TRY, TRY AGAIN
Some readers may recall an anticipatory post I'd done last May on a new "pen-computer" device by a company called LiveScribe. Well, the product is finally shipping and David Pogue of the New York Times just reviewed the device. And the results are not happy for LiveScribe. First, more on the promise of the device:
"Jim Marggraff, a veteran of both Anoto and Leapfrog, is now at a new start-up company called LiveScribe. This month, it introduced the Pulse smartpen, which Mr. Marggraff says is the final step in his vision for “paper-based computing.”
In an anodized aluminum barrel about the thickness of a Sharpie, the Pulse has a camera, microphone and surprisingly loud speaker. It also has a bright black-and-white screen (18 by 96 pixels) that displays messages, menu commands and even little animations. There’s a nonremovable, rechargeable battery (6 to 7 hours a charge), a headphone jack and contacts for a U.S.B. charging cradle.
Oh, and it’s also a ballpoint pen.
The Pulse’s primary power is its ability to record audio while you write. Later, if you tap a written word, the pen plays back the audio it recorded at that moment. (Or, rather, what it heard five seconds before you started writing, to compensate for your reaction time.)
In the special microdot notebooks, the bottom of each page offers little preprinted “buttons” that control the playback speed, volume and so on."
And here's where David thinks the version 1.0 of the device misses the mark:
"Maybe that glorious age of “paper computing” will arrive, and maybe not. In the meantime, LiveScribe has a lot of work cut out for it.
The screamingly obvious limitation is the requirement to write on special paper. True, LiveScribe has priced the pads fairly reasonably ($20 for four 100-sheet perforated notebooks), and says that in June, you’ll be able to laser-print your own microdotted paper from a downloadable PDF template. Still, the real fun won’t begin until digital pens work on any kind of paper. (Iogear has one, but it doesn’t record audio.)
Another problem: when you use the pen’s built-in microphone, you record not just your own voice but also the scratching of the pen itself on the paper.
When you’re recording anybody else, or recording a telephone call, you’re supposed to wear the Pulse’s earbuds, which contain microphones. When you play the recording back, you get an enhanced 3-D spatial audio experience.
Unfortunately, these earbud-mikes are big, hard and uncomfortable. My first set didn’t even work, and had to be replaced.
I found software bugs at every turn — on the pen, in the Windows software and on the Web site. The company promises to fix them promptly.
Beyond the basics, the Pulse is also jaw-clenchingly hard to learn. This itty-bitty thing actually has menus and submenus.."
So we're not quite where the device should be at this juncture. I think I'll still wait for the unit I ordered a while ago and reserve judgment until then. But would have liked to have seen the eagerly awaited version leave a better first impression.