Beta Handwriting Feedback

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
We just launched a new Android build on beta channel (can sign up for betas via our Play catalog page) with a new handwriting recognition algorithm which you can enable in Settings / Input Methods / Handwriting; it's based on / should perform similarly to the algorithm from Google Translate and Gboard (and for that matter pretty much any other neutral network based Chinese handwriting recognizer, e.g. the one built into recent versions of the iOS system Chinese handwriting keyboard).

New recognizer will also appear shortly on iOS with our next update there, which we'll submit to Apple whenever they start accepting updates for iOS 15. (the reason Android gets it in a beta is because we also had to make a couple of other major changes - most importantly, migrating to Google's new in-app billing system - which we were nervous about releasing without additional testing, while on iOS the changes outside of this are pretty minor)

It's currently set up to only output one character at a time but it's theoretically able to do entire words, we just wanted to start off with the closest possible comparison with the current system.

Anyway, we're very curious whether people find it better or worse than the current system - we have no plans (nor any legal obligation or strong technical argument) to take away the current system for people who already own it, but we're debating a bunch of ways we could roll out this new system (or something like it); skip it altogether, offer it to free users with the old one as an optional paid upgrade, offer it to everyone by default and only keep supporting the old system for people who already own it, etc.
 

Shun

状元
I installed it right away on a Pixel 4. I noticed that there is a slightly longer delay, maybe one tenth of a second instead of two hundredths of a second with the old algorithm, until the first character guess appears. But this doesn't matter to me. It certainly is a great feature to have the algorithm adapt to the user over time by way of machine learning/a neural network. For that, I am not the ideal tester, since I got a hit rate quite close to 100% with the old algorithm, too.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Sorry, it's not adaptive, the templates are fixed and don't update based on usage. It's a neutral network in the sense that it's a newer type of AI algorithm; our current recognizer is a highly refined version of the same sort of old-fashioned template-matching handwriting AI they were using in the Newton days.
 

Shun

状元
After some more testing, I can now confirm that it is more reliable. The following characters did occasionally require me to enter them two or three times with the old recognizer, but are child's play for the new one:

日、目、白、自、艺、凡
 
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mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Thanks! (and yes, cases like this are exactly why people are using neural networks for Chinese handwriting now - very hard to teach an old-school statistical system to recognize subtle and unimportant-in-other-circumstances differences)
 
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