Being a journalist is no easy task: constant deadlines, briefings, phone calls and meetings can leave time a pretty scarce resource, so anything that might cut-down and ease the note-taking process is a welcomed thing indeed. Enter Livescribe.
The Livescribe 3 is the latest smartpen device to roll off the production lines of the Californian company, and this time around the fully-fledged smartpen doesn’t require connecting to a PC (like the Echo, for example) but it does require an iOS device. Delivering most of its functionality, there’s the Livescribe+ iOS app, which is a free download.
A spokeswoman for the company told me that an Android version is in the works, but couldn’t say exactly when in 2014 it is due to arrive.
With the potential promise of text-synced audio recording and never having to manually type up written notes ever again, I couldn’t help but take the Livescribe 3 for a road test.
It’s not just journalists that could make good use of the Livescribe 3 either. Students, teachers, anyone that has to sit in a meeting ever – there are plenty of situations where having a digital, shareable backup of your written notes could be useful.
It’s worth noting that not only will the Livescribe 3 only work with iOS devices (meaning Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and anyone else is left out in the cold), it’s also pretty fussy about which iOS devices it’ll work with too. I tried it with an iPhone 4, and an iPhone 5 that hadn’t been updated to iOS 7 – neither of which worked. I ended up testing it on an iPad mini running iOS 7, so if you’re tempted make sure you have an iPhone 4S or newer and are running iOS 7.
In the box, you have the Livescribe 3 pen itself – a chunky but light object that was easy and comfortable to hold in my man-mitts. People with smaller hands might find it a little on the large side, however. In the end of the pen is a replaceable standard ballpoint pen tip.
The middle section of the pen twists to switch it on (and off) and once successfully paired to your iDevice via Bluetooth it should show a solid blue color in normal operation. It shows red if you’re recording a voice note.
There’s also the Livescribe notepad, which you’ll need a supply of if you take a lot of notes – there’s 100 pages to get you started, but you’ll undoubtedly need to invest in more if you plan on using it a lot. Extra Livescribe notepads can be purchased from around $8.95, there are quite a few to choose from too. Alternatively, you can print your own for free.
On each page of the starter notepad included in the box, you’ll find controls for recording audio (record, pause and stop) as well as icons for starring, flagging or tagging notes. At the top of each page, you’ll find three numbered dots, which can be assigned to certain functions – I couldn’t get it to work, however. When I asked the company’s spokesperson, I was told these were designated for future functions.
Charging your Livescribe 3 is achieved via a micro USB port hidden beneath the cap in the top of the pen, and a cable is included in the box.
The Livescribe 3 offers a range of different functions, but at its core it transfers your handwritten notes into a digital format – you have the option of viewing them as-written, or converted to editable on-screen text.
Before going any further, it’s worth noting that my handwriting is terrible. I was told it throughout school many years ago, and it remains true. Ultimately, how neatly and quickly you write could well dictate your success with the Livescribe 3. While I won’t ever defend my handwriting, Livescribe certainly did manage to make it look a whole lot worse at points, adding lines and other marks that weren’t actually present on the paper. For example, in the image below, you can see that there are no lines joining “at the feed” or “the app”.
Over the years, I’ve become accustomed to being able to read my own scrawl, but it did take some effort to have to deliberately try to write more slowly and neatly as I knew I’d want to try to convert it to digital text. My first two attempts written at normal note-taking speed were virtually illegible and converted into complete jibberish.
However, that’s not to say the conversion doesn’t work – it does, it just needs to be pretty neatly written to do so. The result of those phantom marks being introduced in the digitized text (in the image above) meant that when it came to converting it into editable text, it mistranslated those parts (shown below), all the rest was fine though.
Via the Bluetooth connection to your device, the pen can also be used to take audio recordings which sync with the notes. To record, you can either hit the icon in the (open) Livescribe + app or tap the record icon on the paper.
If the app isn’t open on your device, when you tap record on the paper, a notification will pop up at the top of the screen. Tapping it will start the recording.
In my testing, the feature worked well, and seemed to pretty much sync up in time with the notes being taken. Tapping any part of a Pencast recording in the app will jump directly to the audio at the time that note was taken. As you’re listening back, the notes light up on screen to show where you are in the text, as shown below.
One other small issue worth noting: if you’re using Livescribe+ on an iPhone, you’ll need to remember to manually resume recording if you receive a call part-way through.
Using the Page, Feed and Pencast icons at the top of the screen, you can review your notes and recordings.
