LiveScribe vs. Windows Journal

Bought a LiveScribe pen yesterday. Here's what I wrote about it when I first discovered it:

ARM 9, 2G Flash RAM, IR sensor in the tip, stereo microphone, OLED display - and a ball-point pen! $200. Position and velocity data apparently via coded dots on special paper (a mildly unfortunate requirement), can digitize notes associating audio with them for later playback. Desktop software does hand-writing recognition making notes searchable (this last feature is similar to Windows Journal). You actually draw the pen's interface if you need to interact with it; there are no buttons on the thing. Interestingly the company is going to ship a (Java) SDK for the device. Very interesting indeed - with a little custom software I'm thinking this could be an amazing tool for client consultations, or for marking up any printed material. Neat but probably useless demos include a piano you can draw and then play, and a foreign language dictionary that will pronounce a word you write in english in several different languages. Tablets are still better for illustration, though.

My tablet's battery has been flaky, it's WiFi hasn't been working right, and I gave my (very nice) voice recorder to my ex-girlfriend, so I decided to buy it for use as a note-taking tool. I've been using it pretty heavily for the last two days, and here are my first thoughts.

This pen is perfect for taking notes in a meeting. The ability to record audio along with your notes is very powerful. I'm still getting the hang of this style of note-taking. Being able to store your notes and audio on a PC for backup, search and review is potentially useful, but I fear data-duplication. Luckily the desktop tools are read only so it's easy to treat the PC as a viewable backup, and the notebook/pen as the actual data.

The pen is okay for creating and sharing simple expository videos. Unfortunately you can only share these with the Windows version of Livescribe desktop.

The tablet still wins for illustration and expository videos (just draw and talk, capture with Jing). It is not quite as convenient as you would think, though - you have to have some "dot paper" for the thing to work, so you need to have a notebook and a pen. Indeed, you can't use the pen as a simple voice recorder on it's own, because you have to have dot paper to make it start recording! I'm also concerned that eventually the paper buttons will become obscured and unusable.

A more serious issue with Livescribe is integrating the data into the rest of my tool set. The data is not file-oriented. One is forced to use yet another tool to search and access proprietary data. (Windows Journal is slightly more file oriented). You can export PDF and AAC files from the Mac client, but this is a) inconvenient, b) duplicates data, and c) loses information about the capture (you couldn't recreate the video, for example). The closest thing to a "true backup" is, ironically, the SWF files used on the community site.

An interesting tool, but in no way revolutionary.


Alientourist said...

Hi Josh! You have probably figured this one out already, but if not, here is an instruction of how to record audio without using dotted paper.

Just press and hold the power button!

Best regards,

josh said...

Thanks, that works nicely.