Unless you've used its Stylus app or its handwriting-based calculator app (iOS, Android), chances are you've never heard of MyScript. But it's the company behind much of the handwriting recognition built into software note-taking apps (such as the cloud-based recognition of the Bamboo Spark) as well as model-specific operating-system extensions for high-end tablets and hybrid laptops.
Now the company is rolling out a version of its engine with its new Interactive Ink technology, adding useful -- and some unique -- capabilities like mixed font/handwriting editing, handwriting reflow, equation recognition and solving (like its calculator) and conversion of drawn shapes to digital vector objects.
Because there's a lag until developers can integrate the new tools, you won't see them for a little while in third-party products. So to show off the new talents, the company will ship a note-taking app, Nebo, for iOS and Windows on August 9 (Android is forthcoming).
My biggest issue with handwriting recognition is, well, software finds my scrunchy, squiggly handwriting pretty tough to recognize. That's unsurprising: Even I can barely read it. But it ultimately makes cleaning up my "recognized" notes more of a chore than just retyping them from a hard copy. Interactive Ink lets you make corrections to recognized text by writing with the stylus rather than having to jump to a keyboard. That sounds like a potentially big time saver.
The ability to reflow the handwritten text is also unique. Rather than scaling down to unreadably small when the horizontal display area shrinks -- think rotating from horizontal to vertical, for example -- Interactive Ink will rewrap the text as if it were typed. As with almost every algorithmic engine these days, MyScript's technology uses neural networks and semantic engines to interpret handwriting and to see it as words rather than just a collection of strokes.
There is a technological caveat: It will only work on devices that support active pens, like the Apple Pencil or Surface Pen. And the company stresses it needs to be a good one. Passive styluses work by pretending to be your finger and lack the precision necessary to capture all the necessary stroke data.
I'll see how well Nebo rises to the challenge of deciphering my scrawl when I get a chance to try the app. Fingers crossed that it will live up to its promise.