I first saw a Livescribe pen last week. It looked very interesting, and so on Saturday I invested in one. (note that I never buy gadgets, I invest in them.) This time though I think I have invested in something really useful. If any part of your life involves taking notes (like for example as a student) then you should take a look at this device.
The hardware is fairly plain on the outside. A shiny black pen with a little OLED display, a single button and sockets for usb and headphones/microphone. You can write on any paper of course, but if you write on the specially printed blank pages that you can buy from Livescribe the pen will remember what you wrote. You can then upload your scrawlings onto a computer. So far, so conventional. But you can buy the paper in the form of bound books. Each of these is uniquely identified so that when you upload the pages they are already automatically filed by page number and volume. The pen tracks which book is which, so you can chop and change and it all just works. If you fill a book and buy a replacement with the same number you can archive that volume on your computer and start afresh.
So, at the moment we’ve got a device that will store and index stuff that you write. For me that is very useful. I like to write things in meetings, but I end up just losing those notes afterwards. With Livescribe I can keep track of what I’ve written and go back to it much later on my computer. The pen knows the date and time, so I can go back to notes I took at particular points in time. But then we turn on the microphone in the pen and things get really interesting. Now I can record audio of a meeting and synchronise it with my notes. Tap a sentence in my notes and I instantly hear what was being said when I wrote that. Flip the process around and I can record interactive presentations. Livescribe will even host these for me for free (up to 500M of content).You can even plug in stereo headphones with built in microphones to record what is happening in binaural stereo.
I’m impressed with the device and its potential. It is not that expensive to get on board. The fact that you need special paper is a bit irritating, but if you have a colour laser printer you can print your own blank paper and the books and notepads are not that expensive and well made. You can even get post-it notes that you can bring to life with audio extras. It also works with Evernote, which is something I’ve yet to explore. You can also load applications onto the pen, use it to make a piece of paper into a piano and buy a program that will convert your handwriting into text. You can find out more at Livescribe. Worth a look.