As an early birthday present to myself, I bought a Livescribe Pulse Smartpen earlier this week. It arrived yesterday and I’ve just been blown away by it so far.
The pen improves on regular pens in two key ways:
- It registers anything that is written on paper, effectively scanning my handwriting as I go, which means that as soon as I get back to the computer, the pen transfers it to the LiveScribe software for future reference.
- It records all audio in the room, which means I can take a few headline notes without writing down every single piece of information.
Back in university, I had some form of RSI in my right wrist, so I made it a habit to record lessons on tape so that I didn’t need to write everything. In reality, I could never find the time or energy to dig through the 3-hour lecture recording to find the 5-minute segment that interested me, so it was pretty much a pointless exercise.
With the LiveScribe, it all becomes much easier: Tap the pen on the headline note relating to the audio clip you need, whether it’s a title or a graph, the recording will automatically go back to that point and start playing.
Normally, I’d shrug and say that this is a gadget for geeks and will never reach into the real world. Past similar gadgets have existed and gone nowhere fast. The biggest difference? This one prices its accessories reasonably.
The pen itself is £120-£150 so it’s a small initial investment, but Moleskine-style notebooks cost about £1 more per unit than their traditional Moleskine counterparts, and the A4-sized school notebooks are £16.99 for a pack of 4. The paper is thicker than with the Moleskine, which makes me happy as I’m a heavy-handed writer. Next time I need to get some notebooks, I think I’ll get a 4-pack of the pink flip notepad which is far cheaper than Moleskine journalist flip notepads. (Plus it’s pink, wayhey!) The ink isn’t overpriced either, and in a pinch, since it writes like a normal pen, it’s possible to use the pen without the fancy paper (unlike stylus-based systems).
The pen does raise some interesting ethical and legal questions: What if I forgot to mention to someone that I’m recording our conversation? Or maliciously chose to record a private conversation? Of course, I have no intention of doing that, but the technology is now becoming available and affordable to people who aren’t MI5 or hired spies (albeit in a pen the size of a large cigar!) so we’ll undoubtedly be seeing these issues show up on the Information Commissioner’s agenda in the future.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a great new addition to my arsenal of tools to support my sieve-like memory and no one needs to worry about me using it stealthily. I’ll be too busy showing off the piano party trick it can do!
Now you can watch my first pencast below…
[Note: Before you ask, this isn’t a sponsored post and LiveScribe didn’t give me a free pen. I just am that much of a geek that I get excited over pens.]