Livescribe Pulse Smartpen

I just read about this new gadget on BoingBoing this morning and thought I’d make a quick post about it:

This was previously featured on Core in February:

but I guess I either missed it or it didn’t occur to me that you could sketch with it.
I scoured their website:
but didn’t find the information I’m looking for.
I think this can output as PDF, but is there a way to get vector based files from this?
That would be really great for me.
Ideally I would like to be able to draw in pencil, go over it with the pen and have the drawing as paths in Illustrator or Photoshop.
That would save a huge chunk of time for me.

Obviously I can do better with oh, say…a Cintiq, I know, but thats cost prohibitive.

Anybody sketch with these, or know any more about the output?

I have one. It works well for most things, but I don’t know how perfect it would be to use as a digitizer…

For recording, and taking notes - I think its pretty good. And it does capture the handwriting fairly accurately and can make the pdfs with clickable sketches that starts the audio from that point. Can capture sketching, but looses it a bit when you try to hatch/shade. Also you must use their pads, which are about $10-15 each

Things I don’t like. Uncomfortable pen diameter… it’s almost like writing with a hot dog, just slightly more narrow. The pen has to use proprietary pen cartridges, which run out quickly and are not even as good as a $.10 bic crystal. Build quality pretty good, but there are some mis-fitting parts that are a little annoying.

You can open the exported files in illustrator. You probably could go over the paths too. I don’t think I would buy it for sketching alone, but I have a tablet PC. I might use it here or there to get a quick drawing into the computer if I didn’t have it. It is really good for lectures or client meetings you might want to reference again later

Haven’t used one myself, but my boss swears by it. He interviews dozens of experts at a time and the functionality is amazing and relevant.

Thanks for the input, this is useful information.

Can you tell me if it is possible to sketch on that paper in pencil first and then go over it with the pen, or will the pencil marks interfere with the function of the paper?

Hmm, interesting. I wish you didn’t have to use their ink and their paper. I wonder if that was really needed? Interesting none the less though. I wonder if you can try them out somewhere? I’d like to see what the fidelity is like.

The review on BoingBoing mentions that it is possible to replicate the paper with a 600dpi printer.

I bought one of these today, havent had a chance to even take it out of the box yet but I am pretty excited about the purchase. I did my research and was a bit hesitant on forking out the money for this, but at the same time I felt that it would be of alot of help during my school this semester. I have one 8 hour class, and two other heavy lecture, discussion classes, and so i felt that a device that would allow me to take “smart” notes would be welcomed.

Ill be testing it out this weekend as my school starts on Tuesday, so ill put up a good review of it in the next few days.

I also bought:
(2) boxes of ink cartridges, comes with 4 blue and 1 red ink cartridges
I heard these dry out fast…
(1) package of blank journals, comes with 2 blank journals, 100 sheets each, looks like a moleskin, (havent seen paper quality yet)

Ok as promised.

This is my first impression and recording that i uploaded to the livescribe community site.
The sound is spot on, maybe a tad too sensitive. The writing as you can see does not recognize pressure at all, which is fine if you plan on using this device strictly for notes. But any plans to do sketches may not be the best option. I also have music from my laptop streaming in the background. The laptop speakers were only 15-20inches away from the pen and was significantly louder than my voice. I purposely tried to speak in a quiet voice to emulate a classroom setting while taking notes.
(You can click on any word, letter, or phrase to play the audio recorded at that exact time)

The Software.
Once your pen is docked into the Usb Cradle, the software auto-launches (this can be changed). Once it auto launches, it will also automatically try to detect new recorded sessions, and at the same sync/transfer them to your laptop/desktop software. I use Windows Vista 64bit and had Zero problems with the software download, installation, and transfer. I had to update both my desktop software and pen firmware. The update took a bit longer than i expected which made me second guess that something went wrong. However with given time, everything installed correctly and I was good to go.
The software does not recognize the color of ink used, it will always display in green, so technically it does not matter which color ink used when viewed on the computer.

More impressions to come…

kind of bummed you can’t sketch with it, unless you have consistent pressure I guess? No flair to the lines?

