly taking notes, only to later wonder if you really got it down correctly? One solution is to buy a pocket digital recorder and record what's being said as well as taking notes. But then you have the nightmare of matching up the audio with the text. it sure would be nice if you could automatically synchronize your audio and text. Even nicer if there was one device that would do that. You're in luck. There is.

The Livescribe Pulse(tm) smartpen records as you write. That's right. You write. It records. It's a pen, albeit a good size pen. It's about the size of a larger fountain pen or one of those fat rubbery ballpoint pens. But this is no low-tech ink squirter. The smartpen has a 96x18 OLED display, 2 microphones, an embedded speaker, a high speed infrared camera, 1 GB or 2 GB of memory, a rechargeable lithium battery, and a 32 bit, 150 MHz processor. That makes the smartpen smarter than some PCs still in use.

Here's how it works. The tip of this pen has the usual black, blue or red ink in a replaceable cartridge. But it also has a infrared camera that watches what you write. Now here's the trick. The smartpen needs a special LiveScribe Dot Paper to do its magic. This paper comes in lined notebooks popular with students and more professional looking journals. As you write on the dot paper, the camera tracks and records what it sees. You can later upload your pages and see them just as you wrote. You're not limited to entering special characters like a PDA expects. You can write, draw, scribble or whatever and the smartpen will capture it.

The second part of this one-two punch is that there is a stereo recorder running along as you write. It will record up to 100 or 200 hours worth of audio pickup, depending on how much memory your pen contains. I don't know about you, but if I wrote for 200 hours my arm would fall off. In fact, after 8 hours of meetings in one day I'm tiring of writing and listening. In fact, after 8 hours I'm not sure who said what, when. Ah, the smartpen doesn't get bored or confused. You tap it on the text you wrote and it plays back what it heard at the time.

Pretty clever, right? This pen is great for collaboration. You can post your writings and audio online for your colleagues. You can email your notes to a friend. You can even run searches for keywords to quickly find the exact content in your notes that you are looking for.

So cool, and not all that expensive. The smartpen is less than a couple of hundred bucks and may well replace a bulky notebook computer for many meeting situations. Is it right for you? Watch the informational videos and learn more about the Livescribe Pulse(tm) smartpen.

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