More input, naturally

Write 1 + 1 on a digital page powered by Vision Objects’ recognition technology and you will see your handwriting transcribed in real time, the answer appearing instantly in neatly formed text. My maths tends to struggle much beyond simple sums, but thankfully Giovanni Rodriguez of Vision Objects was on hand to demonstrate some more complex equations.

However, maths is just one use of this technology: Vision Objects’ engine will also transcribe prose, musical notations and shapes. Indeed, the underlying engine can be configured for many different forms of input and, crucially, combine them all in a single page.

Handwriting recognition on mobile devices is nothing new, but the speed and natural feel Vision Objects has achieved most certainly is.

Key to the UX of any recognition application is how easy it is to correct mistakes. Software companies may sell these products on the basis of their accuracy, but given that even the most advanced is fallible, the ease of correction often determines whether users persevere with a service or simply abandon it.

Not only has Vision Objects made this as simple as crossing out or using a virtual eraser on the digital canvas, it has also hidden a lot of the recognition from the user. For instance, when taking handwritten notes, the app shows the original writing and only reveals the recognition when the user clicks on the image of a specific word. As a result users worry less about whether mistakes are being made, but still have all the benefits of the text being searchable and usable in other digital formats.

Seeing it in action I was impressed by how natural it felt. This was the first time handwriting on a digital device had seemed truly usable. It is one of several examples I’ve seen already at Mobile World Congress 2013 of how advances in speed and power are enabling images, videos and natural language to remove text input as a barrier to digital interaction.

The obvious applications of note taking and educational markets are also now being complimented by use in environments where users can’t spare much attention for their digital devices. Audi, for instance, has deployed it for in car navigation, allowing users to write big letters on the touchscreen without looking to select a destination.


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