Livescribe 1GB Pulse™ Smartpen

I recently purchased the 1GB pulse smart pen. In this bog, I want to focus on my initial concerns and reaction to the product.
I had two concerns about the smart pen that I could not test before placing my order. Those related to the design of the pen and it’s recording quality. I was worried that the pen would feel awkward and bulky and that the recording might not be as good as advertised on the product website. After viewing all the demos on livescribe.com, I decided to take a chance and proceed with the purchase of the smart pen.

The cost of  $149.95 was reasonable for what it was promising to deliver. I felt that it would be a valuable tool to use in a virtual work environment. What excited me about the smart pen was partly the interactive note taking ability and mostly the focus on how this might help enhance collaboration and concept sharing. I wondered what it would be like to share and transform design concepts in an interactive manner where others would not only see the end result of a design but be part of the thinking process that went into it. They could then share their thinking in a similar manner, go back in time and hear my voice as I was outlining a concept for a design. The possibilities were too exciting for me to ignore this technology and not place the order. So I did.

After 4 week wait, the Pulse smart pen arrived at my door. I eagerly opened the box to find a well-designed pen with setup instructions. I couldn’t wait to get started. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pen fit comfortably in my hand. I didn’t feel constricted or awkward when I began to interact with it. The user experience in regard to setting up the device was fantastic, simple and to the point and yet engaging and playful. With each tap of the pen, I heard myself say: “how cool is that” or “did you see that” and “I can’t wait to share it with…” I found myself responding with the eagerness of a child that just got their new favorite toy. It was great, I was beginning to worry and think that this is too good to be true.

As I continued to interact and setup my pen and explore all the various features, I was impressed with the sound quality of the recordings. Whenever I was not sure about a task, there was an icon that I could tap on that would give me clear, simple and straightforward instructions. What a relieve; somebody actually has taken the user experience into account here. The entire setup process of the pulse smart pen was excellent in its simplicity and ability to engage the user in play. My compliments on the team that design this, it really is fantastic from a device standpoint, marketing and branding message.



Another aspect that I found very interesting in regard to the integration of the device into ones life was the integration of 3D audio. Imagine, you don’t only record what is happening in the room but can also define where a particular sound is coming from. If someone were to sit behind you and begin talking, you would sense that in the playback of the recording. It gave the sense of actually being there in time and really did create a 3D experience of space and time.

Once my Pulse smart pen was set up, I was ready to just doodle and explore the navigational schema. It too was as intuitive and fun as the previous setup process. I was fascinated to be able to draw a menu anywhere on my page and have it actually be recognized by my pen. I felt a sense of freedom of choice and a sense of integration that I have not experienced before. It really did feel like I had access to technology that was seamless and transparent and yet empowering me to be creative and unique in my expression.


Unfortunately, there were a couple of shortcomings that I will go into more detail with in the next blog. Those relate to actual audio recording quality and the software UI design. The audio recording constraints were somewhat expected. When I was just recording my own voice as I was taking notes, the sound quality was excellent. It still remained at a good level with three people talking next to each other, but when testing it in a conference room, the sound quality dramatically dropped. It was difficult to make out some of the voices that were further away. Surprisingly this is not a deal breaker for me since I have found a lot of other wonderful means of using this device in a more intimate setting that focuses more on collaboration then note taking in lecture halls.

What was more distressing is the UI design on the software front. It lacked the out of the box thinking that I had experienced so far. I felt that few of the navigational schemes and user experience/expectations where taken into consideration on the software front. I was disappointed since my expectations were set very high by now and this portion of the interaction felt like a let down. It didn’t capture any of the intuitive and transparent navigational schemes that were introduced earlier. There is a level of complexity and lack of intuitive play leaves the user much to be desired.

Comments:

Yes, totally agree on their software issues. The interface is clunky, and there is no flexibility in how you can manipulate your data. They really need to deal with data portability issues. The software just seems to limit you at every turn.

I think they've taken the correct tropes features-wise, but they don't understand that we don't like to be locked up in a box.

But am loving the pen, and am experimenting with how I can fit it into my creative work. WIll be an absolute godsend once they finally release their paper-printing and Mac support.

Posted by Sean-Michael on July 09, 2008 at 04:51 AM PDT #

When you were recording audio, did you use the headset?

The audio quality is VASTLY superior in a large conference room or lecture hall when using the headset. (You don't have to necessarily plug the headset into your head, just the pen; there's provision to hang it around your neck).

The stereo microphones in the headset work really well, and often I can hear things on the recording that I wasn't able to pick out live.