Can you tell me what the file output is? Can it be converted to vector?

I draw almost all of my stuff freehand, and must retrace my scanned pencil drawings as paths.
I used to simply ink the drawings and scan them at high res, but found that vector is much more precise (zero line width).
So now I painstakingly redraw my pencil work with a mouse!
My Wacom tablet is just frustrating, as the distance between the hand and the screen is too much for me.
I was hoping this might be a shortcut, or poor man’s Cintiq.

I have one of the livescribe pens, but don’t really use it to do sketchings for renderings… it’s not the quickest process to upload the drawings.

To answer your question though, it does covert drawings to vector art. The vector art has lots of detail/node though, maybe too much detail in the lines for a clean drawing. Sometimes they are broken into smaller fragment lines too. Maybe you could smooth them out somehow though…

Overall, I think you could use the pen as a way to get sketchy drawings into your computer as an underlay for a more detailed rendering in the computer… like for the people that don’t like to start sketches on a tabletpc or cintiq but rather start with a hand sketch on paper. As said above, it’s not pressure sensitive and lines are in only one weight, so a scanned sketch would probably show more life, but it would work

You can sketch with it, on paper. It acts exactly like a regular ball point pen. However once you transfer it to your computer it doesnt show any of the pressure or flair to the lines.

However something you should note, and something i realized. This pen “sharing” function is pretty week as it doesnt even show the flair of lines once uploaded. However, I feel that if one were to use this pen for personal use like a written, audio, playback journal, in that case I think it is quite awesome.

Ill post up some videos later today showing more of its possible uses and functionalities…

The software allows you to Print, Upload (to community site), Export, and Copy page. Print and Upload is self-explanatory. Export gives you two options, Export as PDF or as Image. Image gives you two options as well, with background or without. The background means the type of notepad you used. The software is able to recognize which type of pad you originally wrote one, for example, if you were to write in a college-ruled notebook the software will display your notes on a college ruled notebook. If you wrote on blank paper, same thing, the software will show you your notes on blank paper. When exporting as an Image, you have multiple save as types: .bmp, .jpg, .gif, .ico, .tiff, .emf, .wmf.

When saved as PDF, the file is 100% vector. I was able to individually click and move each letter in the video link above. However, I think this is what (Travismo) was referring to, the vectors have many nodes which create a rather complicated and blocky/edgy reproduction of your writing or drawing. Ill put up an image shot of what it looks like in a bit. And also try a sketch to see what it looks like.

In this picture, you are seeing the letter “e” in impressions. Scaled larger to show the individual nodes.
Vector Screenshot copy.jpg

It looks like this might be capable of some very interesting things beyond the prescribed uses, but I don’t think this is going to do what I want it to do.
I really appreciate everyone chiming in though.
Its a good feeling to know I can ask a question here and people will go out of their way to answer.
Even going the extra mile by creating and uploading examples.

that how we do it!

Ok now this is really weird.
I did a series of tests of sketches to see how well the pen and desktop software can capture my sketches.

The first test came out terribly, captured only a good 15% of the original sketch in my livescribe notepad. This test is the crab-like sketch with the #1 next to it. At this point I was extremely unimpressed and felt that this device was only good for taking notes, however I wanted to try some theories out of how it captures my drawings.

In test #2, the ball thing, I tried an unconventional way of drawing by drawing tiny strokes, like chicken scratch, I wondered, what if the device only recognizes simple and short strokes. With this theory, the sketch came out pretty ok, It was able to recognize about 80% of the sketch. Not too bad, but with a few crucial lines missing. Like the outline of the circular shape.

In test #3 I did a series of sketches, a flower, and two milk cartons drawn slightly differently. The flower was somewhat successful and captured a good 85% of the sketch. The construction lines did not show but the basic sketch and the shadow lines all came out. Both milk cartons came out pretty good as well. The carton on the left was drawn fairly quickly, while the one on the right was drawn rather slowly. The one on the left did not show the contour lines, the contour lines you see were drawin in test#4, and was not there originally. The milk carton on the right came out fairly exact. I would give it a 98% success rate, but then again it was an extremely simple sketch.