Page view shows you them as they appear in the notebook, in a scrolling, page-by-page list. Each physical notebook that you use is represented by a different notebook in the app, so you can keep track of everything easily – and there’s an integrated search function if you’re looking for something specific. You can, of course, jump directly to a specific page in a specific notebook, too.
The Feed in the middle is a list of all your notes too, but is the place where you can convert and edit them. For example, you can select multiple items, translate them to digital text, add an attachment and then email them on to someone else. Clicking ‘select’ in the top-right corner of the Feed allows you to edit, share or merge more than one item.
There’s also the option to tag, star or flag notes as well, if they’re of particular importance. These items can then be accessed in a list via the Livescribe+ app menu, shown below.
Via the app, you can also keep track of things like the battery charge status (shown below) and change other options and settings. If you forget to switch it off, it puts itself to sleep to save on the battery. Twisting the middle ring on the pen will rouse it into life again.
Notes that you’ve taken can be shared in PDF format via email, message and a variety of other services, like Dropbox, Evernote et al, provided you have them installed.
Voice notes that are integrated into these PDFs can only be played back by other people with the Livescribe+ app installed on their device.
The Livescribe 3 smartpen costs a touch under $150 in the US, and costs £130 in the UK from Amazon.
At that price, it’s not going to break the bank, but it’s certainly a whole lot more expensive than a regular old Biro. For me, what it promises could be virtually invaluable in terms of time saved in not needing to transcribe notes. It could be, but it doesn’t quite manage it.
Perhaps my writing is just too messy for the Livescribe 3, but generally, if I was relying on this I’d need to do a lot of editing of the notes at the point they were taken – three months down the line, that completely random text is going to make even less sense and anything that adds time to my note-taking process isn’t really a welcome thing.
Ultimately, I found the Livescribe a useful addition for the odd task, but it does also impose a multi-device requirement for anything that you want to take notes of – you’ll need the pen and your iPhone or iPad, and if you plan on recording audio, you better have it out next to you: it won’t record anything tucked away in your bag. On one occasion, I had intended to take notes with the pen, but found I’d left the notebook at home, despite remembering to take the iPad – so don’t forget that either.
However, if you can overlook the need to use specific Livescribe paper and don’t mind needing to have your phone/tablet with you simply to jot something down and your handwriting is neat enough , the device itself works well. As a bonus, the search functionality promises to get better as your virtual notepads (and real ones) fill up.
In some places, achieving things in the app is as simple as it should be – the multi-select options work well, for example, – but in others, like the tagging, it’ll take some refinement before it’s a truly useful tool.
For me, it just couldn’t quite cope with the combination of scrawling handwriting and a furious pace; the result was simply an illegible mess. So for now, I guess I’ll have to stick with a Biro and notebook.
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Continue reading here: Livescribe 3 review: A truly smart pen, but a demanding one too
In early October, we brought you our thoughts on the seven-inch Kindle Fire HDX, of which John is a huge fan.
Today we bring you the seven-incher’s big brother, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9.
In terms of Amazon’s evolution as a hardware (and specifically tablet) company, the Fire HDX 8.9 is a markedly improved device from previous generations. It’s thinner, lighter at just 13 ounces, and more powerful with a 2.2 GHz quad-core processor and improved software.
But how does it match up to the competition this holiday season?
John seems to think that this next-gen Kindle Fire has finally achieved “productivity status,” moving from a reader on steroids to a full-fledged computing device. I’m not as convinced, but I also haven’t been able to spend quite as much time with these Fire HDX tablets as him.
Would either of us save $100 and choose the HDX 8.9 over an iPad Air? Probably not, based almost entirely on the iPad’s ecosystem and App Store.
However, both of us feel that the smaller size tablets are a better idea for the average consumer.
Unless you require a larger screen for reading, or use the tablet almost exclusively to watch movies and TV, a smaller device like the seven-inch HDX or the iPad mini with Retina are more portable and comfortable options.
Samsung has just taken the wraps off its Galaxy Grand 2, yet another large-screen smartphone typically known as a phablet.
The Galaxy Grand 2′s screen size has been upped a notch from its predecessor, coming in with a 5.25-inch HD display. It is also more powerful, as the Galaxy Grand 2 runs on a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, comes with an increased 1.5GB RAM and packs a larger 2,600 mAh battery. However, the camera remains the same with 8 megapixels.
Like its predecessor, the Galaxy Grand runs on Android Jelly Bean, but it’s been bumped up to version 4.3. The device also comes with dual-SIM capabilities.
