LiveScribe Sky WiFi smartpens: Joined up thinking


We took a look at the LiveScribe smartpen range over a year ago and I think it’s still one of the most impressive gadgets I’ve had the pleasure of playing with. It’s one thing to innovate with phones, tablets and computers but brining cutting edge technology to something as old and basic as paper was at the time mind blowing. I actually use a LiveScribe pen in my day to day life, taking notes in writing meetings and language classes and can attest to the fact that they are indeed very useful and worth the price.

However, despite being incredibly futuristic, certain elements of the smartpen seemed old fashioned – namely having to plug the pen in and upload data via USB (although I appreciate that that’s pretty new in terms of technological advancements). And getting my notes on to my devices was slower than I would have liked. There was an app but the notebook-to-app path was less than ideal. Fortunately LiveScribe haven’t stood still and have just released the LiveScribe Sky.

The LiveScribe Sky makes smartpen’s smarter as the built-in wifi adds connectivity to your note taking. Logging on to a wifi network is surprisingly easy, and there are stickers you can add to existing notebooks if you have already have older versions of LiveScribe. The stickers let you scan for networks and add passwords with relative ease.

Use is pretty much the same as it was with previous versions of LiveScribe. Simply hit record on the special notebooks and all everything you write and say will be recorded. There’s a sync now button on the special sticker sheet but this is normally done automatically in the background. Taking notes without internet access? That’s fine as the pen will just upload everything the moment you get back online.

The added layer of magic? LiveScribe will now automatically sync with Evernote so all your notes can be uploaded to The Cloud and are available on a range of devices. Evernote are pretty device agnostic so you should have access to your musings on most smartphones and tablets – as well as laptop and desktop PCs.

In practice this works pretty well – although it can sometimes take a little while for notes to appear in Evernote (and it’s doing a lot of work in the background so I probably should be a little less impatient. Having app-based access to notes is great and you can share from Evernote to platforms such as Facebook and Twitter so you can even make fun little pencasts. If you are a casual scribe this is not the pen for you but it you take a lot of notes then you should definitely take a look.

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Livescribe Connect: Skywriting with cloud-connected smartpens

I sometimes feel like I’ve seen too much. Endless product demos makes it hard for technology to really wow me. I still remember how I felt when I first saw Wii Tennis, the original iPhone or Microsoft’s surface table. A genuine feeling of “wow I’m living in the future”. After the endless parade of touchscreen tablets and smartphones over the past few months it’s genuinely refreshing to see a product demo that makes my jaw drop.


Livescribe Connect was one such demo. I’ve previously and foolishly written off (pun only half intended) smartpens as overpriced pens with tape recorders built inside. Livescribe Connect however, expands this computer-in-a-pen concept, freeing your handwritten notes and spoke information and releasing them into “the cloud”.

It does this through “connectors” which share your notes in a variety of interesting ways. Simply use the smart link on your notebook (make a sort of double line) and Email your note, send it to Google Docs, Evernote or Facebook. So you can make a doodle, quip or note of some sort, circle it and then have it upload to Facebook the next time you connect your pen to your laptop.

You can make a pencast PDF (using Acrobat X), send to iOS devices such as iPads via an app, and store your notes online in your 500 MB of included storage space.

Like all good things made in the modern age, the Livescribe smartpens come with an app store with a range of software to further enhance your smartpen experience. You can link to Wikipedia entries, get automatic translations of words or draw and play a virtual piano (the virtual piano is a gimmick but one that completely blew my tiny little mind).

This is also coupled with the UK release of two new smartpens, the £99 Echo 2GB smartpen and the £149 Echo 4Gb smartpen.

I’ve tried out the smartpen in a Chinese class, where having all the explanation of grammar points alongside my notes, which were then beamed to my iPad was amazingly useful. I then used it to keep track of edit points during a podcast I was audio engineering – both of which were fantastically useful application.

The £99 entry point for the basic Echo smartpen seems fair and if you are a student furiously scribbling note or are taking memos in meetings – or just want to carry your notes in the cloud then I’d recommend taking a look at the Livescribe smartpen scene.

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