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What are Smart Pens? An Introductory Guide

Are smart pens the next analog object to transition to the Internet of Things? What are these new devices entering the market?

For scribes and students alike, pen and paper might bring to mind an antiquated, analogue mode of writing. Still, there’s something more to the use of paper and pen than mere nostalgia: an inherent use-value that motivates us to transition them into the modern world of tech rather than retire them for good. So what’s the future of jotting notes, thoughts, or plot points to the next great American novel? Meet the smart pen.

What is a smart pen?

A smart pen is basically a pen that contains a camera, an audio recorder, and a built-in computer that enables users to record, save, and upload data. Livescibe Smartpens currently dominate the market with their main product: The Pulse Smart Pen. That said, since it’s built on an open Java platform, eager and talented developers have access to the source code they need to perfect or expand the design. And with the recent release of an enhanced model called the Echo Smartpen, we’re likely to see even more new and exciting developments in the near future.

Read More: Google Home and Amazon Echo: A Smart Alternative to Speakers

How does it work?

There’s an infrared camera at the tip of the pen that records what you write. Using special paper that employs a dot positioning system, the pattern of uniquely printed microdots are what allows the camera to follow and record the strokes of your writing. What’s more, there are controls at the bottom of the page that enable its audio features. To activate audio recording, you simply tap the “on” button using your smart pen. To transfer your notes and audio to your computer, you place the pen in its cradle and connect it to your machine. Once the data is uploaded, you can refer to your notes and audio tracks from your computer.

Why do I need it?

For reporters or students in particular, the recording feature can be really helpful. Once enabled, not only does the pen record the audio around you while you write, but it also aligns these audio recordings with what you’ve written at the time. So, for example, suppose you return to your notes later in the day and find that the meaning is unclear. All you have to do is tap on the confusing section of your notes and the audio will play back what was said (in this case, by the professor or in class) at the time you took those notes.

Visit the Livescribe website and you’ll find a growing community of people who have already begun to share their class notes, recipes, or the drawings they’ve created. Accompanied by audio, you’ll hear stories unfold beside these mini animations. If nothing else, it certainly opens the door to new possibilities of creative expression. What will yours be?