Okay, so smartpens aren't as common as smartphones, but, hey, they're getting smarter too! That's right, Livescribe's taken the cap off its new Echo smartpen, and not only is it thinner and lighter than the original Pulse pen, but it also packs more power. Like its predecessor, the Echo can capture audio and handwriting, but it's now armed with more storage and features. The $169.95 4GB version promises up to 400 hours of audio recording, while the $199 8GB one up to 800 hours. However, the real updates come in the software arena -- the Echo can now be password protected to safeguard those love letters, err notes / recordings, and has a new function for launching applications. Additionally, new desktop software lets users export pencasts -- what the company has dubbed its visual note and audio recording -- to share with others via social networks and e-mail.

But that's not all, Livescribe's promising more updates this fall, and they actually happen to be the most compelling of the bunch. By then you'll be able to send notes via e-mail by just docking the pen to the computer and turn the pen and paper combo into a Wacom-like graphics tablet. Basically, you'll be able to attach the pen to a computer via it's micro-USB cable and just draw free hand on the screen. The latter option could be pretty awesome for designers and such, but we'll have to wait a few months to test it out. Oh, you're looking for some more Echo action now? We've got some brief impressions and a hands-on video after the break.
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Livescribe Echo press images

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Livescribe Echo hands-on


There's no doubt that the Echo is more ergonomic than the previous Pulse pen -- it's got a new comfortable rubber grip and it's noticeably less top heavy than than its bulkier predecessor. As a pen pen, it's pretty much your standard quill, though we've always wished there was a rollerball ink option. But obviously this pen's got more digital skills than your average Bic, and just like the Pulse version, the Echo recorded the audio of a meeting totally in sync with our notes. Seriously, we never get over how cool it is to go back, tap a word on the special dotted-paper, and hear what was being said aloud at the time. Our review unit also came with some free apps. When we brought up the American Heritage English Dictionary app on the pen's OLED display, we were blown away at its ability to display the definition of the words we wrote out. The Sudoku app was also pretty fun to play around with. Oh, and the preloaded piano app, which requires you to draw out a keyboard to play some music, is pretty much the best doodling game ever.

We also took a look at the new desktop client on our Macbook. The iTunes-like program is easy enough to use, and we had no issues naming our pen, exporting our Pencasts to share with friends, and password protecting our new writing gadget. However, we have to say it does take quite a bit of time to download apps and then add them to the pen. Additionally, we've never really undersood why the pen doesn't include its own OCR software for converting handwriting to text -- Livescribe recommends one for $35 made by Vision Objects, but it would be nice if it was just included. Despite those slight issues, the Echo is one smart pen for students or anyone that wants to capture audio and text at the same time.


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Livescribe Unveils Echo Smartpen
Company previews new communication and collaboration software for business professionals

OAKLAND, Calif. – July 19, 2010 – Livescribe Inc., (www.livescribe.com) maker of the award-winning Pulse smartpen, unveils Echo™, the newest smartpen in its product lineup, along with software enhancements geared for the business professional that make sharing, securing and organizing information simple. Today's announcement also previews new communication and collaboration capabilities coming this fall, including Connect and Paper Tablet, which simplify and streamline the sharing of information within existing workflows using industry-standard document formats like Adobe PDF.

"Livescribe's mission is to enhance the capture, access and sharing of written and spoken information to improve communication, collaboration, productivity and learning," says Jim Marggraff, CEO and founder of Livescribe. "Today's announcement of the Echo smartpen and preview of our new communication and collaboration tools marks a significant advancement in paper-based computing, as well as personal and professional information management. Notes, audio, and other information captured on paper are now seamlessly integrated into readily used online applications and services. Integration with Adobe PDF brings the communication benefits of audio and ink together in a ubiquitous format for use by millions of people."

Echo Smartpen
The Echo smartpen captures everything consumers hear and write and provides quick and accurate access to important information by simply tapping on the written notes either directly on paper or on a computer using the Livescribe Desktop software.