“This evolution of the Galaxy Grand series brings meaningful upgrades to its predecessor including an improved HD viewing experience, enhanced performance, and many other intuitive features,” Samsung says in its announcement.
Samsung is continuing on its tried-and-tested route of providing similar devices in every size — as the Galaxy Grand 2 comes as another option to those who don’t want to purchase its high-end Galaxy S4 and Note 3 flagship devices.
However, Samsung hasn’t revealed details about the Galaxy Grand’s availability or pricing. We will update when we receive word.
Headline image via Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images
A new patent application published by the USPTO (via MacRumors) shows some more detail around Apple’s use of Touch ID and the fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5s. Apple has been mostly quiet about the specifics of how the tech works, while generally asserting that the fingerprint information never goes to a server, and only remains on the phone itself in a “secure enclave” which isn’t accessible by the rest of the system or third-party devs.
The patent describes a system that not only siloes data on the Touch ID “enclave” section of the A7 processor, but that also encrypts the fingerprint maps registered on the device to make it that much more difficult for any thieves to even attempt to pull the data off in any kind of usable form. The enclave is a one-way street, too: the system can check new fingerprints against the stored ones, but there’s no way to check or call up the stored fingerprints at all for external examination once they’re registered.
Otherwise, the system works likely as you’d expect it to, checking against stored profiles for possible matches (and using stored lower resolution templates based on variables like different angles to make it more likely to correctly ID your finger). But another patent also published this week shows a breakdown of all the components within the Touch ID hardware, and explains how the actual sensor hardware can be hidden behind an opaque lens that’s been printed with an “ink assembly.” It’s likely this needs to be uniform to read correctly, however, as Apple notably left off its small rounded square icon on the 5s home button, after that has graced each since the iPhone’s initial introduction.
These patents provide a little more clarity on what exactly is going on when you rest your finger or thumb on that 5s home screen and have it magically unlock, and it’s reassuring to see just how much thought Apple has put into making sure the info truly is secure.
See the original post: Patent Application For Touch ID Shows How Apple Secures Fingerprint Information On iPhone 5s
Movement tracking could get a whole lot more granular if the New York-based startup behind this wearable sensor gets its way. Notch, currently being shown off in prototype form on Kickstarter, is a wearable sensor designed to be concealed within clothing at natural hinge points around the body to track and capture specific body movements — sending that data back to a companion (iOS) app for tracking and review.
Right now, there’s no shortage of wearable tech aimed at fitness and activity use-cases, whether it’s Fitbit or Jawbone’s UP or Nike’s Fuelband to name a few. Easily enough activity tracker bangles to fill the average-sized forearm. And that’s before you get started on smartwatches. But fewer Bluetooth sensor-makers are aiming to capture precise body movements — likely because on the surface it seems a smaller, more niche use-case. Something for dancers, athletes and freerunners to get excited about, perhaps.
But then again, a wearable sensor — or more accurately a network of sensors if you want to capture a whole concert of body movements using Notch — that can record precise, physical movements and deliver localised feedback to an arm or leg, has potential to be useful in a variety of ways. As a warning system against slouching when sitting, perhaps (a la the LUMOback). Or a stress monitor, based on how much nervous gesticulating you’re doing at work.
Notch is designed to both capture movement data (either continuously or on demand — recording and pausing can be controlled by tapping on an individual sensor), and to output haptic feedback, via tiny vibration motors, meaning it can be used for motion-triggered notifications. The sensors use inertial measurement units to capture body motion, and Bluetooth Low Energy to send recorded data to the Notch app.
For starters, Notch’s own app will offer the ability to set up the individual mobiles, record movements, collect data on those movements, replay the movements as 3D visualisations, and download the data in XYZ format, say its makers. But they are also planning to release an API to allow third party developers to build out additional use-cases for Notch. So if they can excite enough developers, they could end up with some pretty off the wall motion trigger-tech scenarios.
Each Notch sensor is 1.3×1.2×0.31inches (30x33x8mm), and weighs less than 0.35oz (10g). They’re designed to be charged via standard microUSB and will run for 3+ days “normal usage”. The sensors are designed to snap onto clothing via standard male sewing snaps. The startup is also offering some custom clothing — including button-up shirts and casual tees — with built in connector pockets for Notch.
Early Kickstarter backers can bag one Notch sensor for $49, with various other pledge levels up for grabs. But if you want the full body capture option it’s considerably more pricey — circa $360 for eight modules, to allow for motion capture of wrists, elbows, head, torso, feet. So that’s clearly going to remain niche.
