This past week, I picked up a Livescribe pen. I think it’s the most impressive gadget I’ve seen in a long while, though every now and then I have to stop to consider the fact that I carry around a 1 gigahertz computer complete with keyboard and touch interface in my pocket. I remember long ago seeing an ad for a machine for a 400 hz machine and thinking it was a typo – nothing could possibly be that fast.
Anyway, so, pen. The nickel tour is that it records whatever you write* and can also record voice. I had a microcassette recorder in college. I used it to tape a handful of lectures, and never listened to the tapes ever again. So the voice recording capabilities weren’t really a huge selling point.
What’s cool about the Livescribe is that it indexes the audio to your writing. So I can tap on a bulleted list, and hear the full conversation from thath point. Which is much more useful than having to search an entire conversation for the 10 second clip I care about.
It syncs with Evertnote, though not particularly elegantly. With a paid evernote account, you can search your notes (using OCR), and since I didn’t feel like paying for the Livescribe OCR add-on, that’s a win. Evernote’s OCR does an OK job of translating my half-cursive-half-print writing.
But, let’s get to the most important thing about this pen: it plays Zork.
Zork is a free application for the pen. It’s a direct port of the Zork we all know and love, and it uses the pen’s LCD window to scroll text (e.g. “You are west of a house”). You write your actions on the page, it reads them in, and then spits out the appropriate snarky Zork response.
The handwriting recognition is generally very good, but I had some odd trouble getting it to read the phrase “open mailbox.” If you look at the command list, you can see where I forgot to save and had to start over after turning off the pen. Modern autosave has spoiled me.
Saving/restoring is pretty cool, you draw a little picture (the circled 1 and 2) and tap it twice. Then you tap the one you want to restore when you go to load a game. Neat trick.
Overall the pen is a neat bit of technology. Maybe not a critical one, but definitely neat.
*provided you write it on special paper. You can print your own special paper if you have a nice enough printer, and even design your own special paper if you really want to hack around with their SDK.