Handwriting recognition comes to Kindle Touch, thanks to Puzzazz

The puzzle technology startup has developed a new technology called TouchWrite that can convert handwritten letters and numbers into digital on-screen versions.

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
2 min read
Amazon's Kindle Touch.
Amazon's Kindle Touch Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon's Kindle Touch is getting handwriting recognition, but it isn't being delivered by the company you think.

A new puzzle-focused technology startup called Puzzazz has developed a Kindle Touch-exclusive product called TouchWrite. The technology, which GeekWire's Todd Bishop tried out, enables users to write numbers and letters with a finger, and then TouchWrite converts them into digital on-screen versions.

For now, Puzzazz's technology is limited to a couple of Sudoku e-books available in the Kindle Store. However, the company's founder, Roy Leban, told GeekWire that he believes TouchWrite is "the future of books."

Handwriting recognition has been attempted before with varying degrees of success. Some solutions require users to write a certain way for alphanumeric characters to be recognized. Puzzazz claims its service "recognizes a wide variety of handwriting styles," and does not require users to engage in any training to use it.

It's not immediately clear what Puzzazz's plans for the future are. According to its Web site, it currently offers a few e-books, and plans to launch many more that support its TouchWrite technology in the coming months. But based on Bishop's time with TouchWrite--which he says, "worked reliably"--the company's real value might come from its handwriting technology. There's a chance it could license TouchWrite to other e-book makers or maybe even sell it to Amazon to incorporate it into other Kindles.

Developing interactive e-books is a key battleground for both big and small companies. Puzzazz and TouchWrite stand at one side of the spectrum, while Apple looms at the other. Last month, the iPhone maker announced the launch of interactive textbooks that include 3D images, the ability for users to markup titles, and more. Apple also launched iBooks Author, a free, Mac OS X-based application designed to make it easier for authors to create highly interactive e-books.

Here's a video of Puzzazz's TouchWrite in action: