With so much recent press focusing on tablets and mobile computing, I thought I'd throw a curve ball. I attend a number of meetings where it is not really appropriate to have a computer in front of me, yet I am able to take electronic notes, simultaneously record the conversation (with participant's permission of course), then upload the notes and recording and have the participants access these meeting notes from the web - all without a computer at the meeting.
The "tablet" I'm talking about about is a pad of paper (hence the tree reference), but the real magic is what is in my hand. It's the pen that contains the computer. The Livescribe Echo pen is a remarkable tool that fills the gap between your moleskin journal and your computer. Designed by Jim Marggraff , (who also invented the Leapfrog pen) it was conceived in his time at MIT where he sat through lectures equivalent to drinking from a firehose. Wouldn't it be great if he could easily record the lecture, then have the recording tracked to the notes he takes so he can instantly go directly to the point in the lecture where the instructor talked about a specific topic? And what if you could upload an electronic version to your computer, then search for any specific word in your hand written notes, then start the recording there?
Sound too good to be true?
Yet another string of promises from a vendor's web site?
Nope. I'm speaking from experience. I've had a Livescribe pen for over a year and I've been able to do everything described above.
While I own an iPad, and have several computers at my disposal (Windows hybrid tablet models), the Livescribe pen is a vital part of my tablet / mobile toolbox.
At first glance the pen looks to be very much like the uber-pencil you were handed in kindergarten. Livescribe describes it as being the same format as a Mont Blanc pen, I like to think of it more like the size of a "manly" pen. Remarkably, it's well balanced and the size quickly ceases to become an issue.
The recording quality of the pen can handle an office, a meeting room, and even a large conference hall. The battery charge lasts several days of normal use, and the pen will hold hundreds of hours of recording.
The secret ingredient to the pen is the paper, which has a special pattern of microdots that let the pen record the coordinates of every jot and stroke. It comes formatted in spiral notebooks, journals, and even in a print your own version. The cost differential is minimal and you can have multiple notebooks going for different subjects, etc.
The power really comes into play when you upload your notes and recordings to either your computer, or the free storage area on the Livescribe online website. Your notes and audio can be shared as "Pencasts", and your notes are easily uploaded to productivity tools such as Evernote.
We brought in a number of these pens to Appleby College on a trial basis. We soon found a number of applications - from students who's first language is not English (they could easily review the teacher's lesson over and over), to the debating club, where students learned how to evaluate debating points using their own debates. The majority of our graduating class bought pens to take with them to University. And meetings? I never attend a meeting anymore without one.
Prices range from $99 and up depending on the amount of memory in the pen. The pen you will likely buy is the 4Gb Echo ($149)
It is said the average Livescribe purchaser recommends their pen to 19 people. I know I've beat the average.
So... while we are supposed to "Think Different", who says a tablet needs to look like an iPad?
More information available at Livescribe.com. You can order one in Canada at Smartpen Central.