I’m sitting in the outer area of a suite in the Venetian Tower belonging to the folks who made my pen.
You see, I have a Livescribe Pulse pen which I use in interviews. The pen has a small computer and camera inside. When I take notes on the special paper provided, I can simultaneously record the audio portion of an interview while I’m writing. Later, when I look at my notes and admit that I really didn’t understand everything the interview subject was saying, I can tap a particular word and hear the audio associated with that word. I don’t have to play through an entire audio tape to find the section I need. I just tap and the relevant audio is there.
The Livescribe folks were participants in the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in a suite at The Venetian Las Vegas. The reason Livescribe had a suite instead of a tradeshow booth is that they wanted to use their money strictly for business relationships, not lookyloos. Livescribe rented two suites for three days and had packed each day with appointments….meeting distributors, retailers, partners and the press.
I didn’t have an appointment. I walked into one of the two suites, introduced myself to a gentleman there, and the man I met introduced himself. He was Jim Marggraff, CEO and founder of Livescribe. Wow. When I explained that I loved the product, was a writer and wanted to find out more about the company, its future, etc., he said he’d see me after he finished with a current meeting.
While in the outer area of the Venetian suite waiting for Marggraff, I overheard part of a conversation between two men, one of whom worked for Livescribe. The other person was saying that more marketing attention needed to be paid to showing folks “how” the Livescribe pen really worked. I agree. One on one when I show folks the pen, I can practically sell it myself. In fact at lunch Thursday, another writer, Marty Barrett, seemed very interested in having a pen like mine, but he had never heard of the Livescribe product.
Livescribe Global PR Manager Jody Farrar later told me that marketing issues aside, the pen is now sold in more than 40 countries and some 500,000 people have the pens. (Marggraff also quietly offered that my own enthusiasm for the pen is matched by writer/director Francis Ford Coppola; he’s one of the 500,000 and also loves his pen.) I bought my own pen more than two years ago following one of only two times the pen was sold on QVC; the shopping channel demonstration is what sold me.
Marggraff was nice enough to use part of his lunch break to talk with me. He’s smart and talks very fast – luckily I had my recording pen with me! Marggraff has founded or co-founded five companies, Livescribe being the latest. He said that although other companies have produced digital pens, Livescribe is the only “smart pen” with a computer inside. The pens, made in China and Malaysia, are able to record snapshots of notes at the rate of 70 snapshots per second, sync the notes with the audio and with available “apps” do things such as instantly translate English words written on a paper to Spanish; the Spanish word is then given as a voice recording.
He said the paper I used for notes is actually filled with tiny black dots which are different on every page so that the computer can track where each note was created. (I had no idea how this worked.) All this information came so quickly, I had a hard time following, but I did ask if I should buy the latest version of the smart pen, called Echo. (Remember, my pen is the original 2GB Pulse pen.)
He said Livescribe had listened to customers and the new pen, the Echo….won’t roll. Yep, that is a problem; when I put my pen down; it rolls, sometimes off the desk. The Echo also doesn’t need a cradle; it has a USB connection directly to the computer for charging and uploading notes and audio. Furthermore, the memory on Echo has been increased to 4GB and 8GB (though for me, 2GB is sufficient – that’s 10 hours of battery life and 200 hours of storage).
Marggraff said about 20 percent of current pen purchasers are students; 10 percent are teachers and the rest are information workers such as journalists, lawyers, psychiatrists, etc. (I could imagine attorneys taking notes while doing an audio recording and having excellent records of each session.)
I took a video of Marggraf talking about the future for Livescribe pens, but frankly I had to look up the words “cloud computing”. He is talking about computing services and storage being provided over the Internet, rather than being tied to one’s own computer—access to notes and recordings anytime anywhere.
Livescribe pens and paper (post-it notes are now available as well) can be purchased at a number of retail locations including Target stores, Apple stores and Best Buy and from Amazon.com and from Livescribe.com. Pen prices start at $129.00.