myscript-logo-1135x375With apologies to T. H. White for the title.

I was recently approached by MyScript, a company focused on handwriting recognition software, about their latest iOS app, MyScript Stylus for iOS. (Don’t worry, Paul, it’s also available in beta on Android.) I tried it out and was surprised at how well it recognized my handwriting. Granted, I don’t have really bad handwriting (when I work at it), but there was no learning curve at all.

Back in my Handspring Visor days, I loved Graffiti and was pretty darned fast. Then I purchased my first Blackberry, a Curve, and I became wicked fast on that keyboard. Fast forward to iPhone and now Android days, and, with Swiftkey, I’m fast again, mostly because Swiftkey’s predictive text is so darned good.

Which means handwriting recognition is no longer my personal Holy Grail, but I could get back into it with something like MyScript.  I had a chance to speak to a couple of MyScript executives, Joël Couelier, Senior Product Manager, and Denis Manceau, Director of Global Product Management, and I asked them about the future of handwriting recognition.

They don’t consider themselves as competing against a keyboard, which they acknowledge is quite efficient on the desktop. On the other hand, they do feel there need to be better mobile options, especially while driving.

Yes, you read that correctly. They have partnered with Audi to add handwriting to in-auto control systems. Don’t even get me started on how wrong I think that is. I never text while driving and seldom answer my phone. But I realize I’m unusual in that, so I suppose handwriting could have its place. Just not in one of my cars.

Anyway, when I asked how their app could be so accurate with no learning curve (that I noticed), they said they have been training it on millions of different users. (I’m not feeling in the slightest bit special now.) Special or not, it was pretty cool to not have to train the app at all.

They have incorporated predictive text, and I found the app’s predictions to be generally better than the iOS native predictions but not as scary accurate as SwiftKey. They say they are working on that and, in the future, as you select predictive options, the app will use that information to better learn your handwriting.

If you are a math fan, you should check out MyScript Calculator, which allows you to draw math problems, using symbols, which the app recognizes. Something they are working on is an app which will allow you to draw diagrams and have them converted to images. So instead of fighting with a drawing app to add the circle just where you want it, simply draw it by hand and let the app figure it out.

It was an exciting conversation, and it might almost be enough to get me interested in handwriting recognition again. But not in my car. Never in my car.


  1. I used a lot of handwriting recognizers over the years on PocketPC/WM. Android was a big disappointment for a long time, but Google’s new recognizer, and the latest version of Samsung’s are as good as the old WM Transcriber. Combine that with a Boxwave stylus and it’s 2005 again!

    I blame that idiot Steve Jobs. He reportedly didn’t like styluses and believed that therefore no one should use them. For the record, I’ve never used an Apple iThingie long enough to investigate the handwriting recognition on it.

    …and I agree, this kind of tech should not be in a car.

    Jack Tingle

  2. Hi. It’s April from MyScript. RE handwriting recognition in cars, the trend we are seeing is that drivers want to be able to input information in their preferred method-be it handwriting, voice, gesture, etc. for the specific use case. Handwriting recognition is being used most commonly today as an input method in infotainment and navigation systems. Handwriting has been found to be less distracting as drivers do not have to take their eyes off the road to enter information for these use cases (and voice is not always reliable in certain environments). When the vehicle is parked, drivers can also use handwriting to perform more complicated inputs such as browsing the internet, writing a note, etc. The passenger can also be the person using the technology in the car.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail