The Malta Independent 16 December 2017, Saturday

“My Text in Your Handwriting”

Thursday, 18 August 2016, 10:53 Last update: about 2 years ago

A new computer programme, developed by UCL computer scientists, has the ability to analyse any handwriting and reproduce it accurately.

The computer software with the name of 'My Text in Your Handwriting' has the ability to scan a sample of a person's handwriting and generate new text accordingly. In order to do so, the software has to scan as a minimum a short paragraph of handwriting to learn how the specific author writes different letters, how letters are spaced and what particular style is adopted.

Once the software analyses the particular handwriting, then it replicates the text based on consistent values, such as the choice of characters, the texture and colours used, the ligatures between different letters and the spacing between words. 

The authors of this software have described this programme as a very useful tool which can be used in different circumstances.  The first author of the programme, Dr Tom Haines explained how this software could be used by victims of strokes to write their letters without having issues of illegibility. On the other hand, he said that it could be used when attaching a handwritten note to a bunch of flowers or in different publications.

Before this programme was invented, the only way to replicate a person's handwriting was by using fonts. However, these fonts showed clearly that the text was not written by hand and did not give a particular identity of the person writing it. According to the authors, their programme has overcome this problem and in fact it can also scan copies of historical documents without any difficulty.

The software has been tested for its effectiveness. People were asked to distinguish between handwritten envelopes and ones which were written using this programme. 40% of the people actually believed that the envelopes were all hand written.

However, the effectiveness of this software has raised questions about the possibility of it being used the wrong way to forge documents. The authors of this programme have reassured the public that this software can be used to identify forged documents and not the other way round. They explained that for the forging of documents, much of the process is still done manually.

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