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Apple investigating handwriting and selective touch recognition

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
A pair of patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday reveal Apple is investigating the use of heuristics in its mobile devices to deliver a more realistic digital representation of handwriting, as well as selective touch input that ignores extraneous touch events.

Handwriting Recognition



First filed for in 2011, Apple's "Handwriting capture techniques" describes a set of rules used to render a digital replica of a person's handwriting, or more specifically, how a touch-capable device translates user input into a representation visually similar to handwriting.

Handwriting Recognition
Source: USPTO


From the patent application's abstract:

A set of rules is used by a processor of a device to render a digital image of handwriting (e.g., handwritten signature) by connecting data points captured on a touch sensitive surface of the device with line segments or curves.


The patent looks to solve the problem that arises from collecting and processing a multitude of input data, in this case touch event points, which can be difficult if a stylus or finger is quickly moved across a touch sensitive surface. Tailored for "devices capable of capturing only a few signature data points per second," the invention allows for a more natural representation of a signature or handwritten line when the number of given data points would otherwise be inadequate.

For example, many parcel delivery companies employ a portable signature capture device to facilitate quick and secure service. Usually, the device lacks the processing power to capture enough data points to display a smooth and continuous representation of a customer's handwritten signature.

To overcome this apparent inadequacy found in some devices, Apple's patent leverages a predetermined set of rules to connect the space between two input points by a either a line segment or curve. If the device determines that a curve is needed, a "smoothness adjustment factor" is applied to reduce or maintain smoothing depending on the length between said input points.

Data Points
Illustration of data points.


Key to the system's functionality is the calculation of velocity and direction, both of which are used in tandem to determine whether a straight line or curve is rendered between two points.

It is important to note that Apple's patent can be implemented for both stylus and finger input, meaning the invention is suitable for devices like the iPad.

There are a number of apps currently on the App Store that take advantage of the iDevice's touch input system to reproduce handwriting, such as Square's credit card system and various drawing apps.

Selective Touch



The second touch-related application published on Thursday was Apple's "Region Activation for Touch Sensitive Surface," which describes a system in which extraneous touch events recognized outside of so-called "active regions" are ignored.

Apple's invention fits perfectly with the handwriting recognition patent described above. As described in the filing's background, when a device is capturing handwritten notes or signatures, a user is apt to rest their palm on the touch sensitive surface for support. This can cause errant touch events, triggering unwanted results.

Selective Touch
Example of active region.


From the filing's background:

To avoid such inadvertent touch input, the user can elevate their hand above the touch surface when writing. This workaround can be awkward and tiring to the user.


The application suggests that by defining "active regions," inadvertent touch events can be avoided. A region, or regions, can be activated by the user, and any touch event starting in that area is logged and displayed on screen. Touch events not started within the active region or "not associated with the beginning touch event" are ignored.

A number of implementations are described, one of which contains a visual element like the lines of a virtual notebook that corresponds to the underlying active region. In this example, an indicator denotes where writing input can be entered. Once initiated, the writing gesture will continue to be logged until the user interrupts the process by lifting their finger or stylus from the touch sensitive screen. When writing is complete, the displayed input can be saved on the device for later use.

Another example notes that haptic feedback can be used in lieu of visual indicators.

Both of Thursday's patent applications credit Lyndley Crumly as inventor, with David Clark in the handwriting recognition invention, and were first filed in April 2011.
post #2 of 29
These are the type of refinements that the anti-Apple camp will say are pointless fluff would be quickly followed because it does add to the user experience which would result in them eventually saying it was obvious.

Had anyone conceived of the method for smoothing and correcting handwriting on a tablet? I hadn't. The accidental touch, sure, but the method in which to resolve that certainly not.

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post #3 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

These are the type of refinements that the anti-Apple camp will say are pointless fluff would be quickly followed because it does add to the user experience which would result in them eventually saying it was obvious.