The startup is also seeking a rather sizeable $100,000 to make Notch fly — with sub-$5,000 raised so far, and 43 days of their campaign left to run. If they hit their funding target they’re aiming to ship Notch to backers next June.
Continue reading here: Notch Is A Wearable Sensor & App For Tracking And Capturing Body Movements
We’ve seen fire harnessed to power a phone charger for the great outdoors, with the nifty FlameStower, now meet Hydrobee: another Kickstarter project aiming to provide an off-grid alternative for charging a battery you can then use to juice your phone. But, as its name suggests, Hydrobee is all about water.
There’s two parts to Hydrobee. When wearing its ‘Stream Body’, the gizmo can be placed in a river or dragged behind a boat — so long as the water is flowing faster than 1.8m/s (or 4mph+) — and two to four hours later its battery will be fully charged.
A smaller inner unit can also be attached directly to a flowing faucet to charge — so could be used as a back-up power generator for your phone during a power outage (so long as your taps don’t require electricity to pump the water to them).
Once Hydrobee’s battery is juiced, you can then plug in a USB device to charge it — a secondary charging process that presumably takes several more hours.
Hydrobee reminds me of a CDT project I worked on in school, where we stuck a dynamo on a paddle wheel-bearing rig designed to float in a river and stuck a micro bulb on top that we hoped would be powered by it… Long story short it didn’t work on demo day, but that’s technology demos for you.
Hydrobee has clearly perfected the hydroelectric tech better than a bunch of schoolkids managed to. The prototype consists of a tiny hydropowered turbine sited in a can with rechargeable batteries and waterproofed electronics, and a USB 2.0 port — so you can juice up your phone or other USB-powered device.
The internal batteries are 6 x 1.2V AA NiMH rechargeable cells of 2,500 mAh capacity, yielding a total of 15,000 mAh.
It is still a prototype for now. And Hydrobee’s U.S.-based creator has put a call out for Kickstarter users to give him feedback on the sorts of things they’d like to be able to use the device for to help shape the final product. The campaign is looking to raise $48,000 in crowdfunding, with 17 days left to run. If it hits its funding target, Hydrobees will be shipped to backers next March.
The Hydrobee turbine generator, which can be used to generate a charge from water from a running faucet or hose, is being offered to early Kickstarter backers for $24. Or it’s $78 for all the kit, including the floating Stream Body.
This week, me and Chris Velazco talk about using the Moto G for a prolonged period, Motorola trying to attract more Moto X shoppers with no-money-down deals, and Google going after shopper activity with a physical card for its digital wallet.
We have a grand old time, and for once a mid-market phone is the talk of the town, which is actually refreshing. Also Chris needed like fifteen takes just to get us started, because apparently he’s a completely ridiculous person.
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Intro music by Kris Keyser.
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As everyone knows, roadies are hired to set up gear, tear down gear, drink, and tune guitars. Now roadies can do one less of those things and do more of something else. The Roadie is an automatic tuner for any stringed instrument that uses the iPhone to listen to your guitar and a motorized accessory that turns the machine head to exactly the right position. It’s going to put a lot of real roadies out of business.
Created by Bassam Jalgha of Band Industries, the Roadie was incubated at Shezhen’s Haxlr8r and is nearly ready to ship. The product can tune almost any guitar or stringed instrument perfectly and can even support alternate tunings. A useful wind/unwind feature will spool the string off the peg in a few seconds, shaving off a few moments of downtime during your excessively loud guitar solo gone wrong. A pledge of $69 gets you an early bird model.
These sorts of tuners are nothing new but this is the first “smart” tuner that can do more than set up a guitar in one configuration. A feature called the Instrument Doctor can tell you if strings are going bad and whether the guitar needs repair or a tune up. It charges via MicroUSB and can tune 6,000 times on one charge. It’s compatible with iOS and Android and uses Bluetooth to communicate with the phone.
Jalgha expects to ship in June, just in time for summer rock season. Although I’m a tune by ear kind of guy – which usually fails – I’d use one of these in a heartbeat. At least my caterwauling git-fiddling will be slightly in tune.
We are about to embark on amazing adventure and we need your help. In January we are holding our first Hardware Battlefield in Las Vegas, Nevada to coincide with CES. We will bring 15 great hardware startups, a gaggle of amazing judges, and a 3D-printed trophy of your design.
We need 3D designers to build us an amazing, open source trophy that Shapeways will print for us. If your model is chosen you will receive a Makerbot Digitizer and our unending appreciation as well as a link to your work.
