Livescribe is one of those products that once you’ve used it, is hard to do without. If you need to take the minutes of a meeting, say, or record a lecture, a speech or an interview, it is the ideal companion. Now, a newly announced Android app makes it a much more versatile device.
The Livescribe pen works with notebooks of special paper marked with microdots. As you write, it records ambient audio, tying it perfectly to the exact moment of your handwritten notes. So if, after the meeting, you can’t read from your scribble whether the budget runs to £500 or £800, say, you tap the pen to the illegible figure and the pen plays back the words being spoken as you jotted your note. It works sensationally and has saved my bacon on more than one occasion when transcribing an interview.
In earlier models, the microphone to record the sound was built into the pen itself. In the latest (called Livescribe 3) the pen syncs with an iPhone or iPad and uses the superior microphone of the iOS gadget instead. You still use the special paper but, in another example of how the Livescribe feels slightly magical, as you scrawl you can see your handwriting appear on the iPad or iPhone screen in real time. Now you have another way to play back the audio – by touching the pen to the notepaper or turning the Livescribe upside down (there’s a special touchscreen-friendly stylus tip on the other end) and touching the writing onscreen.
And now it works with Android, too, in a development that many have been long waiting for. I spoke to Livescribe’s CEO Gilles Bouchard last week, and he explained that while closed systems (like iOS) make it easy to develop apps effectively, designing them so that the pen works seamlessly with scores of different Android gizmos takes longer, hence the delay for the new app. “It works so you can connect one Livescribe 3 to work with up to four different devices, whether they use iOS or Android,” Bouchard explained.
There are more features than just saving the audio alongside the writing. “We have a feature called Feed View which organises your notes into smaller snippets in a timeline. You can select one snippet on screen, swipe across it and it’s transformed into digital text,” he went on. This works pretty well, though you can edit the text as well if you need to. If you’ve scribbled down a phone number, it recognises this and touching the converted scribble offers options such as sending a message, adding to contacts or calling it if your companion device is a phone.
The pen isn’t cheap compared to a Biro, but it packs enough tech in to make it great value. The Livescribe 3 is £129.99 and earlier models are cheaper. You get a book of the special paper you need to make it work. Refill pads are available in designs from notebooks to Moleskine-like journals and you can even print your own micro-dotted paper if you prefer.
It’s hard to explain how effective this pen is, until you get to use it. As soon as you do, it becomes essential for accurate and effective management of interviews and meetings, lectures and more.Reuse content