The description you give about matches my experience with using the built-in microphones on the pen itself.

Posted by Bob Kerns on July 10, 2008 at 03:58 PM PDT #

I just did some test using the headset and you are absolutely correct, the recording is excellent.
I even went back to previous notes that I took and listened to them with the headset and couldn't believe the difference.
It's absolutely fantastic. Thank you for pointing this out to me.

Posted by Soraya Younossi on July 11, 2008 at 06:29 AM PDT #

I found a coupon that gets you 10% off if you purchase the pen online. Also, I hear that the product is now being shipped without delay. Sorry I didn't tell you earlier, but maybe this will be useful for other people.

Go to the www.livescribe.com/store, enter the code PulseBTS10 into the coupon field, and then click update!

Hope this helps.

Posted by Arron on July 18, 2008 at 04:35 AM PDT #

Thanks for the blog and the comments.
I am about to order one online and was looking for some "normal people" reviews.

Sounds like this may be the answer to the bio-mech notes I'll be taking in the fall...
And the answer to the documentation of my massage therapy clients.

And thanks for the coupon! Hopefully they'll bust out software updates soon!

Posted by Beth on July 23, 2008 at 09:18 AM PDT #

looking for posts

Posted by lisabeth on August 03, 2008 at 04:09 AM PDT #

I am a student at Arizona State University. I was looking for an additional tool to use when taking notes in class and trying to recall everything that was said. Right now i try to digital record my classes, but sometimes i forget to turn the recoreder on and when i listen back to them sometimes it is hard to understand what is going on. I was wondering if the pen was worth the money, and if you think it would be useful fo what i am trying to accomplish. i will be checking back later, thanks for all the opinions and comments!!

Posted by Amandia McCarty on August 29, 2008 at 05:21 AM PDT #

Amanda -
YES! Totally worth it!
I can't tell you how much it has helped me just in the recording factor.
It's a small investment, but worth every penny!

Posted by Beth on August 29, 2008 at 10:43 AM PDT #

I'm a mother of a 16 year son. He has always had a difficult time taking and keep his notes organizaed. I bought the pen for him and I'm noticing excellent results. He is able to keep track of his assignments; recall information from the lectures; and he is able to participate in class because he can recall the course discuss. The pen may not solve world hunger but it has saved my son. I would recommend the pen to all parents. Just one mom's opinion...

Posted by Lajj on September 22, 2008 at 04:17 AM PDT #

Fantastic blog thank you. I am investigating the product and your reviews were very useful.

Posted by Jodie James on October 15, 2008 at 09:22 PM PDT #

can you free up space in the pen by deleting old recordings? i am getting a vibe that recording is irreversible. please someone shed light to this.

Posted by christina on November 13, 2008 at 12:53 PM PST #

There's an archive function. It was not present in the first version of the desktop software, but was added a while back. Archived recordings are still present in the desktop software, but not on the pen.

Posted by Bob Kerns on November 13, 2008 at 01:19 PM PST #

thanks bob!
i was reading forums about the pen and heard its a hassle combining sessions on one page (the dot paper), how true? say im scribbling for performance meeting and then the following day on to a financial meeting i have to use a new page even if i still have plenty of space on the page? would the audio keep up with the new session?
im planning on buying one but for work.

Posted by christina on November 13, 2008 at 01:41 PM PST #

Hi

Thanks for the exciting review.
I got one question regarding the Livescribe pen concept, to make normal notes at meetings are normally not a problem, but to have a meeting recorded in audio form into the Livescribe pen is a different situation.

Do you think that with such a device like the Livescribe pen, one shall always ask for permission from everobody in the room, before using it?

Posted by Martin Olesen on November 15, 2008 at 06:40 AM PST #

I’ve read your blog post of the Pulse smartpen and wanted to share some new commercial and demo videos that we just uploaded to the Livescribe YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/nevermissaword

From now until 12/31/08, you can get 5% off a Pulse smartpen at www.livescribe.com by using SCRIBE5A50 at checkout. Thanks, and enjoy the videos!

Posted by Ryan on November 20, 2008 at 07:16 AM PST #

Does the cost of paper and refill ink negate the glory of the pen with the constant need for the replenishing of the two? I am a high school student and I take lots of notes between my eight courses including two college courses that I am taking that are solely based on the teacher lecturing and the students taking notes?
I don't have a surplus in money and nor do my parents with the economy. Thanks!

Posted by Jane on November 29, 2008 at 12:13 PM PST #

I am a salesrep, thinking about purchasing a smartpen to write and archive client related notes. Does anyone have any feedback on how the pen and the software work specifically on written notes?(not recorded notes) Is it worth the investment? How easily will I be able to organize notes?

