- Some automakers have been adding handwriting recognition to their vehicles, giving consumers an alternative means of controlling infotainment systems.
- With this technology, users can control multimedia entertainment, navigation and other systems by drawing letters, numbers and symbols on a touch-sensitive pad.
- Recent models that feature handwriting recognition include the 2015 Audi A3 sedan and TT coupe and the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
HERNDON, Virginia — Some automakers have been adding handwriting recognition to their vehicles, giving consumers an alternative to buttons, voice and knobs as a means of controlling infotainment systems.
With this technology, users can control multimedia entertainment, navigation and other systems by drawing letters, numbers and symbols on a touch-sensitive pad with the sweep of a finger. In most cases handwriting recognition supplants, rather than replaces, other forms of system input.
Audi was an early adopter, having first displayed handwriting recognition on the Shooting Brake Concept at the 2005 Tokyo Auto Show and then ushering it into production on the 2011 A8 and A6 luxury sedans. More recently, Audi is adding the technology to the MMI (Multimedia Interface) system in the 2015 A3 sedan and 2015 TT coupe.
BMW began featuring handwriting recognition in its 2013 7 Series and 5 Series models. Prior to the introduction of this technology, according to a BMW statement, input to the infotainment system "could only be done with the ‘Speller' – a circular arrangement of letters in the display – by turning the control knob."
Mercedes-Benz first adopted handwriting recognition on the S-Class in 2014 and is adding it to the C-Class for 2015. Mercedes notes: "Characters entered using the handwriting function can also be read aloud by the system, thus supporting blind operation. The acoustic output also ensures that the driver does not need to take their eyes off the road, keeping distraction to an absolute minimum."
MyScript is the handwriting technology included in Audi and Mercedes infortainment systems.
Although the basic technology behind handwriting recognition isn't exactly new, it has been steadily evolving since its commercial introduction in the 1990s on PDAs (personal digital assistants). Those early devices, from companies like Palm and Motorola, were handicapped by relatively low recognition accuracy and often required users to learn cryptic symbols and modified versions of many letters.
Now, according to Paragon Software Group, which supplies its PenReader software to auto companies and device manufacturers worldwide, the technology has become exponentially more precise.
The latest version of PenReader, introduced last month, recognizes both printing and cursive writing, can support 42 languages in several alphabets and is able to learn user-specific styles and preferences. It can, says the company, "be easily configured to integrate completely with any operating system," making it adaptable to a variety of automotive infotainment systems.
Edmunds says: Now consumers can control infotainment systems the write way.