Tools & Technologies

Livescribe 3

Last week the team at Livescribe announced the third iteration of the Livescribe pen. In its first iteration, when the pen was used with special Livescribe dot paper, you could take notes and associate an audio recording made with the pen with each part of the writing. That is, as you wrote and talked, the pen inked what you were writing but also recorded what you (or other people in the environment) were saying. Touching the pen to something you had written on the page caused the pen to play back the audio that was recorded while you were originally writing that line / word / phrase. It was a pretty amazing technology. The second iteration emphasised wireless delivery of your notes and recordings to Evernote or similar tools. The third iteration pairs the Livescribe pen with an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. As you write on the Livescribe dot paper, your pen annotations and any associated recordings are displayed in real time on the screen. It also converts handwritten text to typed text.

I have used a Livescribe v1 pen during interviews with clients, large meetings, and for personal note taking. One standout example for me was a 90 minute meeting with a new client, where the client talked about the upcoming collaboration strategy and approach at his firm. I created a detailed mind map during the meeting, enabling me to “listen through my fingers,” but was also recording the discussion through the pen. That was helpful in the following months as I replayed various parts of that first meeting in preparation for follow-on discussions.

With respect to the v3 pen and concept, I’m having conflicting reactions. On one hand it is a good joining of the analog and digital worlds, and since the iPad lacks a stylus that works for capturing fine-grained writing (iPad styluses are more like crayons than pens), this could be a good way of overcoming that limitation. And it is a good way of using the unobtrusiveness of paper for note taking during a meeting, combined with the perpetual storage of those notes and the discussion recording on an iPad (or similar). On the other hand, if this is the big selling point, why not just get rid of the paper altogether, and create an app and Livescribe stylus that actually works for fine-grained writing on the iPad. Maybe that’s a longer term goal though, and requires Apple to do a bit more engineering on the iPad to make that work out.

Will I buy one? No. I’m more than happy with my Livescribe v1. But if you haven’t experimented with the Livescribe technology yet, go for it. It’s worth buying one as a research and development project to see what’s possible. I look forward to hearing your experiences.

Categories: Tools & Technologies