The stylus isn't dead: more pen-based tablets and apps coming this year

Joanna Stern
J. Stern|02.16.11

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The stylus isn't dead: more pen-based tablets and apps coming this year
HTC may have unleashed a completely unique Android tablet with an active digitizer and stylus yesterday, but more are on the way. At least that's the word from N-Trig, the company responsible for the screen and pen technology in HTC's Flyer as well as other convertible tablet PCs. According to the company's VP of Business Development Lenny Englehardt, 7-, 9.7-, and 10-inch pen-equipped Android slates are coming in the next year from major manufacturers (sadly, he couldn't share which ones). We went over a bit of the hardware technology yesterday and dug a bit into HTC's pen-optimized Scribe software, but the big question on our mind has been third party Android applications that take advantage of the stylus. Well, it turns out there are quite a few of them in the works from the likes of Adobe and others. And yes, one of them includes handwriting conversion! We got a look at three of those forthcoming apps on N-Trig's Tegra 2 development kit, which has the same screen / pen hardware as the Flyer -- hit the break for our impressions and a video demo.

  • Adobe Journal - Adobe's got its Ideas app on the iPad right now, but it's experimenting with a similar app for Android. Journal is primarily for sketching and you can do it all -- change the size of the pen, the quill type, colors, etc. It's basically a doodler's paradise. We did notice that the software was a big laggy on the kit, but given its pre-release status that's totally understandable. The palm rejection seemed to be top notch, however.
  • Vision Objects - This French company has been making its MyScript software, which converts handwriting to text, for years, and its Android application is currently in the works. As you can see in the video below, you can open a new notebook, start taking notes, and watch your handwriting almost instantaneously converted to text. You can then export that text to other applications, like email or messaging, or just save it as a document. Within this app the conversion was pretty accurate (though it recognized "engadget" as "an gadget"). However, the Vision Objects plug-in for the PicSay app had some issues converting a few words correctly.
  • PicSay Pro - This one is quite similar to what we saw with HTC's Scribe software. You can open pictures and doodle on top of them as well as insert text boxes using that aforementioned MyScript Vision Objects field. It's actually available now in the Market, but there's no doubt that adding an extremely accurate stylus really enhances the experience of, you know, giving your friend a unibrow or red mustache.
We don't have any real details on when the Vision Objects or Adobe apps will be hitting the Market, but you'll want to hit the play button below to get an even better look at all three of these.

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