If you’re still someone in love with the pen and were tempted to try a digital replacement, Livescribe has finally arrived for Android. Finally.
The gadget that proved the pen was still totally relevant has gone and received an update making it usable for more than just the iPad generation, and essentially making a digital writing tool platform agnostic, so to speak.
There’s still work to be done if Livescribe wants to own that title — paging Windows anyone? — but the update Livescribe is now making to its smartpen is a good start, opening up to more than just iOS, with the app now available on Android and working with smartphones and tablets.
That said, Livescribe has come a long way from the days when its pens had to be wired to the computer to synchronise what you had written, and we still have a few of these lying around.
Back then, the smartpen’s neato little concept was that it would use a combination of a camera capable of reading the carbon imprint made by the pen, specialised dot paper that told the pen where you were writing thanks to some uber small dots, and a microphone built into the barrel of the writing tool that would be able to match up what you were listening to — say a lecture — to what you were writing.
Later on when you were done scribbling your notes down, you could come back and not just see your notes, but also tap portions of the writing to hear what you heard when you jotted down that note, relying on your scribbles as a sort of marker for what was being heard.
Better, you could plug the pen into a computer and get what was called a “pencast”, watching your scribbles come to life almost as if they were animated, complete with what the microphone picked up being played in the background as it happened.
It was almost as if someone had digitised the pen.
But then came the smartphone and tablet revolution, and Livescribe wasn’t quite ready, trying to find the middle ground with a WiFi enabled pen. It didn’t quite work, and so the company went back to the drawing board.
In 2013, though, it built a solution for people living in the mobile world that still wanted a pen: the Livescribe 3, a pen that relied on Bluetooth to send the scribbles on the Livescribe dot paper back to an iPhone or iPad in real time, with the notes stored there, whether you had your phone or tablet out or not.
Provided they were paired, when you flicked the pen on — which you had to do in order to get the pen out — the pen would send its data to your tablet, digitising your notes in a flash.
There was a catch, however: you had to be a part of the Apple ecosystem.