Now before I go on, I want to tell you a little bit about the software. I say this in the audio, but I will tell you in written form as well. The software is able to recognize which page you are on. This means that even though you stop a session and upload and then do a new session, the software and device is able to recognize which page you are on and which part of the page you drew or write on. This allows for a fairly accurate and 1:1 representation of your notebook. Another good thing is that It automatically updates that page, instead of creating new and multiple files.

As an example, you can see in the first video link i posted earlier, that there is only a few lines of text with no drawings at the bottom. However in this new link that I have provided, you can see that the same lines of text in the first video are here, PLUS the new sketches recorded from a new session!

See the full page without Audio:

Ok now for the final test, #4.
This test blew my mind and expectations. I was not expecting much from this sketch, and I still havent figured out how it was as successful. This was a doodle sketch, with little to no expectations, and was drawn in a rather regular manner as how I normally draw. The only difference between this test and the other 3 tests was that I had the light turned on in my room. One of my theories was that, the light would create a higher contrast between the brightness in my room and the color of the pen strokes on paper. This theory is not proven by all means, and I will not say that is what caused this rather successful display of my sketch, however this idea worked in test #4 and that is all.

Test #4 with Audio, (note: you can click on any part of the sketch to jump to that time of recording)
Note: the audio is recorded while im drawing, so many of my assumptions made during the sketch may have been proven wrong once the file was transferred and uploaded.

The car you see here is about 90-95% of the sketch shown. Its actually very good at showing all the lines used to create the sketch. Especially when compared to test #1. Test #1 had all the elements in test #4 yet failed to show almost 90% of the work done. This is both good and bad in my opinion. It’s good because I now know that a somewhat complex sketch is possible. However the wishy-washy success rate is a bit disheartening.

Here is another Vector screenshot example of the test #4:
The sketch on the left is the actual size, the one one the right has been scaled up in Adobe Illustrator.
I think that it resembles a sketch done with a hi-tech C pen.

I will do more tests and upload them in the next few days.
If any of you have any specific questions please feel free to ask.

Well thats more like it!
Sketchy, can you test something out for me?
I’d like to see if the pen can still work on top of pencil.
Can you try it out if you have any space left on your test pages?
I’m also curious to know if erasing the pencil might diminish the paper’s ability to read.

The pen DOES indeed work on top of the pencil. The pen does not recognize the pencil and neither does the software. I wrote in pencil “Pencil underlay test” and then drew in pencil the cone, circle, and shaded square. Then I went over these with the livescribe pen. As you can see in this screenshot, it looks as if there was nothing drawn in pencil before using the Livescribe Pen:
Pencil Underlay Screenshot.jpg
The eraser has NO effect on the pens ability to read the paper. The paper is specialty made for the pen and has a million of these tiny dots on the paper itself. For this test I drew with pencil a shaded in square. Then I proceeded to erase away the pencil drawn square. I then using the livescribe drew a square with a + in it, as you can see the pen and paper had no trouble recognizing the drawing:
Eraser Underlay Screenshot.jpg

You guys are doing a very thorough review - looking forward to seeing what a real sketch guru will do with the pen. it’s a different kind of medium for sure

This is a little besides the point of the recent posts about the sketching potential, but something that I have found amazing about the livescribe is the handwriting recognition… I write in my notebooks a lot, pages and pages (and pages) of notes - and I don’t write perfect characters either - fast and slopping sometimes, but I can search the text and it actually finds and highlights the words I have scribbled in my handwriting very well. amazing really.

Imagine if you remembered some detail from a client review months ago, or a random topic you might have illustrated and called out a feature. You can search all your notebooks for that word, and it the results will take you to the page and the sketch AND you can listen to the audio that was happening at the same time you drew it. Now if it could only do voice-to-text and maybe had a small camera, then it would truly be the miracle pen

since we’re talking about it, I often think about ways I could make the pen better.
One thing, for my personal situation, would be a pen dock for the notebook. In my
scribbly train sketches it’s getting all planned out…