Tech 'toys' prove incredibly useful

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two of my co-workers have new tech toys to play with.

Tracy Simmons has a new LiveScribe ( ) pen, which seems like an incredibly useful tool for reporting and note-taking and which we might all be looking at eventually.

The pen has a digital audio recorder built into it. But have you ever recorded a meeting or presentation, and then you needed to find one particular part of that recording later? LiveScribe has you covered. As you record the meeting, you use the LiveScribe pen to take notes on specially-designed LiveScribe paper (the need to use the special paper is, as far as I can tell, the system's biggest drawback). If there's a point in the meeting to which you know you'll want to listen later, just be sure you make some sort of notes while that topic is being recorded.

Then, later, if you want to find any particular point in the audio recording, you can just touch the pen to notes that you made during that part of the meeting. The playback will immediately snap to the point in time at which you made that mark on your notepad, and if that's not exactly what you were looking for you should be able to find it much more easily with that as your starting point.

But that's not all -- the pen is also recording the marks that you make, and can save them to your computer in graphical form, or even as a "pencast" in which the notes draw themselves onto the screen in sync with the audio. The software also has some handwriting recognition, making it easier to search through your notes once they've been loaded onto your computer.

There are apps for the pen which enable translation, games and other features. One app demonstrated on the company's web site has you draw out a piano keyboard using the pen and the special paper, and then play the keyboard by tapping or dragging across it with the pen.

The system seems to work well, and Tracy's delighted with it. Our publisher had bought what might have been an earlier model a year, year and a half ago, and wasn't happy with the audio quality. But Tracy's audio seems to be working just fine, so the company may have upgraded the software or design since that earlier purchase.

Another co-worker, from our business office, was showing me her new iPad -- it's an iPad 2, which she snatched up at a discount as buyers anticipate this weekend's release of the newest model iPad.

Last week, Apple introduced the new model. Apple will no longer include numbers as part of the iPad's model name, so the newer model is just "iPad." This leads to a confusing situation -- the original 2010 model was known as the iPad, the updated 2011 model was the iPad 2, and now the new 2012 version is the iPad again.

The new iPad includes dramatically-higher resolution in its display, supposedly so fine that your eye can't see the individual pixels of color, as well as some other tweaks and improvements.

--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: