Livescribe Hands-On: Translating Written Text on the Fly

See video of the Babel pen in action

We first saw the Livescribe Pulse "smartpen" in action at the DEMO conference last month, but today CEO Jim Marggraff stopped by to give us a closer look.

When you use the Pulse to write on paper printed with a special microdot pattern, it recognizes its exact relative location on the page and captures a digital file of your pen strokes (complete with full character and word recognition) along with audio. The pen can also then interact with written words on the page in many interesting ways, including live audio translations into multiple languages of any word you tap.

When it ships next month, the Pulse will be pre-packaged with a limited phrasebook (hello, goodbye, numbers and the like) for multiple languages, but full translation packs should be available as add-ons for around 30 bucks, Marggraff says.

The potential applications of a live-translating pen are pretty exciting: in a pinch while traveling, the Pulse can order your dinner for you—just write out what you want. And for me, writing things down is one of the simplest and most effective methods for remembering something—paired with an instant real-time translation, using this method to learn a new language could be very intuitive.

For more on the Livescribe pen in action, see our post from DEMO and watch for further coverage in an upcoming issue of PopSci.