Echo features a sleek ergonomic design with a rubberized grip and anti-roll surface. It is available in 4GB and 8GB models, recording approximately 400 and 800 hours respectively. This new smartpen also features industry-standard connectors, micro-USB and 3.5 mm audio jack, to enable customers to use their favorite ear buds for private listening as well as share common USB cables with other mobile devices. Click here to see a demonstration of Echo.

The 8GB Echo smartpen features abundant storage, for up to 800 hours of audio or a combination of audio, digital ink and applications. Applications range from rich reference tools like a complete 120,000 word American Heritage Desk Dictionary to simple games and study aids, available from Livescribe's Beta Application Store, which now includes more than 60 applications. Livescribe smartpen applications enhance many aspects of digital life from productivity and education to entertainment and communication, enabling users to customize, personalize and extend their smartpen

New Smartpen and Livescribe Desktop Enhancements
A variety of free enhancements to Livescribe Desktop and the smartpen have been added for both Echo and Pulse customers.

• Launch Line: a new way to access and launch applications in seconds
• Password protection: ensures recorded audio on your smartpen remains private
and safe
• Custom smartpen name: display a name or other contact information
on the OLED screen, making identifying the owner of a smartpen easy
• Custom notebooks: group and organize notes as easily as creating a playlist in
iTunes
• Pencast import/export: save and share pencast files locally to your desktop, a
server, or to send to others as an integrated audio/notes document. Anyone with
the Livescribe Desktop software (free download online) can now open, view and
interact with a native Livescribe file

New Communication and Collaboration Tools Available this Fall
This fall, Livescribe will also make available new Connect software, which enables customers to send notes, audio and Pencast PDFs quickly and easily from smartpen and paper to a wide range of destinations including email addresses, online sites and other popular third-party consumer, education and business applications. Information is automatically sent when the smartpen is docked to a Mac or PC. With Pencast PDF, customers will also be able to author and share pencasts in an industry-standard Adobe PDF document directly from smartpen and paper. Anyone with Adobe Acrobat Reader 9.3 or above will be able to view and listen to an interactive Pencast PDF. To see an example Pencast PDF, click here.

Livescribe will also introduce Paper Tablet, powerful new collaboration software that lets consumers communicate in real-time, directly from a Livescribe notebook to a Mac or PC using an Echo smartpen and a standard micro-USB cable. Now any Livescribe paper product can also be used as an interactive, high-precision graphics tablet, with the smartpen being used as a real-time graphics stylus. Customers will create and share notes, drawings, and annotate or sign documents or presentations locally or over the Web with popular video conferencing applications and industry-standard education collaboration tools.

Pencast Player from Livescribe on Apple iPad, iPhone and iTouch With the launch of Echo, the company is announcing the Pencast Player for iPad, iPhone and iTouch, which enables customers to access their pencasts anywhere they go. Now notes and audio from critical meetings or lectures are portable, playable and easy to share with a simple touch. Pencast Player will be available for free from the iTunes store later this summer.

Product Availability
All Livescribe smartpens and the Livescribe Desktop software for Mac and PCs are localized and available in English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish. Additionally Korean, and Chinese languages are supported in the Windows version of the Livescribe Desktop and all smartpens.
US: The company is also introducing several new accessory products to enhance the experience with Livescribe smartpens.

• Echo 3-D Recording Premium Headset ($29.95): features embedded microphones that enable 360 degree binaural recording – ideal for recording in lecture halls or conferences
• Smartpen Portfolio ($24.95): a convenient all-in-one solution for professionals, fits Livescribe journals or A5 notebooks, and provides extra storage for a smartpen, business cards and extra ink cartridges
• Deluxe Carrying Case ($24.95): a protective zippered case, with plenty of room for a smartpen, ear buds and other cables and accessories

The new Echo smartpens, available in 4GB ($169.95) and 8GB ($199.95) models, dot paper and accessories are available now at Best Buy, Amazon.com, Apple, Staples, Target and online at Livescribe.com. In addition, select applications for the smartpen will be sold at Best Buy, with a full set of downloadable applications available at Livescribe's Application Store at www.livescribe.com/store. The 2GB Pulse smartpen is now available at a new entry price point of $129.95.

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Livescribe gets pensive, unleashes new Echo Smartpen