How do you enter? Create a 3D model taller than six inches and submit it to Shapeways with the tag “Techcrunch.” Email me, email@example.com, when you’ve uploaded your model and we will pick a winner at the end of November. You will receive a print and we will use another copy as our Hardware Battlefield trophy.
What are we looking for? Anything as long as it looks great as a trophy, is sufficiently regal-looking, and is amazing. We want robots, planetoids, and 3D printer nozzles blown up to maximum resolution. We want something that epitomizes the spirit of adventure, fun, and hard work that it takes to make a cool hardware startup.
So enter today. We need you and we want our Hardware Battlefield winner to go home with an amazing trophy of your design.
Read more from the original source: We Need You To Design The Hardware Battlefield Trophy
We spent Friday getting to know the PlayStation 4, just like many of you did. It’s still too early for a review, but here are our first impressions of the console and its launch.
The hardware looks good. It’s actually much more reminiscent of the PS2 than the PS3 for me, though much sleeker. I was disappointed by the almost microscopic Power and Eject buttons, though. You have to dig your nail in to actually press them, and even then it’s not clear whether they’ve actually triggered. Coupled with some of the HDMI connection issues that I experienced (more on that later), it was frustrating not to know whether it was the button or the console that wasn’t responding.
The day one update came in at 323MB. It downloaded in about five minutes on launch day, but it failed several times before finally going through.
I’m really impressed with how the DualShock 4 has been redesigned. It feels great and new features like the touchpad and lightbar are nice touches without being distracting or gimmicky.
Sony touts the PS4, with its 8GB of RAM and eight-core CPU, as having 10 times the computing power of its predecessor. It’s actually quite remarkable what the firm managed to pack into the console at a $399 price. That full potential isn’t being harnessed yet, but the games do, of course, look good.
Unliked Microsoft and the Kinect, Sony’s PlayStation Camera isn’t as essential to the overall experience. You’ll get face recognition for your profile, and the camera can match you up with your controller using the lightbar. Voice commands are a nice touch, but they’re fairly barebones. It’s a tough sell at the moment since you’ll need to spend an extra $59.99 for it.
We didn’t get a chance to test the Remote Play integration with the PS Vita, but so far we’re hearing good things about it. I suspect the feature is going to give the Vita a new lease on life.
We tested Knack, Killzone: Shadow Fall and Call of Duty: Ghosts. I had quite a bit of trouble with Knack, enough so that I didn’t make it very far in the game. One point in the game kept freezing and eventually crashed. The game is fun for the family, but there’s very little about it that screams next-gen.
Killzone has been left to carry the PS4 exclusive mantle while we wait for Drive Club and Second Son to arrive next year. The game has some gorgeous moments that really show off the new hardware, and a couple interesting mechanics like the use of the DualShock 4′s new lightbar to give you health alerts. The OWL drone adds some variety, but the gameplay can still get stale at times.
Call of Duty also looks fantastic. If you’re curious what kind of improvement it is over the last generation, Gamespot has a great side-by-side comparison video of the Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 and PC versions.
Sony maintains that less than 0.04 percent of PS4 owners have experienced technical issues at launch, but there do seem to be some problems with the console. Issues like PSN connectivity can be chalked up to launch period teething problems, but I’ve had the system drop its video connection several times. It took several reboots and fiddling to get it to come back on.
Between not being able to log onto PSN, having to start at the beginning of Knack several times because it kept crashing, and the HDMI output cutting out, I spent a large part of the day troubleshooting the console instead of actually using it. I certainly expect the Xbox One to have its own share of day one hiccups, but I was left with the feeling that the PS4 was rushed out the door for the holidays. Assuming that none of the issues are hardware related, Sony should be fixing these problems as the platform matures, but it’s something worth considering for those of you who are already taking a wait-and-see approach.
The PS4 is undeniably full of potential, and I’m confident it will emerge as the platform for living room gaming over the next few years. However, much of that potential remains untapped at launch. Upcoming exclusives and the Gaikai cloud gaming service will bring plenty of value to the PS4, but not until next year. Considering how large a game base the previous generation of consoles built up over the past few years, game studios had an awkward transition ahead of them in the move to next-gen this holiday season. It’s nice to see blockbusters like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Battlefield 4 on both generations, but that also cuts into some of the shiny newness of it all.
The sense we got from our first few hours with the console is that Sony optimized its console for gaming without locking down any truly remarkable exclusives at launch. Building a console is a long-term play, so there isn’t much to be worried about, but new PS4 owners might be stuck wondering what they can do with their new gadgets for the next few months.
Go here to see the original: PlayStation 4 first impressions: A shaky launch, but plenty of potential