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Government Robotics Hardware News

Robo-Arm Signatures Are Legal, Gov't Buys One 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the precedent-set-by-the-governator dept.
AndreV writes "It's endlessly comforting to know a recently designed and implemented long-distance robotic signing arm can produce signatures legal in both the US and Canada. The aptly named LongPen replicates the handwriting from a person writing in a remote location — with the unique speed, cadence and pressure of a human pen-stroke. It started as an idea from author Margaret Atwood to help free her from grueling, multi-city, multi-country book tours, but the hard stuff was done by a bunch of Canadian haptic gurus, whose design took into consideration many factors of the human arm and how we write. How it works: from the author-end, data protocols are set up, and the pen pressure is measured on a special tablet. The data streams to the robot, while algorithms smooth out all the missed points. Complex math operations were used to help the mechatronic limb repeat the hand's motions without unnecessary jerking, and programmers had to 'scale time' or 'stretch time' by breaking down the movements, essentially tricking the eyes into thinking the robot is writing fast. It was recently adopted by the Ontario Government to sign official documents. It helps criminals sign books, too."
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Robo-Arm Signatures Are Legal, Gov't Buys One

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  • The real question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spiritraveller (641174) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @08:29AM (#27625741)

    is whether a handwriting expert can tell the difference.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @08:32AM (#27625751) Homepage

    The real question is whether a handwriting expert can tell the difference.

    Between the Robo-Arm signature on the document you intended to sign, and the Robo-Arm signature on the document you didn't? I doubt it.

  • by piripiri (1476949) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @08:37AM (#27625777) Journal
    How this handle security? If the signature is sent remotely, it is possible to store ones signature to reproduce it several times afterwards.
  • by jcr (53032) <> on Saturday April 18, 2009 @08:38AM (#27625783) Journal

    The workaround for that problem is to get a signature notarized, so that the signer can't disavow it. Same solution we've had for a long time before this technology came along.


  • by cenc (1310167) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @09:02AM (#27625891) Homepage

    These have been around for hundreds of years I believe. We just now can send them longer distances.

  • by j_sp_r (656354) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @09:12AM (#27625951) Homepage

    You might be able to use a mechanical solution between the shaft of the motor and the driven shaft. Think of a spring-damper system that dampens the step movement to a smooth path.

  • by bentcd (690786) <> on Saturday April 18, 2009 @09:36AM (#27626089) Homepage

    How this handle security? If the signature is sent remotely, it is possible to store ones signature to reproduce it several times afterwards.

    Signatures don't handle security, and it's a very very long time since they did. The robo-arm introduces nothing new wrt reproducing signatures that fax machines didn't already bring to the masses several decades ago.

    I suspect that signatures, together with other low-security authentication mechanisms such as PINs and credit card numbers etc, are really only there so that when people do falsify or misuse them you can legitimately lock them up for various forms of fraud.

    Note that in certain situations involving signatures, you still need for both parties to sign at the same time, with two or more witnesses who also sign the document. This shows us that there is little or no security in the signatures as such, but that the security aspect is handled by having well known eye witnesses to interview should the validity of the contract come under dispute at some point.

  • by pcjunky (517872) <> on Saturday April 18, 2009 @09:57AM (#27626219) Homepage

    The teleautograpgh does not seem to include any means of preventing it from being used for forgeries.

    No security measure means it could not be used for legal documents.

    It is simply a means of reproducing handwriting at a distance.

  • Re:Great Idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by omeomi (675045) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:12AM (#27626325) Homepage
    Right, if only we had some sort of inexpensive way of signing a document, and then producing some sort of copy of that document at a different location, in a relatively short period of time. You know, some sort of facsimile device that could use some sort of transmission medium...I don't know, we could call it a "telephone line" transmit data that could tell a second facsimile device on the other end of the line how to reproduce a document. Too bad... We'll just have to go with the robotic arm. I wonder if it comes with a secondary robotic arm to hold the paper still...
  • by NonSequor (230139) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:52AM (#27626643) Journal

    As I see it, a signature is a sort of signifier that a person recognizes they are agreeing to something that they can't trivially disavow later. It's basically evidence that someone entered into an agreement or issued a statement under their name willingly. It doesn't prove who actually did the signing, but as you said other evidence can corroborate that.

    It's not something you can claim you did accidentally. If you sign something without reading it, then you're willingly trusting the person who asked you to sign it.

  • Re:Margaret Atwood (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrNaz (730548) * on Saturday April 18, 2009 @12:56PM (#27627765) Homepage

    Yes, because it's such a hard life jet-setting around, waving at adoring fans hopeful that you'll scribble something in their copy of a $24.99 book turning it into a priceless artifact of literature all the while being paid huge amounts of money for it.

    Only a modern human would be lazy enough to want to automate being famous.

  • by turbidostato (878842) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @04:12PM (#27629461)

    "The robo-arm doesn't really add a lot or problems to that though (and if someone uses a naive playback attack to forge multiple signatures, the fact that they are too similar should make it easier to successfully deny the signature)."

    Do you know what "non repudiation" is? Since they are too similar which one is the good one? I'd be more than happy to sign you a one million check knowing that the day you try to get it I'll go with one hundred copies so I can deny to pay.

    The robotic arm is twofold bad idea: it is open to reply attacks and allows me to repudiate my own signature if needed.

Nothing in progression can rest on its original plan. We may as well think of rocking a grown man in the cradle of an infant. -- Edmund Burke