Masaki Nakagawa

Professor of Media Interaction
Department of Computer and Information Sciences
Associate Dean, Faculty of Engineering

Research Contributions

He has been working on handwriting recognition, pen-based user interfaces and applications especially educational applications.

In 1990's, he actively collaborated with companies.

He led a project to make two databases of on-line handwritten Japanese character patterns: one with 120 people contributing 12,000 patterns each, and another with 163 participants contributing 10,000 patterns each. Patterns were collected mostly in their sentential contexts, and verified by machine and human inspection. A portion of the database is made freely available for research purpose. At present, more than 50 groups are using it, which includes over 10 groups from abroad.

He collaborated with Fujitsu to combine an on-line recognizer and an off-line recognizer. Off-line recognizers are insensitive to wrong stroke order and overwriting while on-line recognizers performs well for cursive or deformed patterns as far as their stroke orders are correct. They complement each other. His group implemented a hybrid system first for on-line Japanese handwriting recognition and improved recognition rate significantly. Recently, they marked the highest recognition rate to the standard database: Kuchibue_d. Even suppressing the off-line prototype dictionary from 91.8 MB to 9.7 MB, they achieved almost the same performance, i.e., 98.6% correct recognition when combined with context post processing.

He also collaborated with Hitachi and helped Hitachi to make a FEP (front end processor) to input Japanese characters by handwriting for a famous Japanese word processor "Ichitaro".

Pen interfaces are suitable for creative work which is not bothered by input methods. He proposed Lazy Recognition in early 90s. He showed prototype applications on PDAs, desktop tablet PCs and large electronic whiteboards. He proposed GUI for the board which allows the user to manipulate the contents with an electronic marker from any standing position and attract audience's attention without hiding the board by his/her body. He also showed several educational applications using the board. This research was awarded by the Japanese Society for Engineering Education. He collaborated with Hitachi Soft, which is now selling their products worldwide. His U.S. patents to scroll the window in proportion to the pen speed, which has been possessed by the university, were sold to a company by a significant price, which was the highest amount among all the Japanese universities in the fiscal year 2010.

Since around 2000, He has been working on removing writing constraints as much as possible. Starting from writing-box-free recognition, recent papers report models, methods and practices. The model evaluates the likelihood composed of character segmentation, character recognition, character pattern structure and context. The likelihood of character pattern structure considers the plausible height, width and inner gaps within a character pattern that appear in Chinese characters composed of multiple radicals (subpatterns). The recognition system incorporating this model separates freely written text into text line elements, estimates the average character size of each element, hypothetically segments it into characters using geometric features, applies character recognition to segmented patterns and employs the model to search the text interpretation that maximizes likelihood as Japanese text. The writing-box-free recognizer based on the model is started to be used for several products through
    iLabo corporation: a university-based start-up.
    Sumsung's GALAXY for NTT docomo's smart phones, NEC tablets, SONY tablets and so on bundle the recognizer as a standard input method.

Moreover, he applied the handwriting recognition technology to a dictionary of ancient cursive scripts of 67,739 categories and made them searchable by writing it with pen on tablet or with mouse. This was recently awarded by a Japanese newspaper (Nikkan Kogyo).


  • April 1973: entered the University of Tokyo.
  • March 1977: graduated from Dept. of Physics, Faculty of Science, the University of Tokyo.
  • From Sep. 1997 to June 1998, followed M. Sc. course for Computer Studies at Essex Univ. England sponsored by the Japanese Government.
  • March 1979, graduated from the University of Tokyo with M.Sc. in Physics.
  • July 1979, M.Sc. with distinction in Computer Studies from Essex University in England.
  • Dec. 19, 1988: Ph. D. degree from the University of Tokyo on the thesis "A Syntactic Approach with Stochastic Dissimilarity to On-line Recognition of Handwritten Japanese Characters."


  • From April 1979 to Jan. 1989: Assistant Professor, Faculty of Engineering, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT).
  • From Feb. 1989 to Aug. 1997: Associate Professor.
  • From Sep. 1997: Professor.
  • From April 2000 to March 2002: Director of the Cooperative Research Center, TUAT.
  • From April 2002 to March 2003: Visiting Professor at Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
  • From April 2005: Visiting Professor at Kagawa University.
  • From April 2006 to March 2008: Director of the Center for Innovation and Intellectual Propriety, TUAT (expanded from the Cooperative Research Center)
    • Selected among top 6 universities in Japan.
    • Comprised from cooperative research center, venture business laboratories, early-stage incubator, middle-stage incubator, knowledge propriety division, foreign liaison division, etc.
  • From June 2007: Program Officer for the Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology by MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan)

Publications in English

Recent Projects

  • Establishing a new M.Sc. course on Ubiquitous and Universal IT Environment funded by MEXT (2005-2009, 1.15M$/year)
  • Introducing tenure track system and renovating career track system funded by MEXT (2006-2010, 3.5M$/year)
    • We started our tenure-track system from extra funding by MEXT, employing 22 associate professors in promising areas and now shifting the system to our own funding. The design and the continuation have been evaluated as the best in Japan.
  • Establishing Asian engineering school funded by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan) and MEXT (2006- , 1M$+8 students scholarship /year)
  • Starting up a venture business based on pen-based UI and handwriting recognition funded by JST (Japan Science and Technology Agency) (2008-, 0.6M$/year)
  • Digital Archiving of wooden tablets excavated from the Heijo Palace Site by MEXT Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (2008-2012, 60K$/year)

Social Services

He has been serving for several committees of the Japanese government on Industry-Government-Academia partnership and those on IT-oriented and IT supported learning.


  • IEICE (Institute of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers, Japan) fellow
  • IAPR (Int'l Association of Pattern Recognition) fellow