I have horrible penmanship. I can't write in cursive to save my life. Even my own signature is an absurdly inconsistent mess. Yet, here I am, reviewing a pen.
To be perfectly honest, I was a little terrified to review the Echo smartpen for CNET. In the back of my mind, I was convinced that my unforgivably awful handwriting would cause the little computer inside the pen short-circuit?
As it turns out, good penmanship is not a prerequisite for using the Echo smartpen. In fact, you don't even need to be literate to make its price ($169-$199) worthwhile.
In a nutshell, the Livescribe Echo is a unique voice recorder with built-in pen (or vice versa) that digitally captures your handwriting and audio simultaneously and stores it all to internal memory. Later, when you want to review your notes, you can access your recorded audio by tapping any notes on the page, which will cue up exactly what was recorded the minute you committed pen to paper. It's a neat trick. Using a USB cable, you can also offload notes and recordings to a computer, export them, e-mail them, or embed them online (see sample below).
Livescribe calls this feature "paper replay" and it's really the core feature of the pen. For better or worse, though, there's much more you can do with it. Using Livescribe's app store or third-party applications that take advantage of the Livescribe SDK, you can use the Echo to learn foreign languages, check your spelling, calculate tip, and even convert your handwriting into a word processing document--though I'm sure my penmanship would break that feature.
To learn more, you can read my full review of the Echo smartpen from Livescribe on CNET.
(embedded Pencast via Mr. Disaster)