Armen Chakmakjian

Pulse Smartpen and Livescribe Software

In Kindle, Social Media, technology, web 2.0 on January 8, 2010 at 3:02 am

So I got one of these for Christmas, Thanks Honey!

Of course the technology is neat, and on that alone I’d at least play with it.  For me it’s not just the technology itself, its how to use it with other stuff.

So for the not-so-technical, the pulse pen is a pen with a bunch of electronics in it.  It is used in conjunction with the livescribe notebooks, journals and pads.

The pen functions by writing just like you would in a normal notebook except that these pages in the special notebook have tiny little dots on them, almost too small to see with the naked eye, that help the pen copy everything you are writing.  When you dock the pen with your computer, the livescribe software reads everything that the pen stored and renders a page that has your penmanship there to share.  It’s as if the pen took a picture of what you were writing.

But that’s not all.  Since the pen knows where you are on the page based on those dots and the tiny little camera in the end of it near the pen-tip, you can do other things.  The pen as an audio recorder built in which means you can record your voice or whatever is happening at the time you are writing.   You activate the recorder by hitting controls at the bottom of every page that say record, pause and stop.  What you can do is hit record, start writing and it records whatever is being said or the ambient noise while you are writing until you hit stop.  If you tap on the paper near the beginning of the place you wrote at after you hit record, it replays what was recorded at the time you were writing.

There are also the necessary cool little apps like the movies in the led display on the pen and a way of telling the pen that you are a piano, draw a piano keyboard, then change instruments and record music and a rhythm accompaniment.

The pages that are uploaded into the livescribe software can be replayed and you can hear the audio associated with your writing.  The whole thing is pretty cool although it seems like a lot of work for just a cool hodgepodge of features.

The better part was how I discovered the sharing aspect of it.  First of all the pen knows which pages have been written on and in which notebook.  So you can have many notebooks stored on your computer.   You can (at least on the mac) pick a group of pages to print to printer or print to pdf.  This means that you can give somebody notes if they’ve missed a meeting or a class…but if you print to pdf, you can even do more things…

For example I was able to print to pdf, and then take the saved document and load it in my kindle.  That’s kinda cool.  But then I was taking a class at work which had a blog for us to share the info and I posted my notes after each half day to posterous.com and it renders the pdfs through the scribd reader which means that just like embedding a movie or a picture, you end up with a scrollable or page turnable electronic doc embedded on the posterous post.  OF course you can email the pdf to someone else too.  Here’s an example on my posterous

One thing I haven’t figured out is if there was a way to annotate the stored pages so that you can turn the pages (which are essentially pictures) into searchable documents.   That would be cool…maybe its there and I just didn’t get to it yet.  It seems like something that the geeks who invented this would have on the product backlog

The other thing you lose when you convert to PDF is any audio recordings that were associated with that page.  Oh well not a deal killer.  but if the audio was still available and the bookmarks were transferable through the pdf, it’d be cool to read the docs on my kindle and then have it render the sound…that’d be awesome (ok ok, when the ipad/islate/newton2.0 comes out I won’t need to worry about this right?)

Oh I forgot to tell you.  On the inside of the cover page you’ll see all kinds of things you can tap that are commands to the pen to present something.  battery life, memory available in the pen…and also a calculator.  Now this is actually kind of cool.  you have the picture of a calculator, and you tap the buttons with the pen and the result is presented in the led display of the pen.  not bad.

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