No one with even a passing interest in handwriting recognition can have missed the news from WWDC 2020. At their annual event, Apple announced Scribble for iPad alongside improvements for Apple Notes: new tech for iPadOS 14 which aims to ‘make handwriting as powerful as typed text’.
By ‘powerful’, Apple no doubt means as responsive, editable and versatile in its uses. It’s an aim shared by everyone at MyScript — and we see enormous positive potential in Apple’s latest move.
To understand why, it’s helpful to clarify the precise nature of what Apple is proposing.
An equal input
With Scribble, Apple introduces a feature that echoes our own MyScript Stylus app for iOS, which launched in 2015.
The innovation of MyScript Stylus was to make handwriting a swift, convenient text-input method for any app, while allowing users to edit their text with intuitive gestures.
Users loved MyScript Stylus, but we came to realize that it could never achieve its full potential without implementation at the system level. So we decided to invest our energies where we could provide users with a greater long-term impact.
We created Nebo.
A new take on note-taking
Nebo launched in 2016 and represented a shift of our focus from input method to something more wide-ranging: digital note-taking. We soon realized that to achieve the highest standards of accuracy and responsiveness, we needed to create a global ink engine more intelligent and powerful than any other. The result was the development of MyScript Interactive Ink (iink).
Today, Nebo is built around this engine, which supports super accurate handwriting recognition and write-to-text conversion in 66 languages and dialects. But Nebo is much more than just a vehicle for iink.
Originally designed to put handwriting at the core of digital text-editing, Nebo is the only app to treat handwriting in the same way as typed text — and it’s beginning to flourish into a much broader note-taking solution. Its mission is to combine the immediacy and fluency of paper with the productivity-boosting power of the iink engine.
The latest update to Apple Notes attempts something similar.
As of iPadOS 14, Apple Notes can recognize handwritten content, distinguish writing from drawing and treat handwritten text much like its typed cousin. It even offers similar gestures to Nebo, such as scratching out to delete — though unlike Nebo, Apple supports gestures only for typed text, not handwriting or drawings.
So what comes next?
For Nebo, the answer is more and better.
Our focus on accuracy has paid off. MyScript iink is now advanced enough that we can begin to offer our users greater freedom in the wider Nebo experience, without compromising reliability or efficiency.
As of our most recent update, Nebo users can customize formerly fixed parameters like line heights and base font sizes. They can create multi-level lists and indentations while still using the swift, simple gestures that make writing with Nebo even more powerful than writing on paper. And of course, they continue to enjoy 100% accuracy and seamless switching between inputs.
There’s also much more to come.
In September, we’ll introduce a brand new freeform page, which will let Nebo users take notes and sketch ideas with complete freedom. When freeform content is complete, it’s the work of a moment to copy-paste some or all of it to a regular Nebo page as interactive text, diagrams and so on.
For anyone who appreciates the power and potential of digital handwriting, this is an exciting moment.
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