FluidMath is an application that solves hand-written math expressions, and after working with a demo version of FM for the last ten days, I’m very impressed. Although it is clearly a work in progress, the debut version is quite capable and the developers, Fluidity Software, make it clear that improvements are planned. The user interface (UI) is pleasingly uncluttered and the visible workspace is large, making FM useful even on some of the newer small tablet platforms that have limited screen space. Further, tabs provide easy accessibility to individual workspace pages in which to collect specific calculations. FM’s near real time character recognition works smoothly and provides very timely feedback so that errors can be quickly corrected. Working in combination with a scribble feature to delete characters, corrections can be made on the spot as they occur, creating immediate confidence in FM’s operation and the resulting solution. In addition, FM provides the ability to fine-tune the recognition engine by allowing the user to designate a preferred recognition character for a particular written input. In my experience, this is somewhat unique. FM also has an automated plotting feature that is easy to use and incorporates an admirable number of plotting options. The development team is to be congratulated for creating such a robust and flexible recognition engine and UI.
The screen shot above shows how a numerical problem might be solved and how another problem might be plotted. In each case, the blue characters show that FM has correctly interpreted the hand-written math. Plots are created using an arc-like gesture as shown in the second problem. When the plot appears, the arc disappears. Some videos that provide a better sense of how the UI works can be found here .
This second screenshot shows a sampling of the range of problems that FluidMath can currently solve. Note that FM can produce symbolic as well as numerical results. Pretty impressive!
Of course, there are some things that warrant improvement. The current User’s Guide and other documentation isn’t too bad, but with a few additions and revisions, it could be greatly improved. In particular, FM has a clever animation feature; but it’s not well documented and is therefore not overly easy to use. Also, I encountered some recalcitrant recognition issues with some specialized math operations (for example, absolute value: | -3 | ; the recognition engine kept giving me 1 -31). Given the complexity of recognizing the wide variety of math notation, such issues are not unexpected. The developers are aware of these and other minor bugs and I assume that fixes and improvements will be forthcoming.
Finally, there is the issue of price. FluidMath was conceived as a classroom teaching tool, and so it is offered with either an annual, renewable license which allows the user to upgrade as new versions are developed, or with a “perpetual” license (at a much higher price) that allows the user to update a fixed version with bug fixes but does not allow access to newer versions of the application. Neither of these approaches is likely to be too attractive to the private user, but company users may find it acceptable. Despite this, readers who have a need to do general math on a daily basis should give Fluid Math’s demo a try. It can be pretty addictive! FluidMath