Neuratron: Handwriting the Future

Martin Dawe of Neuratron discusses the impact of the smartphone and tablets on the industry, and how their successful app NotateMe was created

Smartphones and tablets are rewriting the way we use computers. It seems like desktops and laptops may soon become historical relics, much like boxy analogue TV sets and video recorders. Only the requirements set by the most demanding professionals may prolong their existence, but this too could quickly change with the advent of so-called Pro tablets (read Samsung Galaxy Pro, Microsoft Surface Pro, perhaps even iPad Pro one day).

What does this mean for musicians? The great news is that there are now dozens of innovative apps that were previously not possible, taking advantage of touch-screen technology and other in-built capabilities. These range from allowing your device to be picked up and played as an instrument, to reading sheet music off a highly portable screen, to composing wherever you might be, even when waiting for a train.

However this is only the very beginning of an exciting migration and we are soon likely to see many more awe-inspiring uses for the phone and tablet. To illustrate how the market is still in a great flux of development I’d like to explain two of the challenges we encountered creating NotateMe - the first music handwriting and sheet music scanning app, for iOS and Android devices.

Firstly – how we could afford to develop NotateMe in the first place: The average consumer expects apps to cost less than £10. This is perhaps due to early smartphones not being able to run particularly powerful apps. These in turn did not require a substantial development period and thus were cheap to make. Other apps rely on advertising revenue (a route we did not want to go down for aesthetic reasons) or appeal to a larger audience (e.g. games). However, technology has moved on and the latest devices are nearly as fast as laptops. Thankfully, new apps designed to take advantage of this power are finally becoming available and changing the common perception of what an ‘app’ is, allowing for pricing that will give developers the confidence to invest and produce more powerful technology.

Secondly – the easiest way to write on a phone or tablet is to use a stylus (a pen suitable for use on a touchscreen), otherwise your finger can get in the way. At NotateMe’s initial planning stage, styluses were pretty rare. Today the superb S-Pen is supplied with the Samsung Galaxy Note range and, for other devices, Adonit created the Jot pen featuring a transparent nib (so you can see what you’re writing). Famously, Steve Jobs disliked the concept of styluses, believing that our fingers were all we needed. However the public is now beginning to show considerable demand for them, not just in music composition but graphic design, note writing and even navigating around a device – perhaps Apple will one day think differently.

I hope you share our excitement at the changes taking place – they are sure to create incredible new possibilities for musicians everywhere!

Martin Dawe

CEO Neuratron Ltd

Creator of the NotateMe handwriting app (free 1-staff ‘NotateMeNow’ with PhotoScore scanning also available), PhotoScore scanned sheet music recognition and AudioScore audio recognition technologies.

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