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Tech companies hope to upgrade pen, paper notetakers

Many students still take notes the old fashion way, with a pen and paper, but there are tech companies hoping to upgrade that.
Friday, August 22, 2014
With school starting back up, students and parents have to make some big technology purchases, but there's one part of learning that's managed to stay awfully low-tech -- note taking. However, some tech companies want to change that.

Almost two-thirds of college students say the most important thing they buy for school is a laptop. But when they go to take notes in class, just as many as ever are reaching for pen and paper. It turns out there's a reason for that.

"Students who use handwriting on paper to take notes actually process the information at a deeper level and therefore get better test results," Livescribe CEO Gilles Bouchard said.

Bouchard is citing a study by Princeton University -- one that could only mean good things for his product -- the Livescribe Smartpen.

"It just looks like a pen. You pull it out of your pocket, you look at it, it's just like a great pen. Then you turn it on and you just write," Bouchard said.

It will give you real ink on real paper, but inside the pen, a tiny camera's scanning everything you write so you can read it, search it and share it from your Apple device.

"So we've bridged the gap between those two worlds, basically," Bouchard said.

Still, technology is getting closer and closer to imitating the experience of paper. In fact, that's been a major design focus for Microsoft's Surface Pro 3, with a totally different kind of pen than its predecessors.

"Just as much design emphasis went in to the design of Surface Pen as did for Surface Pro 3," Microsoft spokesman Brian Seitz said.

The pen is chock full of tiny batteries and radios.

"And also has a kind of softer rubberized tip so when you're writing on the glass, it feels a little more like it would on paper," Seitz said.

They've made the screen glass thinner to get rid of the gap between the pen and the ink. And like a real pen, you just click it to start writing.

"There's a little button on the top here, this purple button, and if you press that, it will launch OneNote, our note taking application, even if your device is locked," Seitz said.

With students in mind, Microsoft brought out a cheaper version of the Surface Pro 3 this month -- a tablet they say can replace your laptop and your notebook. But if you still love paper, Microsoft's own research shows you're not alone.

"Seventy-one percent of people in America still use pen and paper for at least an hour a day," Seitz said.

Good thing Livescribe just announced their pen will sync with Microsoft OneNote, so your analog scribblings can live in the cloud right alongside your digital ones.
Related Topics:
technology shopping students education college students school back to school microsoft tablets silicon valley San Francisco
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