Anyone used the Pulse Smartpen?

Costco has some of these for sale and I was curious if anyone had experience with them.

Their website is

It looks like sort of a cool thing, certainly someone here has fiddled with this type of technology!

By way of background: my son is an auditory learner, which is to say he retains information much better when he hears it rather than reading and/or doing worksheets. And this kind of “recording pen” was actually recommended for him after we went through some analysis of his slight LD issues. We didn’t pursue it, and his high school days are past, but with college somewhere in the future, I was wondering if this is something useful or if it’s still somewhat pie-in-the-sky.

I know I’ve seen other “smart pens” but this certainly looks like the slickest.

Oh, and if you know of something that’s better or perhaps more useful, feel free to suggest it. However, my son, while smart, is much less of a techie than most everyone here, so if the solution isn’t more or less plug-and-play, it’ll probably be more than he’s interested in using.

Hmm, my son who will be entering college next year might benefit from that too. You might want to shoot a PM to Jason Cross, since he’s a tech editor at PCMag.

Digital Pen = cool. Special paper = not cool.

Otherwise, it’s yet another step foward.

Yeah the whole special paper thing kinda sucks.

The campus computing store I work at (as the head IT guy) recently ran a pilot for selling this stuff. By that I mean one of our vendors in conjunction with LiveScribe/Pulse said “Hey, you should sell this stuff. It’s AWESOME in the college setting!”

I knew it would go over like a turd sandwich, if only for two reasons: special paper and the “promises” from the vendor and LiveScribe that they’d have student reps staffing the demo station to answer questions and sing praises (I knew that was hot air).

The manager and purchasing person thought it sounded cool, and we did have in writing that we’d be able to return anything at no cost to us, so I kept my yap shut.

As has been said, the tech is pretty cool. Having to pay for the special notebooks is less cool. It didn’t seem like the Pulse was all that hard to use/learn, from the “training” we got, but that’s 30 minutes and a mostly canned pitch.

Personally, I would lean more towards a tablet PC with Vista and OneNote. I believe you can probably get most/all of the cool functionality with that that you can with the Pulse. Bonus: the tablet PC is capable of so much more. Con: Much huger up front cost.

They’ve finally released non-beta Mac software to support this, and there’s downloadable and printable paper.

The problem seems to be that you need a colour laser printer to print it, with PCL drivers installed. From what I’ve read, the notebooks that you can buy from them actually work out cheaper per page than anything you could print yourself.

Still, this is fairly intriguing. I started my undergrad two years ago taking handwritten notes. A few months ago, I switched to the new MacBook because it was portable enough to always cart to class. I use Word 2008’s Notebook View with Audio recording to both type and record lectures. The problem is that I find that I’m so busy typing away, I don’t feel as if I’m grasping the material as well as I did when I was handwriting select bits. And I never listen to the recordings.

So, wondering if anyone else had played with this, and whether or not you’ve used it in an advanced academic setting. I’m thinking about it for grad school next year.

To be honest, it seems like you need better note taking skills and not more advanced tech.

I don’t know what subjects you’re taking, but when I went to college aeons ago notes was to help your memory of lessons learned, not to have everything said by the professor ready, if you needed it again. I’ve never felt the need to record a lecture - heck, I’m a journalists and I never record my interviews unless there’s a risk that my source will try to go back on a quote.

Regarding the pen, I have both the Nokia pen and the Logitech IO both using similar system of dotted paper. They were pretty cool, but I stopped using them because the pens were too bulky - cost of the paper never became an issue, because I had so much (for testing), but if I was in college I’m sure it would matter.
So for me to use the system - it would be aces for interviews and meetings - I would need a less bulky pen. This looks better, but still on the bulky side. Perhaps if they lost the recorder and display the size would be right? 36 grams is a bit much for a pen.

Good points, Hanzii. I half-agree with your “need better note taking skills”, I find that in courses I don’t really love (ones for my mandatory minor), I spend most of my time trying to capture everything the professor says. For courses in my major, I generally only type ideas I have while listening to the lectures. When exam time rolls around, I seem to do better on the latter, but there’s plenty of confounding variables involved there.

I’m a Psychology major, and I will be entering Clinical Psych grad school next year. We begin to do assessments in the first year, and note taking during meetings with clients is something that most professors encourage at the beginning of one’s clinical experience. I was thinking this would be a fairly unobtrusive way of recording a client session (with permission, of course, but from the permission point on, recording through the pen isn’t quite as obvious as setting up a mini-recorder). Your point about the size of the pen is well taken in this situation, as well. I really need to get my hands on one to see just how heavy and bulky it is.

All reviews of such things to date that I’ve read have suggested that they were clever ideas, but unusable and ineffective.

The sound recording is interesting, but I’m more interested in transferring my notes to my computer.

i read about this a few years ago in wired and it seemed awfully cool. i remember the guy who ran went to work for one company who did this and didn’t they end up releasing the logitech pen and that kid’s computer fly -pen thing?

All the tech sites are reporting that LiveScribe released an update to the Pulse today, it’s called the “Echo”. It’s improved over the Pulse in that it’s smaller, and it sounds like there’s going to be an update eventually that allows it to act as a tablet pen when plugged into a computer via USB, in addition to the existing ability to transfer handwritten notes and audio.

I’m still debating grabbing one of these, the smaller size is a big deal, because the old Pulse was clunky. The paper thing doesn’t bother me, I don’t think the cost is all that unreasonable for something like this.

So, I’ll put the question out there again, since it’s been quite awhile: has anyone been using the Pulse, or the new Echo, and have anything good or bad to say about it?