Building on the concept of paper-based computing, the smartpen from Livescribe will enable users to build and use audio and visual data in sync with written materials.

An excerpt from TechnologyReview:

So long as the user writes on paper printed with a special pattern, the smartpen transforms what is written into interactive text. For example, the pen has a recording function, called paper replay, that can record sound and connect it to what the user writes while the sounds are being recorded. Later, the user can tap the pen over what she wrote and replay the associated sounds. “We’re starting to make the whole world of printable surfaces accessible and functional,” says Livescribe CEO Jim Marggraff.

Applications of the new technology include keeping track of audio that accompanies note taking, interactive learning as in obtaining meanings of words as you write them, interactive business cards, and also e-mailing handwritten text on the fly.

The technology works on paper printed with an array of micro-dots, a technology developed by Swedish company Anoto. The grid of micro-dots act as coordinates for the smartpen to associate media with what is written on paper. The cost for the paper pattern will not be much more than ordinary paper, Livescribe promises. Also, the micro-dots can be printed using commercial printers.

The intuitive technology provides a mechanism to associate text, video, and audio connected around certain checkpoints.

The company has a vision that paper-based computing platforms will be replacing several of the mobile platforms today. Perhaps this technology is a precursor to that.