Cursing The Curse Of Cursive

Unlike probably most people, I enjoy the act of writing by hand — but I’ve always disliked signing my name. Why is that? I think it’s because signatures are supposed to be in cursive, or else they don’t count. At least, that’s what I was taught growing up. (And I’m really not that old, I swear!)

Having the exact same name as my mother meant that it was important to adolescent me to be different, and that included making sure our signatures looked nothing alike. Whereas her gentle, looping hand spoke to her sensitive and friendly nature, my heavy-handed block print was just another way of letting out my teen angst. Sometime in the last couple of decades, my signature became K-squiggle P-squiggle, which is really just a sped-up, screw-you version of my modern handwriting, which is a combination of print and cursive.

But let’s back up a bit. I started learning to write in kindergarten, but that of course was in script, with separate letters. Me and my fellow Xennial zeigeistians learned a specific printing method called D’Nealian, which was designed to ease the transition from printing to cursive with its curly tails on every letter.

We practiced our D’Nealian (So fancy! So grown-up!) on something called Zaner-Bloser paper, which is still used today, and by probably second grade were making that transition from easy Zorro-like lowercase Zs to the quite mature-looking double-squiggle of the cursive version. It was as though our handwriting was moving from day to night, changing and moving as fast as we were. You’d think we would have appreciated learning a way of writing that was more like us — a blur of activity, everything connected, an oddly-modular alphabet that was supposed to serve us well in adulthood. But we didn’t. We hated it. And you probably did, too.

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PlottyBot: A DrawBot That Plots A Lot

Fire up those 3D printers because if you’re like us, you’ll want your own PlottyBot. Still, have a pile of “thank you notes” to write from recent winter holiday gift exchanges? Hoping to hand letter invitations to a wedding or other significant event? Need some new art to adorn your lock-down shelter or shop? It sounds like [Ben] could help you with that.

Besides being a handsomely designed desktop DrawBot, this project from [Ben] looks to have some solid software to run it, a community of makers who have tested the waters, and very detailed build instructions. Those include everything from a BOM with links for ordering parts to animated GIF assembly for the trickier steps.

If you’d like to graduate from “handwritten” cards and letters to something poster-sized are customization tips for expanded X and Y dimensions. As we’ve included in other recent articles, one caveat to mention is the current scarcity of the Raspberry Pi Zeros that PlottyBots require. But if you have one on hand or think you’ll be able to source one by the time you’ve 3D printed all the parts, it might just be the perfect time to add another bot to your family. As a heads up, this project is self-hosted on a solar-powered server, so maybe take turns reading the complete build log.

A nice bonus if you need help drawing something suitably complex to require a robot’s help, [Ben] also created MandalGaba which looks like an awesome online tool for drawings like the ones shown above.

Handwriting Robots Are Sending Snail Mail

As a kid, you might remember taking a whole fistful of markers or crayons, gently lining them all up for maximum contact, mashing them into the paper, and marveling at the colorful multitude of lines. It seemed like an easy way to write many times more things with less effort. While not quite the same idea but in a similar vein, [Aaron Francis] shared an experience of creating handwriting robots to write thousands of letters.

Why did [Aaron] need to write thousands of letters? Direct mailing, of course! If you were sending someone a letter, if it looked handwritten they’re much more likely to open it. What better way to make it look handwritten than to use a pen rather than a printer? They started off with Axidraw, a simple plotter made by EMSL. Old laptops controlled a few plotters and they started to make progress. As with most things, scale became tricky. Adding more plotters just means more paper to replace and machines to restart. An automated system of replacing paper is fiendishly difficult so they went for a batching system. A sheet of plywood that can hold dozens of sheets of paper became the basis of a new mega-plotter. 3D printers and laser cutters helped make adapters and homing teeth. A Raspberry Pi replaced the old laptops and they scaled up to a few machines.

All in all, a pretty impressive build. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the plotting water, this pen plotter is about as simple as you can get.

Thought Control Via Handwriting

Computers haven’t done much for the quality of our already poor handwriting. However, a man paralyzed by an accident can now feed input into a computer by simply thinking about handwriting, thanks to work by Stanford University researchers. Compared to more cumbersome systems based on eye motion or breath, the handwriting technique enables entry at up to 90 characters a minute.

Currently, the feat requires a lab’s worth of equipment, but it could be made practical for everyday use with some additional work and — hopefully — less invasive sensors. In particular, the sensor used two microelectrode arrays in the precentral gyrus portion of the brain. When the subject thinks about writing, recognizable patterns appear in the collected data. The rest is just math and classification using a neural network.

If you want to try your hand at processing this kind of data and don’t have a set of electrodes to implant, you can download nearly eleven hours of data already recorded. The code is out there, too. What we’d really like to see is some easier way to grab the data to start with. That could be a real game-changer.

More traditional input methods using your mouth have been around for a long time. We’ve also looked at work that involves moving your head.

Neural Network Does Your Homework

[Will Forfang] found a app that lets you take a picture of a math equation with a phone and ask for a solution. However, the app wouldn’t read handwritten equations, so [Will] decided to see how hard that would be, using a neural network.

The results are pretty impressive (you can also see the video below). [Will] used his own handwriting on a chalkboard and had the network train on that. He also went even further and added some heuristics to identify fraction bars and infer the grouping from the relative size of the bars.

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Ask Hackaday: DIY Handwriting Recognition

Computer handwriting recognition is very cool by itself, and it’s something that we’d like to incorporate into a project. So we went digging for hacker solutions, and along the way came up with an interesting bit of history and some great algorithms. We feel like we’ve got a good start on that front, but we’re stuck on the hardware tablet sensor itself. So in this Ask Hackaday, we’re going to make the case for why you could be using a tablet-like device for capturing user input or doing handwriting recognition, and then we’re going to ask if you know of any good DIY tablet designs to make it work.

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Your Handwriting Is Now Your Font

They say your handwriting is as unique to you as is your fingerprint. Maybe they are right – perhaps every person adds a little bit of his or her personality to their penmanship. Just maybe there are enough ways to vary pressure, speed, stroke, and a dozen other almost imperceptible factors that all 7 billion of us have a slightly different style.

The study of handwriting is called Graphology, and people have been at it for a quite a long time. Most experts agree that a person’s handwriting can reveal their gender, where it starts to get fuzzy is that others claim they can tell much more including age, race, weight, and even mood. Going further down the rabbit hole, some employers have tried to use handwriting analysis to determine if an applicant is a match for a position. That seems a bit of a stretch to us.

Now, if you want to digitize a tiny bit of what makes you, you – then all you have to do it to fill out this (PDF) form and upload it to the interwebs. Out the other end will pop a true type font that you can save for yourself or share with the world. Why would you want to do that? This hack caught our eye as a way of adding annotations to our work in a more informal, yet still personal manner. Or maybe we just wanted to upload it to the cloud in hopes it would live forever. Either way, if you want to see some really amazing style, head on over to the “Penmanship Porn” subreddit where you can find some amazing chicken scratch.