The coolest thing I saw at our Tools of Change for Publishing Conference last week was the LiveScribe SmartPen. This amazing pen includes a microphone and an optical sensor that synchronizes the audio with any notes you take on special microdot paper using the pen. Touch the appropriate point on your notes to replay the relevant section of the audio stream. The quality of the recording was good, and it was really uncanny to point the pen at words written on the paper and hear what actually happened. The 1 gigabyte model can record 100 hours; the two gigabyte model can record 200 hours.
This device is one more sign of what I’ve been calling ambient computing, the interpenetration of computing with the physical world via sensors. I’ve tended to focus on cloud computing ambience, though, and this is a personal device. It’s also a fulfillment of projects such as Gordon Bell’s MyLifeBits, the idea that decreasing storage costs will eventually mean that we’ll have the ability to record our entire lives in digital form.
It’s also a sign that the physical computing revolution, whose alpha-geek stage we’ve been documenting in Make:, is entering its next phase, in which entrepreneurial opportunities emerge. It’s so wonderful to see an invention that is so much “on trend” that in retrospect it seems inevitable, yet in its first appearance is so unexpected and remarkable!
I’ve put in my pre-order. This is the coolest device I’ve seen in a long time. Especially cool that they are opening it up as a platform, with an SDK for developers to build new applications for the device.