|Headquarters||Oakland, California, U.S.|
|Key people||Gilles Bouchard (Chairman and CEO)|
|Employees||approx. 100 (2011)|
Central to the Livescribe platform is the smartpen, a ballpoint pen with an embedded computer and digital audio recorder. When used with Anoto digital paper, it records what it writes for later uploading to a computer, and synchronizes those notes with any audio it has recorded. This allows users to replay portions of a recording by tapping on the notes they were taking at the time the recording was made. It is also possible to select which portion of a recording to replay by clicking on the relevant portion of a page on-screen, once it has been synced to the Livescribe Desktop software.
A Livescribe smartpen is about the size and weight of a large pen (5/8" x 6 1/8"), and is equipped with a removable ball-point ink cartridge, a microphone to record audio, a speaker for playback, a small OLED display, an infra-red camera, and internal flash memory that captures handwritten notes, audio and drawings.
The user can choose to record audio in addition to the handwritten text. Recorded audio is kept indexed with the handwritten text—tapping on a written word starts playback of the recorded audio from that part of the recording.
The smartpen allows the installation of as many applications as there is memory, and ships with several applications. If tapped on the correct images, it can function as a calculator, for example, or can translate words (the translator software as shipped includes only 21 words in a small selection of languages - as of September 2010 there are no public plans to make a full version of this translator available ).
Livescribe has made three versions of its smartpen: the Pulse, the Echo, and the Sky. The pens can store about 100 hours of audio per gigabyte. The Pulse, released in March 2008, is available with either 2 or 4 Gigabytes of flash storage. The Echo, released in July 2010, comes with either 2GB, 4GB or 8 GB of memory, is less round in shape, and uses more standardized connection ports. The Echo integrates with the Desktop software via a standard micro USB cable and can connect to headphones with a 3.5-millimeter jack. The Pulse requires a special USB cradle and uses a less-common 2.5mm headphone jack. In October 2012, Livescribe announced the Sky, which uses Wi-Fi to transfer the notes and audio to Evernote without using the proprietary Livescribe Desktop software.
Availability for operating systems
The product was initially available only for use with Microsoft Windows-based computers, but Version 1.0 of Livescribe Desktop for the Mac was made available via download in March 2009. It requires OS X 10.5.5 or higher, and was one of nine products designated as "Best of Show" at Macworld Expo 2009. There is no official Linux version at this time, however, there have been efforts to make the product work with Linux, such as LibreScribe and Smartpen-Browser. Livescribe has provided a user forum at the request of Linux users.
Apple's release of Snow Leopard caused functionality and compatibility issues with Livescribe's driver installation. On 31 August 2009, Livescribe released beta 1.2 which fixes all compatibility issues, albeit those who previously tried to install the old software would need to manually delete the old file extension.
Handwriting recognition functionality is provided by a third-party application, MyScript by Vision Objects Inc., which sells separately for $29.95. As of August 2009, this is available on both Microsoft Windows and Mac (Intel-processor) systems.
Paper, applications, and sharing
Livescribe's special paper that allows the recording of notes uses a patented dot-positioning system licensed from Anoto.
As with all Anoto pattern-based pens, the smartpen can only determine its position on the page when used with paper pre-printed with the dot pattern. Livescribe sells notebooks in several styles, and users can also print their own dot paper with a laser printer capable of at least 600 dpi. (A color laser printer is not required - a standard monochrome laser printer works as well.)
The Anoto pattern consists of numerous small black dots in patterns that are essentially invisible to the human eye, but can be detected by the pen's infrared camera. The pattern indicates the exact position of the digital pen on the page, and each page has a unique identity so that they can be distinguished from each other.
Notes and audio can be sent to other users as a "pencast" through the Livescribe Desktop software. The Livescribe Connect service, launched in May 2011, allows pencasts to be sent through e-mail, Evernote, Facebook, Google Docs, and other methods. These can also be saved as an interactive Pencast PDF that can be viewed with versions 10 and higher of Adobe Reader.
Livescribe developed a Penlet SDK to allow application development for the smartpen. The SDK was based on Java, and applications ran directly on the pen itself. Applications could display text and menus, as well as produce audio feedback. A Desktop SDK for Microsoft and Macintosh operating systems was also promised, to allow developers to access files stored on the pen.
On June 2, 2009, Livescribe announced the pre-release version of the SDK 1.0 for Windows at the 2009 JavaOne Conference. This was followed in December 2009, with the announcement of the global developer challenge to "...encourage the creation of compelling applications for the Pulse smartpen in 2010 and beyond."
On April 27, 2010, Livescribe announced the winners of the Developer Challenge:
- People's Choice Grand Prize Winner: nodewave MasterMind by Michel Bagnol
- Expert Panel Grand Prize Winner: Audible Healthcare by Charles Caraher
- People's Choice Category Winners
- Productivity Category: SwissKnife All-in-One by Michel Bagnol
- Entertainment Category: Sudoku by Chris Rogers
- Education Category: iDK Words/Thesaurus by Phil Trevino; SpellingMe by Brad Rippe
In July 2011, Livescribe announced the closure of its third-party developer program. Livescribe’s official reason for shutting the development program was to concentrate on "cloud access, storage and services." The closure of the developer program upset the developer community who had invested in the program, many of whom maintain an active campaign to convince Livescribe to bring back the program.
