Puzzazz Brings Simple Handwriting Recognition To Kindle Touch

Seattle-area startup Puzzazz began as a creator of online, mobile, and e-book puzzles. But they’ve established a new core technology that might end up being a bigger draw than their Sudoku apps. They call it TouchWrite, and it lets you draw letters and numbers directly on the screen instead of tapping them on the on-screen keyboard.

A modest achievement in some ways — basic handwriting recognition goes back decades — but the fact is that the ability to draw a B or 7 right on the screen is handy, and more natural to puzzle-doers than the alternative. But more importantly, it’s a fundamental method of interaction that none of the touchscreen e-readers have implemented, and Puzzazz is in a position to make their solution the official one.

The company received around $400,000 in funding last year from a group of investors, and has clearly been spending it wisely. They analyzed a great amount of handwriting samples and developed TouchWrite, which recognizes many styles of writing, though the inability of the user to see what is being written (the passive screen doesn’t refresh fast enough) limits its applications somewhat.

Right now it’s only available on touchable Kindles in their new Sudoku e-book, Sudoku Unbound Volume 3. Speaking to GeekWire, Puzzazz founder Roy Leban declined to comment about expanding the technology into other areas of the Kindle Touch ecosystem. He also did not mention anything about bringing the technology to other devices, like the Nook or Kobo Touch.

With luck they’ll have interested parties knocking down their door, but they’ll have to move fast: the field is full of imitators who will gladly seize the opportunity if Puzzazz wavers. Amazon or another might even develop it internally. And beyond that, the half-life of an e-reader is getting shorter; before long a new generation of devices might make this new method of input obsolete. In the meantime, though, it looks a lot more convenient (for Sudoku at least) than existing methods with d-pads and on-screen keyboards.