 

I'm grinding my teeth awaiting the inevitable occurrence of the chain of events as described above. In the meantime my suffering is soothed by wild expectations of future improvements coming from Apple.


Edited by cykz - 10/11/12 at 4:56am
post #4 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

These are the type of refinements that the anti-Apple camp will say are pointless fluff would be quickly followed because it does add to the user experience which would result in them eventually saying it was obvious.
Had anyone conceived of the method for smoothing and correcting handwriting on a tablet? I hadn't. The accidental touch, sure, but the method in which to resolve that certainly not.


Adobe has. This is certainly not revolutionary. Just look at Adobe Ideas on iPad, every stroke is smoothed. Try it!

post #5 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

These are the type of refinements that the anti-Apple camp will say are pointless fluff would be quickly followed because it does add to the user experience which would result in them eventually saying it was obvious.
Had anyone conceived of the method for smoothing and correcting handwriting on a tablet? I hadn't. The accidental touch, sure, but the method in which to resolve that certainly not.

How's it any different from the Apple camp saying that writing on a touchscreen was pointless fluff, old tech, obsolete, and ridiculing anyone that suggests the iPad come with a stylus?
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post #6 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

How's it any different from the Apple camp saying that writing on a touchscreen was pointless fluff, old tech, obsolete, and ridiculing anyone that suggests the iPad come with a stylus?

No one reasonable has ever said there was no case in which a stylus was more ideal. What Jobs said (and reasonable people agreed) was that a stylus on a touchscreen should not be the primary or default way that you interact with the device. Also consider that stylus input on previous devices we almost mostly resistive, not capacitive, which just adds to the pre-iPhone poor user experience of smartphones and PDAs.

I quite like the Samsung Note's integrated Wacom digitizer and their included APIs, and hope that one day it can be added to the iPad because there is a definitely a benefit for this option for a certain class of user or specific usage need... again, not as a primary input for the masses. There is a reason the iPhone is the de facto device in the world and the one that all analysts and vendors have looked to compare and/or best ever since the iPhone was unveiled almost 6 years ago.

Additionally, it's not just foolish to say the iPad should come with a stylus but doubly foolish because 1) it's something that will not be used by most people or often so it should remain an accessory, and 2) until there is a Wacom digitizer the results from any stylus are too simplistic for this "inclusion" you suggest.

Even after the iPad gets a Wacom digitizer built in (which I think is inevitable) I will never, ever, ever, ever want my iPad to be designed around having a stylus that slides into the chassis. Give the HW the proper access with the digitizer; make great APIs that developers can take advantage of; showcase it precision apps like iPhoto; and let vendors sell a variety of stylus to fit all potential needs.
Edited by SolipsismX - 10/11/12 at 5:47am

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post #7 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post


How's it any different from the Apple camp saying that writing on a touchscreen was pointless fluff, old tech, obsolete, and ridiculing anyone that suggests the iPad come with a stylus?

 

In his defense, (unless my memory is wrong) Solips has indicated his wish of (or has discussed) having a proper Wacom Digitizer on the iPad to use a stylus with and thus extend the iPad's capabilities.

 

I would love to have a workable stylus with the iPad as well. But the issue I have is a little different. Tapping the iPad screen to select something or doing the various other touch operations like pinch, swipe, etc., are really not that much of a problem. However I find the continuous tapping to write, say in a Pages doc, using the keyboard a little uncomfortable. I think it has to do with not getting a tactile feedback. When I press a key on a physical keyboard, the impact of my finger tapping the key is dampened by the key being pressed. This is not possible in the case of the iPad. So I find it a little uncomfortable.

 

As a workaround, I do have a bluetooth physical keyboard which I use from time to time, or I simply opt to do my text editing on my iMac/ MBP. So essentially, attanding a workshop/ seminar and trying to take notes on the iPad for me is a little uncomfortable without the external keyboard. If the iPad did have a Digitizer, then I'd simply scribble the notes. Of course, I do have the option of recording the audio of the workshop, but in some cases it just isn't feasible.

