Daily Giz Wiz 653: Livescribe Pulse Smartpen

Episode 653 of the podcast

Livescribe Pulse Smartpen
Subject: Review of Livescribe Pulse Smartpen
Released:Wednesday 10 September 2008
Length:about 26 minutes
Download file:DGW-653.mp3 (12 MB)
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Short info

Record and link audio to your notes with the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen.

Detailed information

From the creator of the Leapfrog Flypen (Episode 14) and its improved successor Fly Fusion (Episode 386), Jim Marggraff, the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen takes the idea to a higher level (both in terms of capabilities and age), for use by any school or college students.

At the tip of the Smartpen is an infrared camera, and as you jot down notes on Livesccribe's special Dot Paper, the notes are "captured" and turned into digital copies (PDFs).  What actually happens is that the camera takes 72 shots per second of 36 dots on the dot-enabled paper each time.  The (x,y) coordinates of each capture are interpreted by software to rebuild the image of the notes.  So it is not handwriting recognition as such, but rather a recording of where ink is positioned.  Livescribe calls it DPS - Dot Positioning System.

Two microphones on the pen itself record the lecture and the software synchronises (or at least indexes) the recording with what you are writing or drawing on the Dot Paper.  A pair of earphones plug into the end of the pen.  At the backs of the earphones are also 2 additional microphones which can record "3D sound", so that when the recording is played back, you're taken back to the same environment, with all the sounds around you recorded.

The notes and audio recording are stored in flash memory inside the pen (1GB and 2GB models available), which you can transfer to a Windows XP or Vista machine (Mac support being developed) via the Smartpen Dock (which is also a USB charging cradle) and the bundled software.

As you go over your notes, tap on a word or drawing with the pen, and you will be taken straight to the part of the recording when the word or drawing was jotted down.  Recording and playback controls are on the Dot Paper itself, with "buttons" for Record, Play, Pause, Speed up, Bookmarking, etc.

You can also store or share your notes online, on your "My Livescribe Account" which comes with the Smartpen (250MB online storage).  To see some of the "notes" posted online, and to try out the "synchronised" recording (pencasts?), click here.

The Smartpen comes with 100 sheets of Dot Paper, 3 ink cartridges and 1 stylus cartridge.  The website says that beginning in the fall, Livescribe will enable users to print their own dot-enabled paper.

Further applications are being developed, an idea similar to the Fly Fusion modules.

Totally Costly

Dennis Demarco got a new Vista machine recently, but when he tried to play the Totally Mad 7-CD set, it wouldn't play on Vista.  Desperate to see his favourite Mad CDs, he went and got an XP machine.  Total cost of CDs in 1997: $17.  Total cost of computer to play the CDs in 2008, $430.

There is also a DVD version, called Absolutely Mad, but Dick thinks that the CD-set has better indexing.  See also Episode 214, and makememad.com.

A Younger President

Leo bemoans the fact that if Obama gets elected, it will be the first time in Leo's lifetime that a US president is younger than himself.

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