Livescribe’s Pulse smartpen is a computer inside a pen. Not only does it record what you’re writing it also records the audio and links the two together. By tapping anywhere in your notes it replays exactly what has been said when you were writing the tapped part. Finally it allows you to seamlessly transfer your notes to your PC or Intel based Mac.
I’m attending lots of meetings and regularly visit trade fairs. For years I’ve been trying many things to increase productivity. TabletPCs which promised to replace paper, PDAs which came with good or not-so-good Notepad applications and handwriting recognition that never recognized my handwriting.
None of it really worked for me and besides the fun I had with trying out all the new technology, I did not stick with any of those gadgets.
I’ve been following the company that develops the Pulse smartpen for quite a while. When they first announced their plans back in 2007 I’ve been pretty skeptic. Frankly, my thoughts about the Pulse smartpen have been in the “well, yet another digital pen solution” area.
When puristic blogger Stephan Hochhaus pointed me to the availability of Pulse in Germany I revisited their website – and got intrigued. I did not go for the unimall offer for various reasons. Amazon US grants me free shipping so I instead ordered the 2GB version directly at Amazon.com and four days later the Pulse arrived here in Germany. (Sidenote: Amazon’s logistics constantly amaze me. There’s almost no difference anymore whether you order in the US or in Germany. Besides a temporary advantage of the Dollar of course.)
The product is fantastic. It’s simple to use and fulfills all the promises it makes. It’ll definitely change my (digital) workflow and significantly increase my personal productivity. I’ve used Pulse in various meetings so far and having the audio recording linked to my notes along with the immediate availability of a digital copy on my MacBook Pro is just making things so much more comfortable.
I did not yet drill into some of the other applications like the Translator, Calculator or Piano. Livescribe offers a beta version of its Pen SDK and there seems to be a vibrant developer community already. I’m looking forward to seeing more innovative stuff coming to live for what I consider a really interesting platform.
By the way, here is a screenshot of Livescribe Desktop for the Mac. (As always please click to enlarge.)
The desktop application itself is excellent, too. It has working full text search. So you type in a phrase and it highlights it in all of your handwritten notes. The folks at Livescribe did a fantastic job when it comes to Paper Replay on the desktop. You can generally play back the audio by tapping your notes on the paper and the playback will be done right on the pen. It has build-in speakers that outperform those in your iPhone. :-)
If you listen to Paper Replay via Livescribe Desktop the application does not simply replay the audio stream, in addition it links it exactly to your written words. The result it that it recreates the live situation which is brilliant to follow up on stuff when you’re back in the office.
So you start with a grayed out version of your notes (well, with the default settings it is greened out, see screenshot) and while the audio plays back it slowly colors the words move by move, stroke by stroke. It’s a karaoke kind of experience.
If you’ve got to attend many meetings, order Livescribe Pulse smartpen today!
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