Do you like moola? Here’s an idea…

I was brushing up my Kanji skills lately with a couple of those Kanji Nintendo DS games like 200万人の漢検 (crap, they have a newer version already). In the process, I thought about why the DS was such a great platform for learning Kanji because of the stylus touch screen. The idea then hit me that there was a completely new touch screen platform ripe for the picking: the iPhone!

When the iPhone was originally announced, there were many skeptical on how Apple’s very first phone would do especially with the radical touch screen interface. With millions already sold and a new 3G version selling like hotcakes, I’m sure nobody would contest the fact the iPhone is a screaming success even in Japan where people are already used to highly sophisticated phones.

With the new App Store, it’s even easier to sell software for the iPhone than it is for the DS which requires a physical cartridge. With the iPhone, people can simply download your app and send you the cash! This is a boon for small and independent developers because they don’t have to worry about packaging and distribution. It’s just pure $$$ for every copy sold (minus Apple’s cut). Super Monkey Ball is already making millions!

Here’s what you would need for a great Kanji game.

  1. Handwriting Recognition Technology for Kanji and Kana
  2. Lots and lots of example sentences and 四字熟語 converted to Kanji problems
  3. Some kind of reward/review/SRS system and various levels of difficulty
  4. Some cool graphics
  5. ???
  6. Profit!

So there’s an idea for you guys. Good luck! It’s only a matter of time before somebody makes a Brain-Age game for the iPhone and starts raking in the dough.

But I beg you, whatever you do, please DO NOT make yet another kanji flash card program especially one solely based on 常用漢字!

Elliott also pointed out that you can buy stylus pens for the iPhone. The software could be a great opportunity for up-sell or you could even make a deal to package it together somehow!

11 thoughts on “Do you like moola? Here’s an idea…

  1. Hmm, I’m not sure if the iPhone is a great platform for kanji games for one simple reason: no stylus.

    The iPhone uses a capacitive screen, meaning that bare skin is required for touch recognition. I don’t know about you, but writing with my fingers wouldn’t be the prettiest writing around.

  2. Ha! You should see my writing with the stylus. It’s a wonder it can be recognized at all. I think writing kanji with your finger is not much different from the stylus in terms of memorization. But you’re right, the more complicated kanji will be harder to write. Good thing the iPhone has a bigger screen. The only problem I think would be fat fingers. Too bad a stylus won’t work with the iPhone. Maybe a human skin stylus? Eeewww…

  3. I think the Kanji game could work.

    Although it often doesn’t look pretty, the iPhone actually does do a good job of figuring out what character you’re writing and suggesting Kanji matches.

    If you’re ever in an Apple store, you should give it a shot. To turn it on click on Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> International Keyboards -> Chinese (Traditional) -> Handwriting. Then go back to the home screen and open up the notes application and press the little world icon next to the space bar on the keyboard to switch to handwriting recognition.

    (Note: If you have a lot of time in the store, you could also try the Japanese keyboard, which I think is pretty slick. Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> International Keyboards -> Japanese -> Kana.)

  4. The handwriting recognition is part of the Chinese keyboards which are available in the latest version of the iPhone OS (2.0). (See for an example.)

    As far as the SDK is concerned, I don’t own a Mac (just an iPhone), so this is all just speculation, but I’m guessing that the handwriting recognition isn’t available in the sense that it allows you to programmatically recognize new Kanji based on what the user “drew” (i.e. add new Kanji to the handwriting recognition system that the system didn’t recognize before), but would return the Kanji character matches for Kanji that are already in the system (i.e the user “draws” the character for car and the system returns 車 to your application). Which should be good enough if you’re creating a game to teach people Kanji. Wow, that came out long winded…

  5. I never thought of that idea! (笑) ^^

    I had a look at the sdk and it looks cool, but not sure about access to the handwriting recognition.

    Also don’t forget this works with people using the plain old ipod touch (like me!)

    There are some free manga ‘applications’, a nice little Twitter app and a wwwjdic application that links to the website for dictionary look ups. (I need internet access on it 24/7!)

    The drawback is the Japanese keyboard on the touch is currently painfully slow. The recent update improved in input interface, but not the speed.

    I saw some iphone/ipod touch pens for sale in Japan recently when I was there.

  6. As for the DS… Does anyone know of any games beside Zelda which allow you to see the kanji readings after touching them? This feature is great for learning, because you can check the words right away 🙂

  7. Using a Chinese handwriting recognition program might be a bit problematic for Japanese. Hopefully they’ll come out with a Japanese version sometime. In any case, I’m just an idea man, not one to actually do the work. 🙂

  8. Windows Mobile has a program called Japanese Input, which lets you draw Kanji on touchscreen phones (I have an HTC Touch) with the stylus. There’s also a Japanese dictionary program designed to work with it. It was indispensible on my recent trip to Japan, great for reading menus and the like.

    Great blog, by the way.

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