Here is one good reason that I take a ballpoint and a pad of paper to interviews, instead of a PC: so I never have to say to the person I'm talking to, "Wait, let me reboot my pen."
But that's what Jim Marggraff, CEO of Livescribe (site may not be live yet), told me last week when he was firing up a demo of his company's new product, the "smart pen" that he'll be showing off at the D5 conference tomorrow.
In fairness, the pen he was showing me was a prototype, and I forgive reboots during development. Also, it's a cool product. Like the Anoto pen and Leapfrog's Fly "pentop computer," which Marggraff also worked on, and also like Logitech's io2, the Livescribe Smartpen uses a sensor to record what it writes when you write on special "dot paper," which is ordinary paper with a faint encoded background that the pen uses to know not just what you're writing but on which individual piece of paper. You upload your pen's recordings to your computer when you want to archive your notes and make room for new ones.
The Anoto and Logitech pens are primarily writing recording devices. The Leapfrog pen has some smarts: it can solve algebraic equations that you write, for example, and speak the results. But it's a clunky, toy-like device. The Livescribe pen has smarts, as well as a speaker and an OLED display to tell you about what you're writing, and it's also much smaller and more pen-like. The most useful feature, though, is this: you can take notes and have the pen record audio at the same time. Later, after you've downloaded your pen's files to your PC, you can select text and get the audio that the pen was recording at the moment you wrote it. (I've used a similar feature in OneNote, but it requires you write or type on a PC.) Bonus geek feature: the pen comes with in-ear binaural mics for recording audio, so playback of a professor's speech should come through clearly (along with your swallowing and breathing, but what price education?).
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