 

Anyway, that was way off-topic, so back to the topic, every patent I read about from Apple seems very interesting. This one falls right into the rubber-banding patent category - to add the finesse to iOS that makes it so good.

post #8 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

No one reasonable has ever said there was no case in which a stylus was more ideal. What Jobs said (and reasonable people agreed) was that a stylus on a touchscreen should not be the primary or default way that you interact with the device. Also consider that stylus input on previous devices we almost mostly resistive, not capacitive, which just adds to the pre-iPhone poor user experience of smartphones and PDAs.
I quite like the Samsung Note's integrated Wacom digitizer and their included APIs, and hope that one day it can be added to the iPad because there is a definitely a benefit for this option for a certain class of user or specific usage need... again, not as a primary input for the masses. There is a reason the iPhone is the de facto device in the world and the one that all analysts and vendors have looked to compare and/or best ever since the iPhone was unveiled almost 6 years ago.
Additionally, it's not just foolish to say the iPad should come with a stylus but doubly foolish because 1) it's something that will not be used by most people or often so it should remain an accessory, and 2) until there is a Wacom digitizer the results from any stylus are too simplistic for this "inclusion" you suggest.
Even after the iPad gets a Wacom digitizer built in (which I think is inevitable) I will never, ever, ever, ever want my iPad to be designed around having a stylus that slides into the chassis. Give the HW the proper access with the digitizer; make great APIs that developers can take advantage of; showcase it precision apps like iPhoto; and let vendors sell a variety of stylus to fit all potential needs.

Well I didn't mean thee Apple camp, I meant those on here that are Apple loving and everything else hating. Several like yourself have in the past expressed that a stylus would be great to do specific tasks on a iPad only to be shot down with "well if Apple wanted you to use a stylus they would've included one" and have ridiculed Samsung for having devices that come with a stylus. Those very same people will wait on line and gladly overpay for a Apple branded stylus and swear Apple invented the idea.
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post #9 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

Well I didn't mean thee Apple camp, I meant those on here that are Apple loving and everything else hating. Several like yourself have in the past expressed that a stylus would be great to do specific tasks on a iPad only to be shot down with "well if Apple wanted you to use a stylus they would've included one" and have ridiculed Samsung for having devices that come with a stylus. Those very same people will wait on line and gladly overpay for a Apple branded stylus and swear Apple invented the idea.

1) Then those people are what I'd call unreasonable but let's make sure we're clear that we're talking about people that don't think Apple should ever include any type of Wacom digitizer in their touch-based products for the sole reason because they haven't done so already, not simply people that are arguing against it being the de facto input method, boring a hole in the chassis to include one inside each device sold, or any other reasonably conceived position (even if we don't personally agree with it).

2) If Apple makes a great stylus I'd likely buy it. I bought some stylus for my iPad but never use it. I use my iPhone/iPad for work for signatures and fingers simply work better than the foamy capacitance tip of the stylus.

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post #10 of 29
You know what would cool? If apple would investigate releasing a desktop machine before the current machines are more than 4 years old...

You think anyone is on that R&D?
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post #11 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post


How's it any different from the Apple camp saying that writing on a touchscreen was pointless fluff, old tech, obsolete, and ridiculing anyone that suggests the iPad come with a stylus?

I would love an iPad with stylus, especially a dual-screen Planner-size one. 


Edited by matrix07 - 10/11/12 at 7:13am
post #12 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClemyNX View Post


Adobe has. This is certainly not revolutionary. Just look at Adobe Ideas on iPad, every stroke is smoothed. Try it!

 

This is not that.  "Smoothing" has indeed been around for a while but that's just a simple algorithm uniformly applied to any set of points on a line.  This is a different thing entirely. 

post #13 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

These are the type of refinements that the anti-Apple camp will say are pointless fluff would be quickly followed because it does add to the user experience which would result in them eventually saying it was obvious.
Had anyone conceived of the method for smoothing and correcting handwriting on a tablet? I hadn't. The accidental touch, sure, but the method in which to resolve that certainly not.

