There are better glamor shots at livescribe.com, but for scale, here it is next to a Lamy AL-star:
What makes the Smartpen smart? Pretty simple. It combines a digital sound recorder with a pen. The trick is that it also synchronizes the recording to the writing. Tap on a word or heading and the pen will play back what it was recording when you wrote that word. Oh, and something really clever they call "Pencasting," but I'll get to that later.
It also digitizes the handwriting so you can upload it to your computer (Windows only for now, but Mac OS "coming soon"), and you can "play back" whatever you wrote/recorded on you computer. Great for lectures, presentations, Board meetings, etc.
You have to use special paper that has been printed with a matrix of dots so the infrared sensor on the pen can figure out where it is. Here's a closeup:
The sensor apparently has a "sweet spot" and when you're out of the spot, you'll get some "skipping." Here's what the pen actually recorded for the above:
I'll have to adjust a bit, but for the most part it has no trouble tracking my quick scribbles.
It also uses a special ink in the tiny ballpoint cartridge. The ink has to be infrared transparent so the Smartpen can continue to locate the position of the pen for proper playback. It would be great to have a fountain pen version of this, but almost all of the volume is devoted to electronics. Here's the refill next to a Pilot/Namiki Capless/VP nib and converter assembly -- it makes that tiny nib assembly look huge:
The writing experience? Well, hey, it's a ballpoint, and a fat one at that. It measures a full 14mm at the section (and weighs in at 36 grams, surprisingly 3 grams less than my brass bodied Pilot Fermo). But for what it does, it's certainly not as unwieldy as I had expected, and it hasn't wrecked my fountain pen hand. I can write quickly without a problem.
The other interesting gimmick is that you can share your notes (with clickable audio) by posting it on the internet. Shared pencasts lose the ability to speed up or slow down the playback, but it can be a fun and useful implementation. I'm still experimenting with finding the best technique for various uses, but here are a couple I've posted already.
Warning: There is a problem with getting audio using Mac's Safari browser, but these will work with Mac Firefox, and IE Windows. Give the audio time to buffer. The longer pencast, the NBC Nightly News, takes a longish time to buffer audio for playback audio.
You can full-screen the notes once you get to the page, and turn animation on or off, etc. At any rate, if you click around to get the idea.
Leonard Lopate Show: What Babies Remember. Around 10 minutes long.
NBC Nightly News for 6/27. Around 18 minutes, I think. There's an interesting new car rental/subscription scheme described on page 2 under "Gas costs."
SUMMARY: Not a great writing experience -- that's what fountain pens are for. But a very useful and innovative tool for writing into your brain. Not for everyone, but I bet there are a bunch of folk like me here who will be able to make great use of this. It's a toy that's actually a useful tool. How great is that?
Now returning you to regularly scheduled fountain pen programming...
Edited by HDoug, 29 June 2008 - 21:03.