Is now time for digital handwriting?

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Pen and paper have become an increasingly rare sight in classrooms around the world and seemingly for good reason. From engaging students during lectures to encouraging greater collaboration between students both inside and outside of the classroom, mobile devices such as laptops and tablets can have a positive impact on a student's educational experience. Although keyboard proficiency adds to the educational experience, handwriting will continue to play an important role in the education industry.

Time and again, researchers have proven that students who take notes by hand outperform laptop note-takers who only type notes. By typing lecture notes, the average college student often has no trouble taking down almost every word from a professor's lecture.

However, students who write out their notes are forced to think more intently and better assimilate the key points communicated from a lecture. All that extra cognitive effort benefits traditional note takers to have both a better understanding of concepts presented and enhanced memory retention. Memory recall is enhanced when the brain is cognitively more active processing information.

With this information in mind, teachers and students are turning their attention toward digital handwriting. By enabling students to access and organize handwritten notes at a moment's notice, digital handwriting preserves the benefits of handwriting including the ability to draw graphs, diagrams or enter math equations with ease. Lighter smaller tablets are popular devices for the classroom and also more adaptive to handwriting compared to older clamshell laptops where a keyboard and touchpad is often the only human interface method provided. Interest in digital handwriting, however, isn't limited to students and teachers.

The advent of handwriting recognition technology as an input method for automotive infotainment systems has proven to be a reliable input mechanism and possible to use without viewing the interaction. Minimizing user distraction is a key concern during vehicle operation and handwriting is frequently the lowest distraction option for the user.

Enhanced Human Machine Interface (HMI)

At an iOS press event in 2010, Steve Jobs uttered the now famous phrase, "If you see a stylus, they blew it." While Jobs may have had an uncanny ability to see around the corner, many speculate that his vision of a future without styluses was only until a more advanced stylus user experience could be developed. Ironically, the company that Jobs spent his career building into a global empire is now leading the charge with the Pencil for the iPad Pro family.

The Apple Pencil's debut in September 2015 marked the first time the technology company released an active stylus of any kind. The device has drawn rave reviews from artists and designers in large part for its user-driven HMI. Inside the pencil's plastic casing is electronics that communicates with the screen, providing information for accurate location, pressure sensitivity and angle detection.

Users can also rest their palm on the iPad Pro without inserting unintentional marks on the screen, potentially ruining their creative work. Perhaps most importantly, there is virtually no digital ink display lag when a user attempts to draw a picture or write a word. Making digital ink appear without lag is perhaps the primary detriment to a good user experience. Apple, Microsoft and Wacom have all made huge leaps forward enabling good quality digital ink that appears nearly instantaneous on the screen.

All major OEMs have now invested heavily in digital ink enablement. Applying this satisfying hardware capability to note taking in a manner that is intuitive to the user is the next part of the solution that will bring another wave of users to abandon paper for the benefits of the digital world.

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