Smartpens Wise Up

Category: Gadgets

What's a smartpen? Think of it as a handwriting instrument for the Internet era. The basic idea is to capture everything you jot down in digital form immediately, then manipulate it with software and store it locally or in the cloud. Some smartpens include audio recording and tie what you said or heard to what you wrote at the same time. The combination can be awesome! Read on...

What Can You Do With a Smartpen?

Typed text and video dominate the digital world, but much of the important stuff still gets done with handwriting and audible speech. Students scribble notes while listening to lectures. Business plans are mapped out on cocktail napkins. Fashion designs are doodled over coffee chat. All of that rough, static data would be more useful if it was digitized, indexed, integrated, and editable. Enter the smartpen.

For example, the word “address” written in a note about an upcoming meeting may be the only word you need to write down if you use a smartpen. Later, just tap the word “address” to hear yourself repeating the full street address as you made that brief note. The implications for lecture notes are obvious.

What is a Smartpen?

There are standalone smartpens, and smartpens that must be used in conjunction with other hardware. Some smartpens require special paper while others work with any writing surface.

Basic models transfer data to computers and tablets via USB cable, while others use WiFi to upload data to the cloud. Prices range from $100 to $200; some third-party smartpen apps may cost extra. Here are examples of the various breeds of smartpen:

Livescribe sells three smartpen models dubbed Echo, Sky WiFi, and Livescribe 3. Retail prices range from $119 to $199. The pen measures 5/8" in diameter by 6-1/8" long and incorporates a replaceable ballpoint ink cartridge, a microphone to record audio, a speaker for playback, a small OLED display, an infra-red camera, and internal flash memory to hold digitized handwritten notes and drawings, plus audio notes. Its battery is charged via an included micro-USB cable.

The Echo is an entry-level product that does basic recording and allows file transfers to computers via micro-USB cable. The Sky WiFi series integrates wireless data transfer and Evernote cloud storage. Livescribe 3 instantly syncs what you’re writing and what is heard to your iPad or iPhone. All three require special paper printed with a non-repeating pattern of dots that help the pen determine what page it’s on and where on the page it is.


The Equil JOT does not require special paper, but it records only handwriting not audio. It’s compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows. Instead of cramming processor and flash memory into a fat, heavy pen, the JOT is a comfortable, normal sized pen that communicates wirelessly with a slim little box perched at the top of your writing surface. Both devices fit into a trim carrying/recharging case. It cost $150.


The WACOM Inkling smartpen is similar to the Equil JOT, but it’s designed for sketches as well as handwritten words. One can create layers of drawings, annotate and edit them, enrich them with colors, and so on. The Inkling is integrated into the ASUS VivoTab Note 8, a Windows 8 tablet, or can be purchased separately for as little as $99.

WACOM has been recognized for many years by graphic artists one of the premier names in digitizing tablets. They also offer the Bamboo stylus which lets you take notes or sketch on your iPad or Android tablet. The optional Bamboo Pad lets you save your work to a PC or Mac computer. The Intuos Creative Stylus, is a professional-grade stylus for the iPad. This pressure-sensitive pen lets you draw, sketch, and paint on your iPad with the artistic control of traditional tools. The "palm rejection" feature means that you can rest your palm on the drawing surface without making unwanted marks.

Have you tried a smartpen? Can you imagine any creative uses for a gadget like this? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 12 May 2014


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Most recent comments on "Smartpens Wise Up"

Posted by:

Ken
12 May 2014

I am glad to see technology advancing beyond the CrossPad. I bought one of those years ago but rarely used it because it was bulky to carry around the special notepad it used. Great idea, just poor execution.

I'll look into these pens now that I am aware they exist.

Thanks!


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
12 May 2014

Around the year 2000 ... I bought, for a dear close friend, a WACOM PenPartner USB Model. She is a real artist, who loves to paint with oils and I thought, she could use this, to sketch out some ideas. She was amazed, that I thought about her. Must say, she found many practical uses for this PenPartner.

In looking over the User's Manual ... I saw the "notice" of beware with TV & Radio interference and it still is a warning, to this day. The size of the "tablet" working area, I think was smaller, than most of them today. In looking at the User's Manual, it states the Active area was about 5" by 4". The thing, I remember the most was that, it was a USB product and it had a CD-ROM Disc for installation, instead of the original Floppy Disks. What amazes me, the basics of the PenPartner, is still within the products selling today. I think that, says a lot about the company.

Oh, the shades of days, gone by. When, I gave that to her, both of us were running Win 98! Now, she had a better computer than I did, at the time. Eventually, I surpassed her, with a faster and more memory computer. :)


Posted by:

J I Means.
12 May 2014

Thanks Bob. I've had my eye on a Lifescribe for quite some time. I attend a lot of lectures & those looked like a good way to take notes. I enjoyed the additional info on the other such items.


Posted by:

Doug
12 May 2014

I have tried the Livescribe. The technology is impressive, but the problem comes with conference calls. If I wear a headset, then the pen can't hear the rest of the call. Livescribe could build a plug for this, but they cite privacy concerns. I find that hard to swallow as the call could have been on a speakerphone and it would have the same net result. Beyond this quirk, the livescribe was really pretty cool.


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