Posted by Kathy on November 30, 2008 at 06:18 AM PST #

i just got one ill let u know how thgs go

Posted by guest on January 29, 2009 at 11:59 AM PST #

Q: Christina asked about combining sessions on one page.

A: Yes, that works fine. You just need to make a visual distinction so you know what you're looking at, and where to click. Or you can leave it blank, so you can come back and add notes, perhaps while re-listening (you can add notes while listening, and they're tied to the audio you're listening to in the same way as the original notes).

Q: Jane asks about the cost of paper and ink.

A: The paper and ink are reasonable, basically ordinary cost for such items. The main drawback is that you're limited to what they offer. You can print your own now, but that's limited, too. Still, they offer a reasonable basic selection that are good enough for most needs.

Q: Kathy asks about using the pen for purely written notes.

A: I actually use it more for that than for audio. Whether it's worth it for you depends. I find it valuable extremely to have access to my notes, without lugging all the paper around. (To the extent that I use paper at all). There's a lot more I wish you could do. You can now export the text as recognized text via an addon (a serial number was attached to my latest pen I bought the other day at Target as a spare. A short-time promotion, I suspect, but it's not expensive).

Still, there's a lot more I wish you could do with it, including editing drawings online after drawing on paper, etc.

The facilities for organizing your notes are minimal. If you can type well enough on an iPhone, and find an application that fits your workstyle, that could be a good alternative. But that's more purely textual. The Pen is not ideal for this purpose, and neither is anything else. I think there's a generally lot of room for improvement for note capture and organization.

Posted by Bob Kerns on January 29, 2009 at 02:12 PM PST #

Outstanding product. I sampled two of the pens, utilize them in a mock development session and found several creative uses for the. I have since ordered 12 more. Just one great is the audio and the ability to send the audio file and the notes and drawings to anyone. Now they get to hear the processes used to get to the end product or decision and so on. Makes meetings far more productive.

Posted by Michael Loewenthal on March 18, 2009 at 09:15 AM PDT #

I'm thinking of purchasing this as a gift for my daughter who is graduation law school. Any lawyers out there using this product?

Posted by Wizzy on April 06, 2009 at 05:57 AM PDT #

I have a MacBook and have read that there were some glitches with the software, but that improvements were being made at the end of 2008. Any insight? Also I'm deciding if I should purchase the 1G or 2G. I would be using it for professional note taking and in school board meetings.

Posted by Mary Masters on April 07, 2009 at 09:35 AM PDT #

I was wondering whether to get the 1 G or 2 G. I am a college student and plan on using this for classes. I have a max of 4 hours of class a day. Wondering if anyone has any suggestions. Thanks.

Posted by Lucy Byrne on July 30, 2009 at 11:45 AM PDT #

As to whether to get the 1G or 2G, if you look at only the cost per gig, the 2G is better.
For the 1G, 1Gig costs $150 whereas for the 2G, 1Gig costs $100.
You pay 25% more, but get 50% more storage space...
unless money is really tight and there a better place to put that extra $50 I'd pay a little more for the 2G

Posted by Katie on August 05, 2009 at 08:00 AM PDT #

I preordered my pulse pen, too. Originally with the idea that I'd use it in school (which I do)and during meetings between labor and management (very useful). But the BIGGEST benefit has been at doctor appointments related to a very serious health issue. Overwhelming info is often revealed there and having it recorded to listen to after emotions have leveled back to normal makes this device invaluable! The audio quality is very, very good in every setting I've tried: home recording, office recording, conference recording and in the doctor's exam room. I would agree that the headset vastly improves the quality and detail of sound but the built in speaker is good too if minutae are irrelevant. Wish I had the 2 gig AND I wish they would offer to etch a name and phone number into the outer case much like iPod's can be personalized. Highly recommend this to anyone who takes copious notes that may need to be reviewed!

Posted by PJ on October 16, 2009 at 10:12 AM PDT #

I have been using this pen for just over a month now and I absolutely love it. I had been looking for something that would import my notes to the computer for a while but did not want to give up the “pen and paper” concept. I write all of my work notes in pen and even do diagrams and never had a way to share with my co workers as I work remote. This pen was my solution and even had benefits that I wasn’t looking for such as voice recording. The software is very simple to use and I really like that I can upload to the website and allow specific people to view specific pages. I have found the imports to be very accurate to my actual handwriting as well.

Posted by Technology Gadgets on October 28, 2010 at 10:12 PM PDT #

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