You Draw, Google Finds — Gesture Search for Android

One frustration some Android touchscreen device owners have is with keyboard entry. I’m finding the HTC keyboard that I added to be the best for my needs, but I’m always looking for input alternatives. I make ample use of the integrated search capabilities on my Nexus One, for example. Google (s goog) continues to add alternatives and released a free new Gesture Search application in the Android Market — I’ve kicked the tires and I’m keeping it in my Android arsenal of tricks.

Gesture Search is a Labs product, so don’t expect the results to be perfect just yet. My testing shows that it’s pretty good for contacts, bookmarks and apps, but not great at finding my music. Maybe it just doesn’t like my taste in music? The results should get better over time though — the app itself doesn’t “learn” your handwriting, but you can opt to send info back to Google for improving the recognition. At any time you can tap a result to take action — call a contact, hop over to a website, etc…

Using Gesture Search is simple. Just run the app — it offers to put a shortcut on your home screen during installation — and write your search keyword, one letter at a time. Results are constantly updated as you write each letter. You can write on nearly the entire full screen of your device. The only exception is a short bar at the bottom of the display. That’s where your written letters are placed, much like the Tablet Input Panel on a Microsoft Windows Tablet PC (s msft). A right to left swipe in this area deletes one letter, while a swipe in the opposite directly deletes the entire word. It’s a simple interface that works well.

In my example picture, I searched for our website. Within two gestures, the URL appeared at the top of the search results. I could have tapped it then, but I kept writing to weed out the other results, since many of them were contacts and phone numbers. I’d definitely recommend the small, 594 KB download, but bear in mind that like most Google Labs projects, it’s an early work-in-progress. I still find the speech-to-text search function more accurate for now, but options are nice.

Image courtesy of Google

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