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Friday, February 15, 2008

Microsoft Research Project Arrives to Cheers!

image About 6 months ago I heard about a project going on at Microsoft called InkSeine. InkSeine is a tablet PC project designed to get the most out of using the pen in a note-taking environment. The main researcher, Ken Hinkley, reached out to the tablet PC community for feedback on his work, and yesterday, they made a version of it available to download, which, as you've no doubt guessed, I downloaded as soon as I was able (:

In fact, I've been following the development over the last few months, eager (rabid?) to get my hands on it. As a research project, the endgame is more a proof of concept thing, that could be productized by Microsoft or deemed interesting but not practical -- we'll have to wait and see.

What do I think? In a word: brilliant! It makes using the pen not only easy, but seamless. While not feature rich, as it's not a product and not intended to replace any currently available products, but once you see it in action, you immediately begin to fantasize about its incorporation throughout the OS or within products such as OneNote.

Speaking of OneNote, if you've been reading this blog closely, you know that I LOVE OneNote, and go on about it to anyone who will listen. InkSeine isn't a replacement, but can be used as an adjunct, and its pages copied and pasted into OneNote.

InkSeine's strengths:

  • An insanely beautiful and usable pen-based interface that does away with menu bars for round buttons you literally stroke to select your options.
  • Insanely powerful search integration -- literally circle the words you want to search on, stroke, and you receive a list of items on your computer or the net -- drag an item from the list and drop it on the page for future reference.
  • An insanely fun -- yeah fun -- way to brainstorm, with an interface that gets out of the way so you can get things done.
  • An insanely short learning curve -- the UI just makes sense, so you don't have to think about how you're going to do something. You just do it.

InkSeine's team is only two guys. Two guys with a vision and the support of Microsoft to make it a reality. The fact that they've shared their vision with us is very cool. I haven't come across many Microsoft Research projects that have been shared with the public, so I have a feeling that Ken had to work hard to make this happen. Interacting with Ken on the forums of his own site or on Gottabemobile.com has been a major pleasure -- it's obvious that he's both proud of InkSeine and eager to make it better -- a winning combination in a researcher.

As I said, InkSeine is not a replacement for the tools I currently use -- OneNote has no reason to be jealous -- but rather an adjunct. I will use InkSeine during brainstorming sessions and the planning stages of new projects. Once things begin to coalesce, I will transfer the Inkseine pages to OneNote and continue from there.

I don't know if Microsoft has plans for InkSeine yet, and though Ken has been forthright with us and amazingly approachable, friendly, and helpful, I'm sure he can't talk about the productization of InkSeine. We'll just have to wait for that news...but while we do, we have a first-class inking experience to play around with.

Good stuff!

UPDATE: Here's a link to the official site for InkSeine: http://research.microsoft.com/InkSeine/


Sidney said...

Sounds interesting. Wow, it's been 100 years since I attended one of those Microsoft demo days they used to tour and do. Come to think of Info Week stopped coming in the mail too. I'm out of the loop.

KenH said...

Glad it's going well, Cliff! Keep up the inking and the writing and let us know what's sticking after it has time to soak in for a while.

Clifford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clifford said...


I linked to a video cause of that 1 picture = 1000 words formula.


I'm still in the "new toy" stage, so yeah, I'll pass on anything that crosses my mind. I'm amazed at how solid and responsive this first release is. Expectations met, and in some ways, exceeded (:

Charles Gramlich said...

Uhm, what language is this post in? I recognized some English words, but there also seems to be many arcane references. Perhaps magical cantrips? Are you a sorcerer?

Clifford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clifford said...

Charles, I have no idea what you're talking about.

But that wart that appeared on your nose this morning, that seems to be getting larger by the hour-- don't pop it! Dear mother of Bezlebub, don't pop it.

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This is me and one of my two cats. His name is Cougar, and he’s an F1 Chausie. A chausie is a new breed of cat under development. Chausies are the result of a cross between a domestic cat (in Cougar’s case, a Bengal) and a jungle cat (Felis Chaus). Cougar’s mom is 8 pounds and his father is a 30-pound jungle cat. He’s about 16 pounds, super intelligent, spirited, and toilet trained. A writer without a cat (or two) is not to be trusted.