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iSlate Input Alternatives: Handwriting Recognition Without a Stylus and Much More

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As rumors of an Apple tablet reach a frenzy, there's no shortage of opinions of what Apple could or should do in an upcoming tablet device. One major question that has remained is the input method that Apple will choose to adopt for the tablet. This became the most obvious issue when you start holding 10-inch tablets as we did at CES. Traditional soft keyboards simply don't scale well in size. Gizmodo summarizes and explores the problem well:
I had a chance to play with a few different sizes of tablets at CES, nearly all of which had traditional onscreen keyboards -- in particular, the Android 2.0 keyboard, which is aesthetically different but functionally almost identical to iPhone OSes. None of them worked, at least in the way that I wanted them to, for one reason: they were too big. Seven-inch tablets were too large to comfortably thumb-type on, while 10-inch tablets made text input all but impossible.
This exact issue dates back to when Apple first introduced the Newton MessagePad, which offered handwriting recognition as its primary input. One of the main benefits of handwriting recognition was the fact that it could be used while standing and holding a slate-type device. As device sizes shrank over the years and chiclet keyboards, and subsequently touch-screen keyboards, took over, the issue has been mostly forgotten.




2006 Samsung UMPC with Dialkeys
The simplest (and arguably the most likely) solution will be for Apple to split the touch keyboard in some way. This is the same solution (DialKeys) that Microsoft adopted when they introduced their UMPC devices in 2006. Halves of the touch keyboard would sit along the left and right edges of the screen to be more accessible to your thumbs while holding the device with both hands.

A more intriguing solution, however, would be the reintroduction of handwriting recognition in at least a limited form alongside a more robust multi-touch keyboard. While much has been said of an old handwriting patent application that reemerged in November, the claims in that patent date back from Newton days and the provided image is clearly a depiction of the Newton MessagePad (image), complete with up/down arrows in the toolbar.

Instead, the most interesting multi-touch patent that has emerged from Apple in recent years is one that dates from February 2008, and describes a comprehensive multi-touch system which incorporates touch controls and proximity sensors to allow the device to handle a multitude of different input types, including stylus-less handwriting recognition:
Apparatus and methods are disclosed for simultaneously tracking multiple finger and palm contacts as hands approach, touch, and slide across a proximity-sensing, multi-touch surface. Identification and classification of intuitive hand configurations and motions enables unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing, scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting into a versatile, ergonomic computer input device.




FingerWorks founder Wayne Westerman describes a system where the "pen grip detection module" checks to see if the hand imprint on the multi-touch screen matches up with that of holding an imaginary pen. If so, the movements are interpreted as digital ink and can be used for drawing, signatures or even handwriting recognition. This would go along nicely with Steve Jobs' dislike of styluses.

To be honest, we're not sure how such a system would work in practice, and the remainder of the patent application is likely to be more relevant to Apple's actual plans. The advanced recognition and processing involved paints a picture of an intuitive multi-touch input device that adapts to the user's intent.

Article Link: iSlate Input Alternatives: Handwriting Recognition Without a Stylus and Much More
 

arn

macrumors god
Staff member
Apr 9, 2001
15,380
3,683
"Writing" with your fingers is worse than writing with a stylus. Ugh. That looks like it would just be awkward.

it's not writing with your finger, it's writing with a pretend stylus. which is very different.

arn
 

kdarling

macrumors P6
I kind of liked Microsoft's recent patent application, where keyboard sections appear and are baselined wherever you plop your fingers down.

In other words, the keyboard keys automatically adapt according to your hand's size and finger locations, not the usual other way around.

You could almost touch type without looking, as long as it can recognize where your home fingers are.
 

theheadguy

macrumors 65816
Apr 26, 2005
1,123
1,322
california
Of course, this could all be for Rev. B or C of the tablet... the first tablet being much more simple and in some aspects, crippled by the lack of such features.
 

Small White Car

macrumors G4
Aug 29, 2006
10,924
1,234
Washington DC
I have no clue what's true or not true, but after every new 'iTablet' speculation I can hear Simon Pegg inside my head saying "Wow! Isn't this exciting!"
 

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arn

macrumors god
Staff member
Apr 9, 2001
15,380
3,683
I kind of liked Microsoft's recent patent application, where keyboard sections appear wherever you plop your fingers down.

while nice, it doesn't address the use of a tablet while holding it.

arn
 

jo0

macrumors regular
Nov 25, 2009
224
0
Seattle, WA
im really not quite sure what to expect in regards to input... i just hope apple doesn't disappoint. they usually dont.
 