Plenty of Tablets (including those ill-fated Windows tablets that came out circa 2002) have included various forms of handwriting recognition, handwriting to typed text, smoothing, palm/hand recognition, etc...  

 

I know Lenovo tablets (both the X230t and ThinkPad tablet) have it, Adobe has been mentioned, Wacom has it, Palm also had their own version, and I'm sure others. 

 

If Apple does get this patent, no way it sticks - way too much prior art.  

post #14 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


1) Then those people are what I'd call unreasonable but let's make sure we're clear that we're talking about people that don't think Apple should ever include any type of Wacom digitizer in their touch-based products for the sole reason because they haven't done so already, not simply people that are arguing against it being the de facto input method, boring a hole in the chassis to include one inside each device sold, or any other reasonably conceived position (even if we don't personally agree with it).
2) If Apple makes a great stylus I'd likely buy it. I bought some stylus for my iPad but never use it. I use my iPhone/iPad for work for signatures and fingers simply work better than the foamy capacitance tip of the stylus.

 

I agree.  Finger-paintings by famous artists aside, the iPad is just not good for drawing, and until you can use a stylus in the same way as you would in real life, it never will be.  

 

IMO the day you can pull out your iPad, grab a stylus, and do a simple doodle like you would do on a cocktail napkin, is a day when you will see a huge bump in iPad adoption.  Humans have been communicating like this since cave-men days.  Any universal computing appliance needs this capability.  

post #15 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikeb85 View Post

Plenty of Tablets (including those ill-fated Windows tablets that came out circa 2002) have included various forms of handwriting recognition, handwriting to typed text, smoothing, palm/hand recognition, etc...  

 

I know Lenovo tablets (both the X230t and ThinkPad tablet) have it, Adobe has been mentioned, Wacom has it, Palm also had their own version, and I'm sure others. 

 

If Apple does get this patent, no way it sticks - way too much prior art.  

 

Your forgetting that a lot of the prior art in that area is actually from the Newton. Newton was made by Apple, and pre-dates everything you mentioned.  

post #16 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

IMO the day you can pull out your iPad, grab a stylus, and do a simple doodle like you would do on a cocktail napkin, is a day when you will see a huge bump in iPad adoption.  Humans have been communicating like this since cave-men days.  Any universal computing appliance needs this capability.  

Spot on. This is exactly what I said a year ago. People who's uneasy of computer will buy device like this en masses.

post #17 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikeb85 View Post

Plenty of Tablets (including those ill-fated Windows tablets that came out circa 2002) have included various forms of handwriting recognition, handwriting to typed text, smoothing, palm/hand recognition, etc...  

I know Lenovo tablets (both the X230t and ThinkPad tablet) have it, Adobe has been mentioned, Wacom has it, Palm also had their own version, and I'm sure others. 

If Apple does get this patent, no way it sticks - way too much prior art.  

Apple has surely refer needed there prior patents used in a shipping product at least a far back as Newton.

But you need look at the actual patent not just a rudimentary description. Of your wife is a 5'8" women with medium length black hair and green eyes does that mean she is the same as women fitting that description? Of course not. While this patent may not end up valid is no reason to believe that it's invalid simply because something with handwriting recognition has existed previously.

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post #18 of 29
Originally Posted by ClemyNX View Post
Adobe has. This is certainly not revolutionary. Just look at Adobe Ideas on iPad, every stroke is smoothed. Try it!

 

I thought of that while I was reading his post, too.

 

Then I thought for one third of a second longer and realized that every stroke is smoothed… INCORRECTLY.

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post #19 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by matrix07 View Post

I would love an iPad with stylus, especially a dual-screen Planner-size one. 

Dual screen with hinges and kick stand??

post #20 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

Your forgetting that a lot of the prior art in that area is actually from the Newton. Newton was made by Apple, and pre-dates everything you mentioned.  


