Review: Pulse Smartpen

The Pulse Smartpen by Livescribe is a pretty amazing piece of technology.  When I first heard we were getting a few at work to try out, I was skeptical.  I thought it was going to be a bulky pen that would make you stick out like a sore thumb when using it.  I thought there was no way this was going to be something that students, and especially professionals would use.

Well after playing around with it for awhile, I was sold.  The pen is very small and weighs much less than I thought, 1.3 oz.  It is not much larger than a regular pen.  It has a small screen on it, which allows you to scroll through menu items.  The basic premise of the pen is that it records what you are writing in addition to what is being said at that time.  So, if I am taking notes during class or in a meeting, I am not only taking paper notes, I am also recording what was being said while I was taking the notes.

The pen has to be used with special dot paper, which allows the infrared camera on the bottom of the pen to record and store your writings.  There is also a built in microphone, which allows for mono recording and a 3-D recording headset, which allows for stereo recording.  Audio playback can be done using either the built in speaker or the headset.

Along with the ability to record your notes and the audio that goes along with it, there are some other features that are worth noting about the Smartpen.  One of my personal favorites is the piano feature.  It allows you to draw a piano on your paper and play songs using your Smartpen.  The Smartpen comes with ink cartridges as well as a stylus for your pen.  So, if you don’t want your piano to get marked up when you are playing songs, you can swap the ink cartridge out for the stylus.  It also comes with a built in translator.  It will translate to Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, and Swedish.  The pen only comes with a 20 word demo, but the full translation package is to be available soon.

The dot paper notebooks come with a sheet of stickers, which includes a scientific calculator.  This means you can take and stick the calculator on anything so you can always have access to a calculator.  You punch the buttons with the pen, and because the calculator is printed on the special dot paper, the pen knows which numbers you are pushing and then displays the answer on the screen.  This is another cool feature that Livescribe has made available.

Once you are ready to transfer your notes to your computer, you simple place the pen in the USB cradle and it will upload to the Livescribe Desktop software.  From there, you can use the Page Viewer to search, view, and replay notes.  You then can upload your notes to Livescribe’s Online Community where you have 250MB of online storage for your notes.  From the online community, you can share your notes with the community as well as with sites such as Facebook, which I think is pretty cool.

Up until today, the Smartpen has been a Windows only product, but today, they announced the public beta of the Mac desktop application.  They also announced some new feature for the pen, including handwriting to text transcription software and the ability to print out dot paper from a LaserJet printer for free.

The pen is available in a 1GB and 2GB model, with the 1GB model holding 100 hours of audio.  The 1GB model is available for $149.95, and the 2GB for $199.95.

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you can actually print the special dot paper for free now. it’s a good pen, and i’ve used it for the last semester of college. love it! and for anyone that’s interested, livescribe’s offering a 10% discount with free shipping when you use the code: SCRIBE5A20 on their website to order it. i don’t know how long it’s going to last, but i hope this helped

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