RonD69

macrumors member
Sep 14, 2008
79
7
Voice Recognition

I would like to see more development in the voice recognition area. Working with a stylus/finger to write or edit documents is going to be cumbersome, IMHO, on a tablet.
 

ohthereitis

macrumors newbie
Jan 13, 2010
1
0
better name?

I think it is time for Apple to move beyond the "i" prefix. iSlate just sounds dumb. Call it a slate and be done with it.
 

nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
12,546
1,196
I suppose the pen-grip thing could work—but some might have to get used to it, just like some people right-click a Mighty Mouse naturally (index finger lifted) and some have to learn the habit.

Two moving touches close together, plus other static touches (the resting hand), could be the finger-and-thumb of the pen grip “gesture.” Whereas two touches WITHOUT the resting hand could be interpreted as a two-finger pan/drag like some iPhone apps use, or the start of a pinch-zoom.

And since I like to hunt-and-peck with on index finger on my iPhone, I’d also like to see an iPhone-sized keyboard option. Put those iPhone habits to good use.
 

miles01110

macrumors Core
Jul 24, 2006
19,261
31
The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
it's not writing with your finger, it's writing with a pretend stylus. which is very different.

arn

Is it that different? You have to touch the "pretend stylus" to the screen to make it work, and in my experience handwriting recognition software, while much improved, is still quite lacking. Imagine having to "write" in a password... what a nightmare.
 

zombitronic

macrumors 65816
Feb 9, 2007
1,115
6
...which looks EXACTLY like reverse-pinch-to-zoom. How would it know the difference?

I propose a double tap with your fingers in stylus position, as if tapping the tip of a pen or pencil on paper before you begin writing.
 

arn

macrumors god
Staff member
Apr 9, 2001
15,380
3,683
Is it that different? You have to touch the "pretend stylus" to the screen to make it work, and in my experience handwriting recognition software, while much improved, is still quite lacking. Imagine having to "write" in a password... what a nightmare.

Well, they don't get into the exact method of triangulating where the pen is expected to touch down on the screen, but no, you don't have to touch the "pretend stylus" to the screen.

I still don't think you understand what's being described.

arn

...which looks EXACTLY like reverse-pinch-to-zoom. How would it know the difference?

because your palm and fingers (pinky, ring, middle) touch down on the screen in a specific way for handwriting. those fingers don't touch down at all for me in reverse zoom.

arn
 

kdarling

macrumors P6
while nice, it doesn't address the use of a tablet while holding it.

Very true. (Well, unless it only sees one hand and therefore creates a different type of keyboard to use.)

One-handed entry capability is important. Voice input is nice, but hard to use in a crowd or while surfing in bed next to someone who's asleep ;)

Being able to type in a URL with our thumb, while holding with the rest of that one hand, is very handy on current smaller devices.

Interesting questions. Will the tablet adjust to several of our various input desires, or will we have to adjust to a single one?
 

miles01110

macrumors Core
Jul 24, 2006
19,261
31
The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
Well, they don't get into the exact method of triangulating where the pen is expected to touch down on the screen, but no, you don't have to touch the "pretend stylus" to the screen.

I still don't think you understand what's being described.

I guess I'll withhold judgment until I see it work (or not work). Can't wait to get the Tablet screen smudged up with sweaty palms.
 

zombitronic

macrumors 65816
Feb 9, 2007
1,115
6
because your palm and fingers touch down on the screen in a specific way for handwriting.

arn

Exactly. The remainder of your fingers (the ones that aren't gripping your writing tool) usually rest on whatever surface that you're writing on.
 

iOrlando

macrumors 68000
Jul 20, 2008
1,811
1
well all of this "stuff" does jive well with other "second-rate" rumors like there is a steep learning curve and the user interface is on steriods etc.

I am not sold on the whole...writing out each word like with a fake pen...I dont know.

Having the keyboard split into the two corners...that I can see... Almost like a brand new keyboard concept...steep learning curve to learn where the letters are? sure would be.
 

cmaier

macrumors Core
Jul 25, 2007
19,387
19,333
California
So I've been wondering about it using a projected keyboard like, http://www.virtual-laser-keyboard.com/

I seem to remember Apple having patents on these sorts of keyboards. But in a quick google search I couldn't find references to them.

johno

The only reason to have such a thing is if you can't fit a decent-sized keyboard on the screen. It also requires propping the tablet into a particular orientation, and hoping to have a flat surface onto which to project. No way apple's doing that stuff.
 
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