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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4 Top “Back to School” gadgets for a new term

It is that time of year again where parents pay out huge amounts of money so their children can have the latest and greatest for the new school year. We also have the university students who are soon to be off in the big bad world. I can say with absolute certainty if I had just a handful of the gadgets available for students when I was at university, my life would have been so much easier. Well here are some gadgets to help you along the way whether you are preparing for your GCSEs or degree.


I don’t know about you, but my textbooks were enormous. Right at the top of my wish-list at university would have been an e-reader. Instead of breaking your back why not have all your textbooks on an e-reader? Most publishers are now providing digital textbooks. Samsung have released the Samsung E60, available from WH Smith, to rival Amazon’s Kindle. With 2GB of storage and Wi-Fi access, you can read books in PDF, TXT and ePub formats. The memory is expandable to 16GB. It also comes with a MP3 player and organiser. You can annotate books and newspapers and images by writing them. For students, this would great feature to add notes while in lectures. At £199 it is more pricey than the Kindle but for students, the ability to annotate books is vital.


Livescribe have released the Echo Smartpen. Echo, the successor to the Pulse smartpen, records audio and everything you write at the same time so you never have to miss anything from your classes. Built-in speakers can play back your recorded audio and you can transfer notes and audio to your computer using the USB connection. It captures everything you write using an infrared camera in the replaceable ink tip. It comes in 4GB and 8GB sizes enabling it to hold 400 or 800 hours of audio. You can use customizable Livescribe applications allowing you can write and email by hand or even write a word down and hear the translation in Japanese. The Echo is available from Amazon where the 8GB will cost £180 and the 4GB costs £160. A handy little time-saving gadget.


Language students should check out the Rosetta Stone, which attempts to recreate immersion – one of the best ways to learn a language. The Rosetta Stone is a software or Flash based web service that tests your reading, writing, speaking and listening. Each skill is broken into short little chunks – so you can do a 10 minute writing lesson, or a 5 minute listening test, making it ideal for a busy student lifestyle. The whole course is carried out in the target language – forcing you to learn and hammering home grammar and vocab until you get it. However the Flash based nature of the website means there are certain portable devices (iOS ones most notably) that won’t run, making it a little less flexible than it could be. However the Rosetta Stone people have assured us that they have noticed the relentless march of apps and are working on some mobile solutions.


Our top application to help with your studies is iStudiez Pro. Student life can be hectic juggling different classes and knowing your homework deadlines. iStudiez Pro offers a detailed schedule planner and a daily calendar view of your classes for the day and what homework is due in. You can view by week or month to plan ahead. Push notifications will alert you to any upcoming classes and tasks. Courses can easily be setup for a term and labelled with colours. This app will always ensure you are where you meant to be.

Remember: fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Good luck!