Combining Neural Networks and Context-Driven Search for Online, Printed Handwriting Recognition in the NEWTON

  • Larry S. Yaeger
  • Brandyn J. Webb
  • Richard F. Lyon


While online handwriting recognition is an area of long-standing and ongoing research, the recent emergence of portable, pen-based computers has focused urgent attention on usable, practical solutions. We discuss a combination and improvement of classical methods to produce robust recognition of hand-printed English text for a recognizer shipping in new models of Apple Computer's NEWTON MESSAGEPAD and EMATE. Combining an artificial neural network (ANN) as a character classifier with a context-driven search over segmentation and word-recognition hypotheses provides an effective recognition system. Long-standing issues relative to training, generalization, segmentation, models of context, probabilistic formalisms, and so on, need to be resolved, however, to achieve excellent performance. We present a number of recent innovations in the application of ANNs as character classifiers for word recognition, including integrated multiple representations, normalized output error, negative training, stroke warping, frequency balancing, error emphasis, and quantized weights. User adaptation and extension to cursive recognition pose continuing challenges.