Actually there are patents for handwriting recognition that pre-date Apple itself, and there were products that incorporated it that pre-dated the Newton. 

post #21 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


Apple has surely refer needed there prior patents used in a shipping product at least a far back as Newton.
But you need look at the actual patent not just a rudimentary description. Of your wife is a 5'8" women with medium length black hair and green eyes does that mean she is the same as women fitting that description? Of course not. While this patent may not end up valid is no reason to believe that it's invalid simply because something with handwriting recognition has existed previously.


No, but odds are with so much prior art (dating back to the 1950's), Apple will have a tough time proving their patent is different enough...

 

Using a stylus with a computer was one of the very first techniques to interact with a computer, pre-dating the mouse.

post #22 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikeb85 View Post


Actually there are patents for handwriting recognition that pre-date Apple itself, and there were products that incorporated it that pre-dated the Newton. 

 

True (ish), but the Newton's handwriting recognition was a giant leap forward and almost the first truly useable handwriting recognition software.  As I already mentioned it also predates all the stuff you mentioned in your first post.  Apple has earlier patents and more important/pivotal patents in this area than pretty much anyone else.  

 

It's also fairly obvious that the patent in discussion here, is not just "handwriting recognition" in the general sense, but a very specific implementation of some aspects of the display of handwriting on the screen. General prior art for "handwriting recognition" is kind of irrelevant to the discussion.  The question is whether there is prior art for this specific implementation of this specific part of this specific process.  

 

I'm guessing that since Apple has a complete library of all of their patents (including the Newton ones), in the same room as where they write out the new patents, that perhaps they actually checked for this specific prior art.  

post #23 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikeb85 View Post


No, but odds are with so much prior art (dating back to the 1950's), Apple will have a tough time proving their patent is different enough...

 

Using a stylus with a computer was one of the very first techniques to interact with a computer, pre-dating the mouse.

 

I think you are completely wrong about this.  Reading a few historical notes from the wiki is not the same thing as having knowledge of the situation.  

 

The prior art you mention from the 50's was simply "pen input" prior art not handwriting recognition.  True handwriting recognition didn't really happen until about 1970.  Even though it was *possible* in the 70's, almost all use of "pens" in use in the 70's were actually light pens used on CRT screens.

 

Handwriting recognition didn't become even remotely useable until the 80's and the Newton platform introduced in the mid 80's was the first actually useable system for consumers.  

post #24 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

I think you are completely wrong about this.  Reading a few historical notes from the wiki is not the same thing as having knowledge of the situation.  

 

The prior art you mention from the 50's was simply "pen input" prior art not handwriting recognition.  True handwriting recognition didn't really happen until about 1970.  Even though it was *possible* in the 70's, almost all use of "pens" in use in the 70's were actually light pens used on CRT screens.

 

Handwriting recognition didn't become even remotely useable until the 80's and the Newton platform introduced in the mid 80's was the first actually useable system for consumers.  

The point is that this specific patent was filed in 2011, and there is prior art for this specific functionality.  

 

You also can't claim that the Newton was the first with stylus functionality, because it wasn't.  

 

If Apple had invented this specific functionality in the 1980's they should have filed the patent then, but they didn't.  This specific patent already exists in many usable and functional forms.  

post #25 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post


How's it any different from the Apple camp saying that writing on a touchscreen was pointless fluff, old tech, obsolete, and ridiculing anyone that suggests the iPad come with a stylus?

 

You might want to ask that question based on something they actually said. Because no one at Apple has said any such thing. Not even close. Prime example of folks taking a comment way way the hell out of context. 

 

Jobs never said that using a stylus or writing on a touchscreen is pointless etc. He was speaking of having to have a stylus or the device doesn't work at all. Which was the state of things at the time that the iPhone was first released. Given the absurdity of such a state, they created the iPhone etc so that the only 'stylus' you had to have was a finger. But from day one, if you wanted to use a stylus you could. The devices support the use, but don't require it. And because a stylus is not required, of course Apple isn't going to make one or put it in the box. 

