is using AI for handwriting generation

Alfonso Maruccia

Posts: 399   +176
In context: Researchers are turning the creative world upside down, exploiting artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to turn many tasks into semi-autonomous processes. Nothing is safe from generative AI anymore, not even your local doctor's illegible writing.

Years before OpenAI and other organizations started toying with AI to easily generate text, speech, artworks, malware, and videos, machine learning researcher Sean Vasquez was studying a 2013 paper by Google DeepMind's Alex Graves to create "handwriting synthesis" experiments.

Vasquez archived his code on GitHub along with his web-based demo. The experiment is available at, which Hacker News recently rediscovered. The handwriting synthesis behind employs a generative method built upon a recurrent neural network (RNN).

An RNN is a class of artificial neural networks where connections between nodes can create a cycle allowing output from some nodes to affect subsequent input to the same nodes. Recurrent neural networks can exhibit temporal dynamic behavior, which makes them particularly useful in tasks such as handwriting or speech recognition. Like any other neural network, Vasquez trained on a moderately large dataset of calligraphy samples, primarily the IAM On-Line Handwriting Database.

The IAM-On database contains "forms of handwritten English text acquired on a whiteboard," with samples from 221 different "writers" and more than 1,700 acquired forms. The database includes 13,049 isolated and labeled text lines in "on-line" and "off-line" format, for a total of 86,272 samples from an 11,059-word dictionary. can generate variable handwriting in 9 different styles, while users can change speed, legibility, and stroke width sliders for further customization. Unlike traditional font types designed to mimic handwriting, every sample generated by should be unique even when the writing style is the same. Users can download the final result as an SVG vector file.

According to Vasquez, the legibility slider employs a method known as "adjusting the temperature of the sampling distribution" to alter variation in handwriting. Outputs come from a "probability distribution," and increasing the legibility "effectively concentrates probability density around more likely outcomes."

Being just a demo, is limited in scope despite its ability to create believable handwriting patterns. Furthermore, Vasquez only trained the underlying RNN on English language samples, so the website isn't particularly good at reproducing accents commonly used in other languages.

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Posts: 4,768   +7,345
Its only a matter of time until CAPTCHAs are obsolete, so all this AI convergence might have *one* positive outcome - forcing all websites to use anti-automation firewalls.


Posts: 555   +1,051
But but.... mah traffic lights!

Seriously Captcha should die. And Captcha with two or more pages shall burn in hell.


Posts: 858   +1,307
Steal jobs from calligraphers? What would the monks do? Oh, wait, year 1436 happened. The calligraphers are still around and they will still be.


Posts: 765   +508
But but.... mah traffic lights!

Seriously Captcha should die. And Captcha with two or more pages shall burn in hell.

In the future Captcha will be so complicated, to avoid AI abuse, that humans won't be able to pass the test, but AI will :)