In a demo this afternoon, Walt and Kara got a tour of a hand-held microcomputer, the LiveScribe Smartpen. This is another in a string of attempts, Walt notes, to add a simple computer to a penlike device that records words and can pinpoint their location in the recording when the user taps the handwritten version on a sheet of paper.
The “mobile-computing platform” (those are LiveScribe founder Jim Marggraff’s words) consists of: the Smartpen, a fountain-pen-sized computer with audio/visual feedback and memory for handwriting capture, audio recording and applications; paper with Dot Positioning System technology that creates interactive documents using plain paper printed with microdots; software applications, including audio/ink capture, handwriting recognition and Internet connectivity; and tools for consumers and developers to create, publish and share new applications and content online. You can even store your notes directly from the device into a computer.
One application: A student sitting in a classroom taking notes can download them into a desktop computer and manipulate them in many ways. ( “So one student in a class of 150 could come take notes and sell them to 150?” Walt asked. “What a country.”) That same student can archive the notes and search them for review purposes (cramming for an exam), as well as searching the recorded audio version of those notes.
But Walt wondered about the special notebook paper you have to buy in order to use the device. ( “The pen is free when you buy the paper,” Walt quipped.) Marggraff noted that the paper would cost about what regular paper does, so that shouldn’t be an issue. And the Smartpen will even tell you when you need to buy more.
The Smartpen will be available this fall. Projected cost: less than $200.