 

This patent and the tech is valid whether you are using a finger or a stylus and its not a real shock to see it in their bag of tricks given that they have customers sign for repairs, credit card purchases etc right on their iPads and iPods. Those are considered legally binding documents and they would want a proper signature so they can hold the customer to that document if pressed. If the signature can't possibly be correct because the tech isn't good enough that's an issue for Apple to solve. 

 

As for the fan camp, yes it is ridiculous to suggest that the iPad etc needs to come with a stylus that is not required for use. Sorry if your feelings are hurt over those comments when you thought folks would think you are brilliant but Apple should not have to do something simply because you are too cheap and/or lazy to buy an optional stylus separately


Edited by charlituna - 10/11/12 at 10:55am

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post #26 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

I agree.  Finger-paintings by famous artists aside, the iPad is just not good for drawing, and until you can use a stylus in the same way as you would in real life, it never will be.  

 

I call you out on that one. Because it is just fine. With your finger or with the current styluses. If YOU can't do it then that speaks to the artists skills, not the tools. 

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post #27 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

You might want to ask that question based on something they actually said. Because no one at Apple has said any such thing. Not even close. Prime example of folks taking a comment way way the hell out of context. 

Jobs never said that using a stylus or writing on a touchscreen is pointless etc. He was speaking of having to have a stylus or the device doesn't work at all. Which was the state of things at the time that the iPhone was first released. Given the absurdity of such a state, they created the iPhone etc so that the only 'stylus' you had to have was a finger. But from day one, if you wanted to use a stylus you could. The devices support the use, but don't require it. And because a stylus is not required, of course Apple isn't going to make one or put it in the box. 

This patent and the tech is valid whether you are using a finger or a stylus and its not a real shock to see it in their bag of tricks given that they have customers sign for repairs, credit card purchases etc right on their iPads and iPods. Those are considered legally binding documents and they would want a proper signature so they can hold the customer to that document if pressed. If the signature can't possibly be correct because the tech isn't good enough that's an issue for Apple to solve. 

As for the fan camp, yes it is ridiculous to suggest that the iPad etc needs to come with a stylus that is not required for use. Sorry if your feelings are hurt over those comments when you thought folks would think you are brilliant but Apple should not have to do something simply because you are too cheap and/or lazy to buy an optional stylus separately

Again I didn't mean anyone from Apple, and yes SJ's comments have been taken to the extreme. The Samsung Galaxy Note line of devices has been ridiculed for including a stylus and even fellow Apple devotees have been lambasted for suggesting a stylus can be very useful for certain tasks. Notice how this thread has been very quiet. Why do you think that is? Btw I'm not so feeble minded that anything said here could hurt my feelings, but thanks for your concern.
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post #28 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikeb85 View Post


No, but odds are with so much prior art (dating back to the 1950's), Apple will have a tough time proving their patent is different enough...

 

Using a stylus with a computer was one of the very first techniques to interact with a computer, pre-dating the mouse.

 

They had electricity back then???!!!!

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post #29 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

True (ish), but the Newton's handwriting recognition was a giant leap forward and almost the first truly useable handwriting recognition software.  As I already mentioned it also predates all the stuff you mentioned in your first post.  Apple has earlier patents and more important/pivotal patents in this area than pretty much anyone else.  

 

It's also fairly obvious that the patent in discussion here, is not just "handwriting recognition" in the general sense, but a very specific implementation of some aspects of the display of handwriting on the screen. General prior art for "handwriting recognition" is kind of irrelevant to the discussion.  The question is whether there is prior art for this specific implementation of this specific part of this specific process.  

 

I'm guessing that since Apple has a complete library of all of their patents (including the Newton ones), in the same room as where they write out the new patents, that perhaps they actually checked for this specific prior art.  

As an aside you should take a look at the GridPad and it's interface/features from 1989. See a little of the Newton (which came later) there?

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