Use and reception
From March 2008 through July 2010, Livescribe sold 400,000 . About thirty percent of the customers are college students, while the majority are professionals in fields such as journalism, law, or sales. Some universities issue Livescribe's products to students with learning disabilities to reduce the anxiety related to note-taking.
PC World rated the original Livescribe Pulse pen 93/100. A September 2011 review in the Associated Press compared the Livescribe Echo pen to an iPad for the purpose of note-taking and concluded that the Echo is "the best tool". Livescribe was named one of BusinessWeek's "Fifty Best Tech Startups" in June 2009. Awards earned by Livescribe include the Codie Award, the Editor's Choice Award of MacLife, and the Silicon Valley Business Journal's Emerging Tech Award.
Some users have noted that ambient noise can be a problem. The built-in microphone on the pen can pick up small amounts of noise from writing on paper, and adjacent ambient noise is often louder than a far away speaker. However, the included headphones have embedded microphones that reduce this ambient noise. (Headphones for the Echo must be purchased separately).
The smartpen's portable size and audio recording capabilities have led some people to question the ethics and legality of using the device. For example, in 2009, Delta Air Lines accused the manager of Atlanta's airport of using a Livescribe pen to illegally record a meeting of city and airline officials without their consent. The city of Atlanta concluded an investigation of this matter the following year and failed to find sufficient evidence that the airport manager intentionally sought to record the airline's private conversations. Livescribe urges its customers to "behave ethically and demonstrate common courtesy when it comes to personal privacy" as they would with common devices such as cameras and cellular telephones.
Some users have expressed frustration with the perceived lack responsiveness to requests for functionality improvements. Among the most requested improvements are the ability to print forms onto dot pattern paper and a day planner for use with the pen system. These requests began to surface soon after release of the pen system, however responses from the company are infrequent and tend to be perfunctory. Also, there appear to be design flaws with the OLED display on the pens,which fade after two or three years, effectively making the pen unusable since it is no longer possible to see if the pen is on or not. Users have complained to Livescribe, and the company's official response is to point users to tips on pen maintenance and then suggest that users buy a new pen at a discount as a replacement.
- "Livescribe Forums - Translator App thread". Retrieved December 25, 2010.
- Fried, Ina (July 18, 2010). "Livescribe writes digital pen's next chapter". Beyond Binary - CNET News. CNET Networks. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
- McCracken, Harry (October 29, 2012). "Review: Livescribe’s Smartpen Gets Wi-Fi, Embraces Evernote". Technologizer. Time, Inc. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
- Livescribe Desktop for the Mac, version 1.0 Released
- Livescribe Pulse included in "Best of Show" products at Macworld Expo 2009
- No Linux support, but Livescribe provided a Linux forum anyway, which was later removed.
- merlyn383; MNeto; maureen; spullara; schalliol; waldorfpatriot; oyvindsolstad (June—August 2009). "Snow Leopard Issue" (threaded discussion). Livescribe::Forums. Livescribe. Retrieved 8 April 2011.
- Jason; synaesthesisx; msi_list; gewappnet; morph00; odelljamie; pcharles; peterbwf (August—October 2009). "Livescribe™ Desktop for Mac OS X Version 1.2 (Public Beta)" (threaded discussion). Livescribe::Forums. Livescribe. Retrieved 8 April 2011.
- "Livescribe FAQ" (PDF). Livescribe. July 19, 2010. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- Anoto-THE PAPER
- Bonnington, Christina (May 23, 2011). "Livescribe Connect Shares Smartpen Notes to Facebook, E-Mail". Wired. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- "Livescribe Pre–Releases Platform SDK 1.0 for Its Smartpen Computing Platform". Retrieved 2012-07-01.
- "Press release". LiveScribe. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
- Livescribe Discontinuing Developer Program
- "Bring back the Developer Program!!!". Retrieved 01 July 2012.
- "Livescribe shuts down developer program". Retrieved 01 July 2012.
- "User Petition To Bring Back The SDK... C'Mon...". Retrieved 01 July 2012.
- "Posts tagged as ' Livescribe'". Retrieved 01 July 2012.
- "Computerized Pen Helps Students with Disabilities in Unexpected Ways". University of California, Berkeley, School of Information. August 16, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- Kronenberger, Amy (September 9, 2011). "Technology assists students' learning". The Daily Standard (Celina, Ohio). Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- Moynihan, Tim (June 20, 2008). "Livescribe Pulse Smartpen". PC World. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- Svensson, Peter (September 14, 2011). "Livescribe smartpen is iPad's opposite". Associated Press. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- Ricadela, Aaron (June 17, 2009). "Livescribe". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- SIIA CODiE Awards 2010 Best Education Solution for Mobile or Hand-held Device
- MacLife Editor’s Choice Award
- Silicon Valley Business Journal Emerging Tech Awards, Mobile Technology
- Stirgus, Eric; Yamanouchi, Kelly (February 22, 2010). "Spy pen jolts talks between airport, Delta". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- Note low ratio of participation by company personnel in previously cited forum threads.
- Livescribe, Inc.
- nodewave Smartpen Apps Winner of the Developer Challenge and provider of Smartpen apps connected to the desktop.
- The Shape of Computers to Come? at Wall Street Journal
- D5: A new pen for a new era at The Tech Chronicles, SF Gate.com