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Google Adds Handwriting Recognition to Search




Google has just released a new feature that falls into the “cooler than it is practical” category of updates. It’s called Handwrite, and it’s the ability to search Google simply by writing on your mobile phone or tablet screen.

When I saw this, my first thought was, ‘wow, we’re moving backwards.’ Think about it. We developed voice recognition to get the hands out of the process. Driving? No problem, just tell Google what you want. Carpel Tunnel? No handwork involved. Easy.

But Google insists that there are times when voice activation and even keyboard use is impractical.

“Say you’re standing on a busy street corner, in a bumpy taxi ride, talking with a friend, or sitting on the couch with your tablet.”

Cause, you know how tricky it can be to use your iPad when you’re sitting on the couch in your living room. (??)

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say you’re in one of these precarious situations and you have a desperate need to search. Simply activate Handwrite from the Google Search Settings control panel, then write on your mobile or tablet screen with your finger.

Viola!

Actually, it’s more like, huh. . . that’s interesting because it’s not as simple as Google makes it sound. Maybe it’s because I have chubby fingers, but I had a hard time getting it to correctly interpret my handwriting. If you print and pause between letters it begins to search before your done. If you write quickly in cursive, you can get the whole word out before the search kicks in but if you’re sloppy you’ll end up with “bow” instead of “ben” and “Cynthia” turned into “arte.” Got me on that one.

With some practice, I found a pace that worked more often than not and that was when I decided this was wacky and pretty darned cool.

I imagine it would work even better if you had a stylus, particularly if you were doing it on an iPhone. I tried it on my iPad and I needed the whole screen to write a single word. Anything longer than five letters and I had to write it in sections. This works, because when you pause, the letters translate and then disappear from the screen. Put in enough letters and Google reads your mind and fills in the rest for you.

So SU-pause-PER-pause- NAT – got me to my favorite TV show, Supernatural.

I imagine there will be people in specific situations that will find this tool very useful. I can’t think of one of those situations, but I’m sure they exist. If you have pre-schoolers at home, they can use it to practice writing the alphabet and spelling simple words. That’s assuming we still teach kids to write by hand.

Cursive, it’s kind of a lost art.