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Livescribe Echo Smartpen The Livescribe Echo is a great product for people who take copious notes (students, in particular) or journalists and recruiters who regularly record interviews and take notes simultaneously. It will not, however, give executives at Bic or Sharpie a single sleepless night. The Echo is the newest smartpen makes note taking even easier and provides access to plenty of apps. It is a specialized product with a premium price and an appetite for specialized ink refills and custom paper. It's not for everyone, but it delivers on its promises, and for those who really need a 21st century pen, the Echo effortlessly bridges the divide between ink and pixel.

How does it work? There are three main elements to the Echo: a ballpoint pen; an infrared camera concealed inside the tip; and a microphone integrated into the pen barrel. Put them together, and you have a pen that digitally records sound and handwriting simultaneously. The recordings are saved directly to the pen's internal memory and can be replayed through the pen's built-in speaker or transferred to any Mac or PC using the free Livescribe desktop


software. If you're the kind of person who often finds yourself lugging around a voice recorder and a notepad to lectures, presentations, or interviews, it's easy to understand the convenience of consolidating both items into a voice-recording pen that can intelligently sync your notes with audio (and vice versa). There are a few catches, such as the special "dot paper" required for the pen to capture your handwriting Also, to fit an OLED screen, speaker, microphone, memory, and other electronic components into the reasonably sized, 6-inch-long pen, Livescribe uses ink cartridge refills that are shorter than usual. Two ink refills come included, and five-packs can be obtained for as little as $5, but you do tend to run out of ink faster than you would with a conventional pen.

What can it do? The core feature of the Echo smartpen is called Paper Replay, and it has a tendency to make people's jaws drop when they see it in action. The magic trick plays out like this: you arrive at a meeting, tap the record icon in your dot paper notebook, write down a few bullet points, and then perform an instant replay of the meeting by tapping your notes


with the pen. Each note you tap causes the pen to play back an audio recording of exactly what was being spoken when the note was made. Tap a different word, and you'll hear a different place in the recording. Tap the doodle of the airplane you made when the boss was boring you with sales figures, and you've got a recording of all the yawn-inducing details in case you ever need them. Did you zone out completely? No problem. Even if the ink never meets the paper, the pen can still work as voice recorder, allowing you to review the meeting using the pause, skip, scrubber, and playback speed icons on the bottom of the page. The Paper Replay experience is also available on your computer, by way of Livescribe's free Mac/PC desktop software. Once files have been copied from the pen to your computer over the included USB cable, you can view your notes as animations with synchronized audio. Just like the notebook playback experience, the software also allows you to slow down or speed up the playback speed of the replay, jump to specific sections of the audio recording by pointing and clicking on the associated text, or use the timeline scrubber to jump around the audio in a linear way. Design Physically, the Echo is slightly larger than a permanent marker--the tapered body features a rubberized grip at the bottom and measures 6.2 x 0.8 inches. Except for the pen's grip (which is about 0.1 inches slimmer). The Echo is also flattened on one side to prevent it from rolling around, which is a nice touch. Its hard plastic and rubber exterior is certainly durable. At the top of the pen, there's a microUSB and 3.5-mm audio jack.


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