The device is called the Pulse Smartpen. It's made by US firm Livescribe and it's available in Australia only from Officeworks: who seem to have no idea how to sell it. In Officeworks' current catalogue we're told only that the Smartpen "captures what you hear as you write so you never miss a word." Ok, So that's a pen with an inbuilt recorder? That would be handy, but hardly earth-shattering, and at $249 rather pricey by the standards of digital recorders these days.
The Pulse Smartpen does much more than that and I can't see why anyone who has to take notes in meetings or lectures would not want one. Because it means you can record those meetings as you take notes, archive these on your computer and then any time afterwards go back, read through your notes and play back exactly what was being said. Brilliant.
The core technology that makes this possible is digital pen and paper from a company called Anoto. You have to make your notes on special Anoto paper which is printed with a pattern of almost invisible dots spaced nominally 0.3mm apart but with each dot shifted slightly from the grid either up down or sideways. This enables the creation of continent sized 'sheet' of paper with each A4 page being unique.
The pen contains an infrared camera and processor that scans these dots as you write so that the exact trajectory of the pen over the paper is stored in its memory. When you put the pen back onto the paper it matches up the dots with the pattern stored in its memory from when you took your notes, and retrieves the corresponding section of the recording.
Then there is the recorder. It is actually a very good recorder for such a small package. The voice quality is excellent and it does a pretty good job of picking up speakers in noisy environments. The pen has an inbuilt microphone and speaker but also comes with a pair of microphones embedded in the earphones that gives you the option of making binaural recordings.
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