UAE's AI university to develop technology that mimics handwriting styles

The AI-powered tool could benefit people with disabilities and assist with machine-learning models

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Researchers at Abu Dhabi's Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence have been granted a patent to develop a tool able to learn and mimic individual handwriting styles.

The patent suggests that the AI-powered technology could be harnessed as an aid for people with disabilities that prevent them from writing.

While the initial study focused on generating handwriting in English, the university is exploring ways to apply it to other languages, such as Arabic.

MBZUAI said this would prove more challenging to analyse because of “the way Arabic letters are connected in handwritten script”.

“Automatic handwritten text generation can be beneficial for people having disabilities or injuries that prevent them from writing,” the patent states, going on to describe other possible uses for the handwriting replication technology.

“There may be a case where a person wishes to write a note in a foreign language in a manner that appears that the foreign language writing is authentic and in their own writing style.”

The technology could also be used to assist in improving machine learning models by being able to recognise large amounts of handwritten data, according to MBZUAI.

Salman Khan, associate professor of computer vision at the institute, reflected on the effectiveness of the technology tested so far.

“The result of the generated handwriting was quite good,” he said, referring to those who tried the programme.

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

The research model, according to MBZUAI, does not require a large amount of data to be trained.

Instead, it requires only a few paragraphs of original handwriting, something that is both impressive and potentially problematic if the technology were to be misused.

“Handwriting represents a person’s identity, so we are thinking carefully about this before deploying it,” said Rao Muhammad Anwer, an associate professor at MBZUAI.

MBZUAI, the world’s first dedicated artificial intelligence university, was first announced in 2019 and opened in 2020.

Eric Xing, MBZUAI president, recently reflected on the university’s impact on the world of AI as 2023 draws to a close.

“I am very proud that we have achieved so much in just four years of operation – with a host of milestones yet to come,” he said.

“We are actively training the next generation of AI specialists who will contribute to and even elevate the level of knowledge and excellence in this important area of human development.”

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Updated: December 28, 2023, 3:01 PM