There are an increasing number of ways to get text onto a smartphone or tablet, with voice dictation proving handy on iOS and Android devices. What about handwriting recognition? Google believes that may be a viable option, introducing handwriting support for search on mobile devices. Once the option has been enabled on the mobile search settings page, users need only draw on the screen with their finger to write out their search query to have it magically converted to text.
To get in on the action, you need to head to m.google.com, scroll down and hit Settings, then enable the Handwriting option. Once you go back to the home page, a new handwriting icon should appear in the bottom right of the screen. Tapping that will let you scribble over the screen, and tapping it again will revert to regular search. Using it briefly, it seems to work as advertised, although we had two minor quibbles.
First, you don’t have a lot of room to draw our your search term, at least on a phone, so you’re better off sticking to short and sweet queries. Second, the system would occasionally try and convert handwriting to text before we’d finished drawing. It’s probably a little bit too sensitive, or maybe we’re just remarkably slow scribblers. If you want to try it out for yourself, you’ll need an iOS 5 device, an Android phone running 2.3 and up, or an Android tablet running 4.0 and up. Peep the video below for a whimsical demonstration.