Livescribe 1GB Pulse™ Smartpen
By Soraya Younossi on Jul 09, 2008
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.