Google Handwriting Input is able to decode scribbles in up to 82 languages
The long-awaited hegemony between handwriting and computer screens may have moved a step closer today following the launch of a new tool from Google.
The search giant has released Google Handwriting Input, a system which lets users handwrite text on their Android mobile device as an additional input method for any Android app
The tool, which is available to download from Google Play today, is able to recognise up to 82 languages, works with both printed and cursive writing input with or without a stylus, and can even recognise emojis.
Google Handwriting Input works with or without an internet connection, and uses large-scale language modeling, robust multi-language OCR, alongside large-scale neural-networks and approximate nearest neighbour search to identify characters in language that can be hard to represent using traditional keyboard apps.
Google says that such apps don’t work for many ideographic languages (such as Chinese) as they are often based on a particular dialect of the language, but if a user does not know that dialect, they may be hard to use.
Additionally, keyboards for complex script languages (like many South Asian languages) are less standardized and may be unfamiliar. Even for languages where virtual keyboards are more widely used (like English or Spanish), some users find that handwriting is more intuitive, faster, and generally more comfortable.
“Entering text on mobile devices is still considered inconvenient by many; touchscreen keyboards, although much improved over the years, require a lot of attention to hit the right buttons,” said Google.
“Voice input is an option, but there are situations where it is not feasible, such as in a noisy environment or during a meeting. Using handwriting as an input method can allow for natural and intuitive input method for text entry which complements typing and speech input methods.”
Software developers have been trying to solve the handwriting/computer screen issue for a number of years, with many turning to styluses as a way to solve the issue.
Microsoft has included an optional stylus with its series of Surface Pro devices, and made a major statement of intent in the market with the acquisition of Israeli firm N-Trig, which made the stylus for the Surface Pro 3.
It’s also rumoured that the upcoming LG G4 will come with a stylus, to allow users better interaction with the device, which can often be compromised when accessing a large touchscreen with one hand.
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