An eight-foot-long handwriting robot

Originally published at: An eight-foot-long handwriting robot | Boing Boing


Writing letters back home just got easier.


In my experience “direct mail” that appears to be handwritten is usually a deceptive form of advertising that tries to trick the recipient into believing that a real human being that they may know is trying to reach out to them specifically about some issue that needs resolution. I sure hope this guy isn’t using this technology to fool a bunch of old folks into buying products or services they don’t really need, but given that he bought it from an evil mad scientist it seems very unlikely he’s using this for ethical purposes.


If you want real convenience you still need to pay Joaquin Phoenix to dictate the contents of the handwritten letter though.


From the links in his bio page it sounds like he’s sending large quantities of junk mail to people who might be looking for ways to dodge property taxes. So yeah, not exactly using this tech to improve society.


Lazlo Hollyfeld isn’t impressed.

“Well, this batch makes it 1,650,000. I should win 32.6% of the prizes, including the car.”


But aren’t there plenty of handwriting fonts these days, that you can just print?

Anyone taken in by plotter-written ‘handwriting’ is surely just as likely to be taken in by font-printed ‘handwriting’, no?


This was my exact thought. Worst case, handwrite one letter and then copy it.


Maybe? I mean the letterforms will look the same, at least if printed at high enough DPI. However a plotter dragging a pen over paper will produce a different effect. The way the ink applies unevenly across turns would not be easy to imitate with a font, but you could post process it and get the same effect. What you won’t get is actually indenting the paper.

To my eye they look different with just a glance.

Interestingly the tweet talks about how hard it is to rotate a SVG, which I will second. SVGs should be really easy to rotate, but they turn out to be such a pain that for my laser cutter software I convert SVGs to BezierPaths and rotate them that way (BezierPaths are trivial to rotate/skew/translate). I’ve also gone to doing my new box/whatnot designs as a series of BezierPaths with attributes attached and convert them to SVG as one of the last steps before feeding them to the cutter (which takes SVGs as input, and then you need to use the cutter’s own software to map from colors into power+current+passes triplets, oh and define a color to cut order mapping – which is a pain because I would rather encode that in one file!)


It’s not that hard to tell the difference between a handwritten document created with a ballpoint pen on paper and a laser- or offset-printed document created with a digital font meant to resemble handwriting. Even people who don’t know anything about layout and printing can usually tell the difference pretty quick just from the indentation of the pen nib on the paper, not to mention the unique variation in letterforms in the typeface.



Faster more efficient spam! Wait until we tell them about email.


Wouldn’t it have been easier to rig up an automatic sheet feeder?


Exactly my thought! It must be hard to lay out the paper in the right spot and this thing takes insane amounts of space, too. A sheet feed and a normal version of the plotter would be more convenient, smaller and probably easier to design. You could probably cannibalise a printer if you don’t want to deal with the problem of getting exactly one sheet off a stack of paper.


Ink jet printer + slightly watered-down ink + really crappy paper.

I think that could replicate how the ink in handwritten documents is applied unevenly, but not the intents the pen make…

…except inkjets are a side-to-side movement so “sloshes” will reflect that, and a ballpoint the sloshes will be influenced by the direction of the stroke and the changes in that direction.

If you want to replicate the sloshes and don’t care about the indents a color copier will do that just fine with a handwritten master sheet.

The intents need a plotter. Or maybe a depth map and you could 3D print the inverse and press it onto each sheet before or after printing…but that needs good alignment.

If I wanted to head down the handwritten looking likely for mass mail maybe borderline fraud route I think the plotter is a good start, and the next step is some sort of auto sheet feeding. You can’t just use a stack of paper and slide the top off unless you have a significant barrier (1/8” plywood?) between the top sheet and the rest to avoid indenting. You need to “pin” the active sheet down, and remove it before feeding the next one.

Fun project, but it is hard to see how it wouldn’t be in the pursuit of more efficient evil.

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