Gadgets for Research: Tech Review

You may remember previously that I wrote a blog post about the new Livescribe Echo Smart Pen that the Open Exeter project team has temporarily lent me. If you missed my initial post, you can read it here In that post I said I was very impressed with the Smart Pen’s ability to recognise my scrappy hand writing and gave it top marks as a research gadget.

Since then I’ve had some more experience using the Smart Pen and have found it invaluable. It is an excellent backup when conducting interviews in case the audio recording equipment fails. It was also very useful when I was asked to be a scribe at a conference recently during breakout sessions. One of the most useful applications of this handy device, I’ve found, is that it is excellent for taking notes when on the move – inside, outside, on a train or even on a plane, the pen’s portability makes it much easier to use for writing in these situations than a laptop.

The pen does have some drawbacks however. The ink cartridges don’t last very long (being less than half the size of a regular biro cartridge) and they are costly to replace. Also, in order to take advantage of the hand writing recognition you have to buy an add-on piece of software but fortunately it is quite inexpensive. Perhaps one of the most significant drawbacks is the time required to proof read the recognised text. The software is great at recognising neat handwriting and even not so neat handwriting. However the faster I write the more illegible my handwriting becomes and the pen does struggle to recognise this. It also struggles with scoring out and corrections.

All-in-all, if a computer or laptop can easily be accessed then this is probably less time consuming than using the pen. However, for those situations I’ve mentioned above where a laptop wouldn’t be feasible, I feel the Smart Pen remains an invaluable research tool. That’s all for now but check back later for a post on Dragon Dictate for Mac, the voice recognition software, that I will be test driving for the Open Exeter Project!

Posted under Follow the Data

This post was written by Philip Bremner on October 8, 2012

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