Call it a sign of the times.

Computer scientists in the Middle East recently patented an artificial intelligence program that can successfully mimic human handwriting at an indistinguishable level.

The biggest breakthrough in Dubai — distinguishing results from past models — was making connections for physical distance between text in an image.

“To mimic someone’s handwriting style, we want to look at the whole text,” said researcher Fahad Khan, who said that there was a focus on how writers connected letters and spaced out their words.

“We wanted to know if you gave a model a few samples of someone’s handwriting if the model could learn about the style of that person and then write anything in the handwriting style of that person,” explained researcher Hisham Cholakkal of the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


A new AI breakthrough allows computer generated handwriting to be at a human level of realism.
A new AI breakthrough allows computer-generated handwriting to be at a human level of realism. fotoyou – stock.adobe.com

To get the groundbreaking results, the team used a computer neural network known as “vision transformers.” Essentially, the network is a comparatively easy-to-train data analyzer that is used to read information on small or midsized images, according to Cornell University.

They found that when a handwritten text image generation style (HWT) was shown to 100 individuals compared to other computer-generated writing styles, the former was the preferred style to accurately capture a person’s writing 81% of the time.

“They could not distinguish the mimicked handwriting from the actual handwriting, and it was satisfying to see that kind of validation of the performance,” said researcher Salman Khan.

However, handwriting team researcher Rao Muhammad Anwer is well aware that the invention, fluent in English with hopes to potentially train for the more complicated Arabic, offers potential for harm.

“We are very cautious about it because it could be misused,” he said. “Handwriting represents a person’s identity, so we are thinking carefully about this before deploying it.”

The breakthrough comes at a time when experts, including the Middle Eastern research team, acknowledge the frightening, potentially nefarious power AI has to imitate people.


Three handwriting generators are compared to handwritten text (far left) with the best results coming from HWT style (second from left).
Three handwriting generators are compared to handwritten text (far left) with the best results coming from HWT style (second from left). Handwriting Transformers

That has been done by replicating voices — AI workers say only a few seconds are needed — or manipulating images through either generative AI or deepfakes.

These tactics have been tied to cyber ransom calls that parents think are from their distressed children and students at a New Jersey high school who used AI to create fake naked photos of female classmates.

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