Jag Venugopal's Blog

March 17, 2010

Livescribe losing focus?

Filed under: Digital Living — Jag @ 3:28 pm

I’m an owner of Livescribe’s Pulse Smartpen. I like it for what it does, and was hoping for the one feature that many will want: the ability to print your own documents with a dot pattern overlay. This will allow users to take printouts to meetings, annotate the printouts with their pen, and save the results back to their desktop.

The functionality is available today, from Livescribe’s licensor, a company known as Anoto. There is one catch, though. They license the dot pattern for 10 cents/page. Those printouts that you want to annotate suddenly get very expensive. It is unlikely that Anoto will let go of their pattern licensing strategy. Ergo, it is unlikely that LiveScribe will provide the ability to create printouts with the dot pattern overlaid on them for annotation.

What is disappointing is that Livescribe has focused for the last 18 months on inconsequential additions to the Pulse Smartpen. First they introduced an application store with such business-critical titles as “butt tunes” and “sexy oracle”. The only application of any consequence in their store is the “Magic Yad” application, designed to help make Hebrew chanting easy. It appears to be a fine application, created by smart people, but not very useful unless one is Jewish.

Down the path of inconsequentiality, the next step is LiveScribe’s apparent effort to add network connectivity to the pen. They believe that people will write out the name of a book, see its price on the tiny screen, and sign its purchase using their SmartPen. This completely ignores the fact that most people have a computer and a very capable smartphone to do exactly that, and with a much better interface.

Memo to LiveScribe: here’s what would be really useful:

  • A desktop application that allows one to delete pages (!) that they no longer need
  • A way to convert a recording along with the pen strokes into a distributable format, straight from my desktop. There are many confidential meetings I attend for which I cannot post the recording to your website.
  • A way to have simple schedules and alarms to launch from the pen. Just something to remind users of meetings.
  • Ability to annotate printouts and save the printout+annotation as PDF


  1. I’ve also been wondering about using the livescribe pen to produced annotated copies of PDFs. You said this functionality is already available from Anoto? Do you have a hyperlink for that?

    I was wondering if one could mimic the functionality with the existing livescribe software by using its print-your-own-paper functionality, but just loading the printer with the document to annotate. Then export the livescribe page as a pdf, and merge it as an overlay with the original pdf of the document to annotate.

    Cumbersome, but it might work.

    Comment by Alexis — March 26, 2010 @ 11:11 am | Reply

    • Alexis, see http://www.anoto.com/anotopendocumentspro.aspx.

      Yes, there are many kludges one can use to get annotations on printed paper with the Pulse. However it is so much easier to just buy a scanner with automatic document feed ($200-250) and deal with it that way.

      Its a pity that the technology is so much more capable, but the licensing restrictions are holding it back. No one in the mainstream market is going to pay a per-page price for Anoto’s technology. Not now, not ever.

      Comment by Jag — March 26, 2010 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

  2. Yes, I wish there is way to delete those unwanted pages to decrease clutter. It beats the purpose of being organized!

    Comment by LINDA — June 20, 2010 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  3. Maybe I am about to say something really stupid, but can you not feed the printer with the livescribe paper and print the meeting document over it and then use it that way?

    Comment by Jon Long — November 2, 2010 @ 5:48 am | Reply

    • You could feed pre-printed paper back to the printer to overlay dots. However when the writing is transferred to the PC, the pre-printing will not show up. Therefore, you will have a paper form into which you enter data, but only the writing will be visible on the PC, not the form.

      Comment by Jag — November 3, 2010 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

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