FOR CHRISTMAS last year, one of my "geek" friends gave me a Livescribe Plus smartpen system. At first I wasn't too excited by the idea of using a really "fat" pen and a special notebook but I soon changed my mind. Eliminating all my colored file folders stuffed with papers that had notes from meetings, phone conversations and "to do" lists made me somewhat more efficient, freed lots of physical space and made the retrieval of notes faster.
Basically the smartpen is an ink pen that lets you record your notes in two ways: it creates digital copies of everything you write by hand and it can record audio at the same time. But the great news is it goes one step further by marrying the two together.
So, here is how I use it.
Let's say that I am sitting in a meeting of department heads but instead of writing down every word in some kind of "Warren"shorthand, I actually sit back and listen to the conversation because it is recorded by the smartpen. At the same time, I jot some notes in the Livescribe notebook.
The smartpen has an infrared camera behind the tip of the pen that captures 72 pictures per second. Using Dot Positioning System technology it remembers what I write or draw on the special paper, which is covered by tiny blue dots arranged in complex patterns. When I am done with a meeting I go back to my office and insert the smartpen in its holder and the notes I took on paper (and recordings) are automatically transferred to my computer on the Livescribe interface.
Once my notes are on the desktop they are automatically archived and become fully searchable.
The system has a calculator, translator and a paper piano that plays a mini piano you draw on paper. For the more serious user, Livescribe has an online service that lets you upload recordings and notes to the "cloud" plus you can share or even post content to Facebook (I have not tried this). The handwriting recognition software is solid and I can print or use cursive (my hand writing stinks) and the system performs as advertised.
All of these benefits, like most things, comes with a price tag. The initial system is $149 and extra notebooks are around $8.
So, after a few months of using the Livescribe system, I can tell you it is easy to setup, easy to use and that "fat" pen is actually balanced and even displays the time which can be used for those ackward moments in meetings when you are really bored and don't want to offend anyone by looking at your watch - just look down at your Pulse smartpen and get the time.
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