As some TeleRead regulars may know, I’m a devotee of handwriting recognition for text input, especially on tablets and smartphones. I also have more than a passing interest in smartwatches, and am eagerly awaiting my first buy off Google’s new Android Wear platform. I should compliment Microsoft, then, for coming out with an Android Wear app that implements the first in a way that actually might make the second more useful. But I really despair of them for calling the result an “analog keyboard.”

“With the Analog Keyboard Project we are exploring handwriting recognition for text input on small touch screens,” Microsoft explains. “Handwriting, unlike speech, is discreet and not prone to background noise. And unlike soft keyboards, where many keys have to share the small touch surface, handwriting methods can offer the entire screen (or most of it) for each symbol.” The prototype software is now available as a beta app, to be sideloaded onto Android Wear devices.

Handwriting one character at a time, along the lines of the Palm’s old Graffiti software, ought to be manageable for even the clumsiest calligraphers, especially since Microsoft is including an autocomplete feature in the app. But an “analog keyboard”? To me, that sounds like calling paper an “analog touchscreen,” or books “analog Kindles,” like Ikea’s hysterical catalog ad. Words were written on paper way before keyboards came along, let alone digital ones: Does Microsoft really have such trouble remembering?


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