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Handwriting Recognition in Mobile Safari on your iPhone


bennewhouse

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'allo folks,

I've been a student of Chinese for a while now, ever since I spent a year as a Rotary Exchange Student in Taiwan. I'm in college now, and this past quarter I started taking Chinese as a class again. At any rate, I was bored one weekend a couple months ago and so I created http://ifonechinese.com (using the correct spelling would have Apple Legal after me in minutes).

I can do handwriting recognition on my XP machine or at http://nciku.com, but fiddling with a computer when I'm trying to read from a Chinese book can be unweildy. But I bought an iPhone a while back and I figured it would be the perfect surface for drawing characters. I'm pretty capable with web development so I decided to implement handwriting recognition in Mobile Safari, so that the average person doesn't need to hack/jailbreak/install anything to use it. Originally it wasn't meant to handle very much load, which is why I never really mentioned it to anyone and just used it for myself. But alas, I have a midterm today, and I was procrastinating and decided to make it more robust. It's still not perfect, but it should work decently with more than one user now.

How to use it:

1) On your iPhone, go to http://ifonechinese.com

2) Click the top link

NOTE: Because dragging your finger implies scrolling, and there's no way to disable in Mobile Safari, you have to draw each stroke point by point.

3) Draw!

a) Tap where you want to start a stroke, a blue target will appear

B) Tap where you want to draw the next point, the blue target will move and a line will be drawn between the current and previous points

c) When you are done, tap the blue target to finish the stroke

d) Continue until you see your desired character in the options listed at the bottom

e) Click the desired character and you will be presented with its pinyin and definition

Stroke order matters unfortunately.

Click the erasor in the top right to erase.

I'm using an open source library called Tomoe, which was originally intended for Japanese, but it has Chinese stroke order libraries too. For the techies, the server is implemented in python for the recognition, and apache/php for the definition lookup/actual page serving.

At any rate, check it out, especially if you have an iphone. It looks a little weird in your regular web browser because it is meant to be displayed on the iphone's tiny screen. A good character I test everything out with is xiao (small). Let me know if you have suggestions. Hopefully it will withstand any load you guys can put on it. It's running off of my mac mini sitting in my dorm room :mrgreen:

-Ben

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Also functions in Firefox on XP :mrgreen:

I like this way of writing characters - never felt comfortable 'tracing' them with the mouse, but this clicking and double clicking actually feels quite natural. Got it to recognize a couple of simple ones, didn't try anything complex.

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