[NTLK] Smart Pens (was: Big question)

R A Parker RAParker at Newted.ORG
Thu Nov 24 14:15:00 EST 2011

On Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 2:11 am Tim Kaluza wrote:

> Well it's sounds like an
> alternative. But when I
> saw it first, I was a bit
> shocked by the size - 
> is it a problem?
The others who are also using the Smart Pens haven't really mentioned the size. They are accustomed to using a pen and pad to take meeting notes. One person even mentioned she likes a bigger pen. 

I myself use the Smart Pen mostly for training. I have noticed the size only in the sense that it forces me to hold the pen less tightly, more relaxed and comfortably. I am used to using a small stylus and my Newton. So, there is a definite, immediate, noticeable difference. However that disappears quickly once you are working with it.

> Do you need special paper?  

Yes, but you can print your own (special) dot paper. Notepads of various size, styles and colors are reasonably priced and ultimately, very convenient.

Dot paper helps the pen with scanning. Also, all of the pen's function buttons are on the paper, as well as the inside of the notebook covers. Buttons such as Record, Stop, Play, Pause, Skip and Function Menu(s), Calculators, Settings and more. The pen is smart though. If you have dot paper, you can make your own smart buttons.

> I will probably give it try - 
> but I'm very interested in what
> your experience are. 

My experience so far is based on the value of the package. $100 is an excellent price point for all the extra accessories and software. With any advance technology, the promise is far better than the execution. Time and experience will help (me) develop an efficient work flow (for my employer) using these Smart Pens.

I'm back. I know, it seemed like I wasn't even gone. That's why I like the Newton. Always waiting for you where you last left off. 

I've had some time to play with the software a little more this week. As with a Newton, printed recognition works far more reliably than the variety of cursive styles a HWR engine must interpret.

First impression is that a Newton is a much more efficient method of capturing electronic ink. Think about it… 

With a Smart Pen, you must first write your text down on a piece of special paper, in real ink. Then you have to connect the pen to a computer to transfer the ink. Next you have to run the ink through the recognizer. Copy the text (and images) to a word processor. Clean it up and finally format it. 

With a Newton, you are already there the moment you write on the screen. Now, that's smart!

There are obvious advantages to a Smart Pen. The variety of sharing methods available for Pencasts and source documents are very powerful and this definitely needs further investigation. The simple fact that it associates the audio to the moment in your notes where it was written is very powerful. The Smart Pen is also very small, portable and un-obtrusive. Nearly invisible whether in small or larger meetings.

Personally, I will be using a Newton for a long time. No Smart Pen can touch this. However, I am the technology guy for my employer. I could never expect others to use, let alone embrace the Newton, as a viable solution to taking notes and minutes during Board and Committee meetings.

The Smart Pen is an easy piece of tech to introduce to older, non-techie types. "It's just a pen." I tell them. And, that's all they need to know. The rest of the magic is up to me, to make it seamless and easy. Plug'n Play.

> The IRIS thing was about 130
> and well it does recognize my
> writings – thats good - but
> it's absolutely no use in
> interpreting forms and mathematical
> functions. 

This is the good part. These Smart Pens are only going to get smarter. The handwriting recognition software (according to the developer's website) can read mathematical formulas. There is also an app available for data acquisition, if your business uses preprinted forms.

With wireless technology shrinking to nano sizes, it's not hard to imagine a wireless version of a Smart Pen, eliminating the need to transfer and convert the digital ink.

All of this brings me to my point: $100 is not very much money for such a powerful gadget. My employer spends that much on a single (dumb) digital voice recorder. And, they have three of them. Plus boxes and boxes of old tape recorders, old mics, tapes that need destroying and notes that need archiving. 

A Smart Pen makes perfect sense.

Best Regards,


Sent using Mail V and a Wireless Newton 2100.
   |\/|\ @ Newted.ORG
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My name is R A Parker. I own a Newton and a Mac.

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