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Published on March 25th, 2012 | by Richard Cartwright


Is Amazon going to tout Handwriting Recognition on the Kindle Fire?

The biggest obstacle to purchasing a Kindle Fire for use as an everyday tablet, OTHER THAN YOU CAN”T GET IT FROM AMAZON.CO.UK (apologies, but I feel much better now)  is the fact that the current Fire lacks any way to connect an external keyboard. Amazon had to keep the cost down somehow, and not adding Bluetooth or an external keyboard was apparently part of the process. Put this firmly in the speculation category, but there are some programs out there already that enable handwriting recognition for the Kindle Fire and some evidence that  Amazon may have to either tout handwriting recognition over an expensive accessory or add features to the Fire to match Apple and other Android products.

Accurate handwriting recognition has been one of the Holy Grails of any hand held device. One of the most famous first attempts was the Apple Newton, but it became more well known for its flubs than its accuracy. The late, great Palm brought handwriting recognition mainstream with its easy to learn Graffiti language that made Palm PDAs the geek standard for keeping track of your personal information.

The advent of the Handspring (later Palm) Treo and RIM Blackberry line and smart phones generally pushed handwriting recognition to the background in favor of keypads and texting. However, the Apple iPhone, ushered in capacitive touchscreens and until the advent of Capacitive stylus products the only way to input into recent smart phones and tablets was your finger, your voice or if truly cold and desperate a meat stick.

As smart phones started losing hardware keyboards in favor of more screen real estate, users were finding the onscreen touch keyboards unsatisfying. In other words, we ham handed people who do not have either the hands of a surgeon or a child had a hard time entering information at any reasonable rate. Further, handset makers were discovering that there was a reason that people wear gloves in the wintertime. Even Apple can’t ignore the market where it gets cold. And meat sticks can be so greasy.  Enter the capacitive stylus.

Some have speculated that Apple sees a world where we talk to our phones and tablets as evidenced by Siri on the iPhone and voice dictation on the third generation iPad. Android appears to at least be competing in this arena as well. However, unless you live in the world where you have a private office, a car and driver and the like, the rest of us run the risk of suffering the fate of those who appear to be talking to themselves in the Underground. Or at least brassing off our coworkers.

Right now the Kindle Fire, like other Android products have access to several handwriting recognition programs. Unlike many other Android products,  there is no way at present to mate a Kindle Fire to a hardware keyboard of any stripe and thus Amazon has to either provide a way to do some kind of input or be relegated to a media player on steroids and not a viable tablet option for anyone who sees a tablet as a possible notebook replacement or supplement for serious email or note taking. Pushing handwriting recognition may be the most cost effective way to do it.



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About the Author

Richard Cartwright is the American correspondent for Mighty Gadget (because let's face it-it's pretty bloody late in London when a lot of the good gadget announcements are made in the US) He is a OG (original Geek) who has been interested in gadgets before most of his readers were born.

One Response to Is Amazon going to tout Handwriting Recognition on the Kindle Fire?

  1. Richard,
    Working for one of the leaders in handwriting recognition, I very much share your opinion in this article. Tablets are great media consumption devices as Apple has successfully showed however all efforts of using them for content creation is extremely limited. Now diehard fans will tell you that they use an external keyboard for that purpose but this hinders greatly the mobility form factor and has technical requirements as you point out for the Kindle Fire. This is where a good quality screen and stylus can make a difference and I’d be very curious to know your opinion on the value of today’s handwriting recognition with its variants (shapes and mathematical equations). Are we good enough or is there still a usability issue we, software providers need to bridge?

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