Utilizing artificial intelligence tools enables individuals to create highly convincing voice duplicates and realistic videos, making it challenging to distinguish their artificial nature. Soon, though, bad actors could use the same technology to imitate a person’s handwriting style. It’s a development that could lead to a whole new level of cybercrime, warn two researchers.
The researchers say they have developed technology that can mimic a person’s handwriting based on just a few paragraphs of written material. The key is recognizing the “finger patterns” unique to each individual’s writing style. The team used a transformer model, a type of neural network, to learn how to recognize and replicate these distinct markings in a text sample. The system could write text nearly identical to the original within 2 minutes, which is much faster than it would take an average human writer.
Researchers say there are a variety of potential uses for the technology, including helping injured people to continue to communicate without picking up a pen. It could also be used to craft personalized advertising and decode doctors’ handwriting. The inventors say they plan to apply their work to real-world applications within months and seek commercial collaborators.
However, they acknowledge that the technology could be misused in other ways. For example, if the software was combined with a fake video of someone, it could create a “deepfake” that looked and sounded like a victim’s attacker. In one widely reported incident this month, an Arizona woman received a phone call from what sounded like her 15-year-old daughter, who said she was being kidnapped. The woman quickly hung up after being told her daughter was safe, but the uncanny resemblance of the voice deeply shook her.
As a result, experts are working on ways to make it more difficult for malicious actors to use such technologies. Some text-to-voice software already includes features that let people know when an artificial voice generates spoken words, but such technology has yet to be widely available.
A robot at Brown University that can write in several languages is another tool that makes it difficult for people to commit forgery. The robot can create characters in Greek, English (both print and cursive), and Hindi by observing examples of those languages. The machine can even recreate a detailed drawing, such as the Mona Lisa, by studying an image.
It still needs to be clarified whether this latest advance in handwriting-mimicking AI will be helpful for good or evil, but it’s a step forward. It’s not the first time an AI system has been able to duplicate a person’s writing, but it may be among the most accurate. Ultimately, the researchers say, the benefits will depend on how carefully humans use the technology. Sometimes, that might mean ensuring it’s only being used to help needy people.