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Livescribe Pulse Smartpen


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9 replies to this topic

#1 HDoug

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Posted 29 June 2008 - 21:02

It's not a fountain pen, but I'm hoping this might be of interest of people who like writing instruments, students, and the compulsive journalers and note-takers like me. It's a Livescribe Pulse Smartpen. I think the three names follow the naming convention of the Apple iPod Shuffle, so from here on I'll just refer to it as the Smartpen.

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.

PENCASTING:
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...

Doug

Edited by HDoug, 29 June 2008 - 21:03.


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#2 Sharkle

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Posted 30 June 2008 - 00:38


Thanks, Doug, for this review. I'm not sure I completely understand what this does, but I'll bet it would be great for students and for meetings. It looks like something to have fun with as well. Very intriguing indeed, and I'll have to read more about it on my own. smile.gif

#3 zencowboy

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Posted 30 June 2008 - 03:36

Doug,

I have one and think it's great. It's very useful for meetings; I can pay more attention to people and less to taking copious notes. If something isn't in my notes, I can listen to the audio for the details. It will be even better when the OCR text-conversion application is released; I often prefer writing to typing.

It's not as good a writing experience as a fountain pen, but it definitely fills many other needs.

Jeff

#4 Brian

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Posted 30 June 2008 - 23:15

Thanks for reviewing this pen. I've been interesting to watch its progress ever since I saw their website. Maybe the day will come when it comes into its own.

#5 SamCapote

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 06:02

I have one of these, and it is quite unique and ongoingly developed. I find it enormously useful. The only downside for me is that it is a ballpoint. Here are my reasons for appreciating it. For me being able to have an online digital copy is less important, but I find this much more practical than a tablet PC/writing slate. Their specs are here now.
  • Very large storage capacity (180-200hrs of recording) before needing to sync and download to PC.
  • Your notes on the paper ongoingly correlate to that exact place in the recording, so if you want to go to a recorded sentence, or discussion of a diagram you made in your notes and listen to what was said again, it is as easy as touching the pen to your writing.
  • You no longer need to worry about catching every word, and can pay more attention to speaker. You can go back later and fill in more notes as you listen, and these newly written notes will also correlate to recorded audio location even if added hours/days later.
  • It has a surprisingly good built in mic that can be adjusted for various environments. It's not studio quality recording, but it lets me hear everything in the environment including low volume audio/voices.
  • Gives a lot of feedback options on the LED window with or without menu audio feedback.
  • Does have Intel-MAC capability
  • You can now print your own paper with dots on your printer if you don't want to buy their variety of notebooks.
  • Now have black, blue, red inks & a variety of notebooks in their store.
Here is a set of 5 video clips of why I like this. Must be why they have gotten lots of investment capital this year.
With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

#6 Hammer6

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Posted 01 September 2009 - 22:01

So, smart folks, how about a fountain pen adapter. Give the fountain pen experience, ink look and the digital capture/upload and I'm there!
Tempus Nunc Est

#7 Kamiyashi

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Posted 01 September 2009 - 23:05

I take it that it doesn't convert your words iinto text to important into Word?
Visconti: Aida 0/1871, Amigdala, Black Ripple 4/199, Black Storm 8/88, Blue Ripple 870/999, Blue Symphony 88/208, Carbon Dream 4/993, Chatterley Ripple^3 4/25, Custom Ripple 4/4, D'Essai, Gulliver, Homo Sapien, Metropolis 64/288, Millennium Arc 2/1000, Opera Aqua, Opera Demo 547/888, Opera Nordic^2, Opera Water^2, Pericle^2, Ponte Vecchio^2, Ragtime, Ragtime 1174/1988, Replica, VG Custom^8, VG Demo^2, VG Green^2, VG Red, VG Vanilla^3, Versailles 317/365, Viscontina 39/188, Voyager^2

#8 cchan

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 03:09

The livescribe links to your notes require registration.
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#9 HDoug

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 03:24

QUOTE (Kamiyashi @ Sep 1 2009, 01:05 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I take it that it doesn't convert your words iinto text to important into Word?


Not natively although once uploaded onto computer it will search for word(s) if your handwriting is reasonably okay. You can also buy add-on software that will... uh... that is supposed to convert your handwriting to text, but it has had so much trouble with my legible (IMHO) handwriting that it's not yet practical. I was using a trial version of... Iris, I think, for the Mac version.

Doug


#10 Kamiyashi

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 06:44

QUOTE (HDoug @ Sep 1 2009, 11:24 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (Kamiyashi @ Sep 1 2009, 01:05 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I take it that it doesn't convert your words iinto text to important into Word?


Not natively although once uploaded onto computer it will search for word(s) if your handwriting is reasonably okay. You can also buy add-on software that will... uh... that is supposed to convert your handwriting to text, but it has had so much trouble with my legible (IMHO) handwriting that it's not yet practical. I was using a trial version of... Iris, I think, for the Mac version.

Doug


Looks like I'll be waiting longer still for that dream product. Thanks for letting me know, though! thumbup.gif
Visconti: Aida 0/1871, Amigdala, Black Ripple 4/199, Black Storm 8/88, Blue Ripple 870/999, Blue Symphony 88/208, Carbon Dream 4/993, Chatterley Ripple^3 4/25, Custom Ripple 4/4, D'Essai, Gulliver, Homo Sapien, Metropolis 64/288, Millennium Arc 2/1000, Opera Aqua, Opera Demo 547/888, Opera Nordic^2, Opera Water^2, Pericle^2, Ponte Vecchio^2, Ragtime, Ragtime 1174/1988, Replica, VG Custom^8, VG Demo^2, VG Green^2, VG Red, VG Vanilla^3, Versailles 317/365, Viscontina 39/188, Voyager^2






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