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CES 2009: LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen is my Top Choice For Best Gadget at CES 2009



livescribe We’ve already brought you a short demo of the LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen in action from The Digital Experience so before you get out the munchies to watch this GBM video check that out.

We got a chance to sit down with Eric Petit, the Director Marketing for LivesScribe, and go a little deeper into the Pulse Pen and some of their plans. The big news is that the Pulse SmartPen platform is an open one and there is a pre-beta SDK out there with over 2600 developers working on applications for the pen. After the jump, see why I this is my top choice for best gadget at CES 2009.

After seeing the briefing and talking about LiveScribe’s roadmap, I am very excited about what we have here. That’s right, you read that right, applications for the pen. In the video after the jump, Eric gives us quick demos of a translation app, an app that lets you play the piano on your notepad with your pen, and also the headphones that come with the pen.

A couple of points here. Imagine you’re a student taking notes with the Pulse SmartPen in a large lecture all. You probably already know that the pen captures audio while you are taking notes and for replay you can touch anywhere on the note and you will immediately get that audio.With the headphones plugged in each bud has a microphone in it so you’re picking up even greater sound quality. They call it the 3D recording headset.

Second, I am more than impressed with the translation app. Imagine writing down any word, choosing the language you want to translate it to, and hearing it pronounced correctly as well as seeing it printed out on the pen’s screen. (sorry that the video doesn’t show this better, but trust me it is amazing to see words printed out in Mandarin on that tiny screen.)

As a Tablet PC and pen based computing geek I am more than impressed. Not only is this an excellent way to take notes (granted you are using special paper in special notebooks-or you can print your own on the PC platform) but you’ve got that audio ready to rock and roll, in similar fashion to OneNote. But I’ve got to say, during our briefing there was another briefing happening not 5 feet from us and these microphones picked things up very, very clearly and without interference from the other conversation. Granted this was only spitting back a word at a time, but I see this a real winner.

The SmartPen will even do math. Type out an equation and the pen will answer it for you through sound and on the screen. Impressive.

With the Pulse SmartPen using 2GB of storage a typical student can theoretically save an entire semester’s worth of notes on the pen, and of course you’re going to sync them over to your computer. Syncing appeared effortless as you’ll see in the video.

I’m also impressed with the fact that LiveScribe is now platform agnostic and works with both Mac and PC. The data is completely platform agnostic as well so if you’re like me and go back and forth between platforms this could be a real nice solution. Can you imagine if this was tied via some application with Evernote? I think that would be truly amazing.

One of LiveScribe’s mottos is that this is a Tablet PC for under $200. (The 2GB pen costs $199.) I think they might be correct. Don’t be surprised if you see me or other GBM team members toting this around at CES 2010. While this kind of technology solution might not be for everybody, I’m telling you in my scenario of taking notes in theatre rehearsals, it is potential game changer.

Bravo LightScripe.



  1. mc

    01/10/2009 at 12:45 pm

    incredible stuff. i wonder why it only works with livescribe paper, though. the paper they sell on their website doesn’t look any different from reg notebook paper.

    anyway, VERY cool product.

  2. Perry

    01/10/2009 at 2:57 pm

    While I’m not a student, I do occasionally take classes or attend seminars or speeches and I love my Pulse pen. It comes in very handy, especially for longer talks at which my Tablet PC may not have enough battery life to last.

    Unfortunately, though, so far the applications for the Pulse are few and far between. They have very recently introduced a handwriting recognition package, for which you have to pay extra, but in testing it, it did not do a very good job with my handwriting. My Tablet does far better.

    I’d love to see some applications to upload from the pen directly into OneNote (as ink, not an image) and keep the synchronization with the audio. I’d also love to see an application that works with Outlook to let me create emails, tasks, contacts, on paper and have them put into Outlook when I sync the pen.


    01/10/2009 at 3:07 pm

    This is no doubt an excellent gem you have uncovered Warren, You guys are doing a fine job there at CES 2009. Wish I could be there with you guys. Maybe next year.

  4. C-141XLer

    01/12/2009 at 1:39 am

    Is this the same Pulse SmartPen that has been out for over a year now? Is there some change to it other than the promise of ink recognition (extra cost) and language translation (extra cost)? Didn’t they have it at last years CES too and it’s the same product?

  5. CharlesT

    01/12/2009 at 4:46 pm

    I know that Livescribe focuses a lot on students, but there are other situations where this pen does wonders: I’m a consulting engineer and conduct meetings in all kinds of environments, some of which are not computer friendly (dust, grease, dirt…). I’m usually the note-taker as well in these meetings – which can get overwhelming at times when ideas start to flow. The Pulse and accompanying notepad is perfect for these situations. The pen boots in less than 5 seconds, shuts down instantly and has enough battery reserve to last a few DAYS on a single charge. The ear set works very well and with the built-in microphones, provides me full functionality when conducting phone meetings.

    I’ll wait for GBM’s review before commenting any further…

  6. lark

    01/15/2009 at 7:49 pm

    I too am looking forward to the full review. While I like the idea of this digi pen, I would not buy it unless the notes are able to be exported to another program. PDF perhaps. Maybe the ink recognition will allow the notes to go to MS Word?

    I remember using my Transnote (IBM) years ago, and this pen is similar in design. However, Transnote support and paper just vanished. All of the notes taken, I believe, had to be in Transnote format. I would not invest in such a limited technology again, that is why the export ability will be a deal breaker or maker for me.

  7. Steven

    01/16/2009 at 7:47 am

    I hope you guys can get a review unit, for sure. We were expecting to hear from Sierra regarding the Z-Dane pen, and I was hoping you all would have a little pen subsection for the niche market. These could be a great mobility tool, as you are finding out.

    The issue I see with the Pulse, unless something has changed, is that you are not allowed to use the pen in multiple notebooks or even skip pages in a notebook to come back to them later. If this is still the case, then it is not going to be as powerful a tool for students as it is touted to be. There needs to be a way to have a divided notebook or to program certain notebooks to hold certain material- like OneNote Folders/ workbooks, etc.

    The concept is exciting, and I have been watching LiveScribe since 2007 when they announced the pen at Walt Mossberg’s digital conference. I’m nearly hooked, except for a few issues I hope you can look into for us and help get resolved.

    (And your last line, “Bravo, LightScripe” ???) CES hangover? :)

  8. LCS

    01/16/2009 at 4:06 pm

    Guys, there are tons of review out there already. Check out the other reviews first : )

  9. lark

    01/17/2009 at 12:32 pm

    Steven, you are right! Z-Dane pen was the one in which I had the most interest. I had forgotten the name. I believe I emailed them several times and heard nothing. My conclusion is that it was vaporware.

    The issues you identify are the exact ones I had with my Transnote. Although if they still made the paper, I would probably still use it.

  10. Perry

    01/19/2009 at 6:38 am

    The issue I see with the Pulse, unless something has changed, is that you are not allowed to use the pen in multiple notebooks or even skip pages in a notebook to come back to them later.

    You can use multiple notebooks easily. I use one for work and one for personal stuff. You can also skip pages any time you like. Those have never been issues with the Pulse pen, so I’m not sure where you got that info.

    The biggest problem I have is exporting the data out of the LiveScribe Desktop application into other applications. To get it out as text, you need to purchase a separate handwriting recognition software that doesn’t work all that well. I’d like to see more tight integration into the Microsoft Office applications. But since LiveScribe has released an API, hopefully developers are working on that.

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