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Government Robotics Hardware News

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

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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  • by pz ( 113803 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @08:41AM (#27625795) Journal

    Robotic signature machines have been around for decades. Some of my colleagues at MIT worked on the first modern ones based on plotter technology in the late 1980s/early 1990s which were quickly bought by places like the US White House to sign letters.

    A 5-second search on Google for "signature machine" comes up with 8 thousand hits. There's an autopen entry on Wikipedia indicating that mechanical signature machines have been around since the early 1800s (yes 1800s), and lists three current manufacturers of the devices.

    So, this is news? Just because someone hooked up the recording part and the writing part across an internet connection and made them work in real time? That makes it to the front page? Is that really the first time it was ever done? Lots of other things have been done telerobotically already.

  • Re:The real question (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheRedSeven ( 1234758 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @09:03AM (#27625897) Homepage
    Right, because Notaries Public are always scrupulous, have high standards [wikipedia.org] and ethics training, and never notarize documents signed outside of their presence.

    I have signed documents and later found that someone had them notarized without my knowledge. Legal? No. Does it happen? Without a doubt.
  • Re:The real question (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 18, 2009 @09:05AM (#27625907)

    A persons brain produces Analog writing
    In robotic arms, There wil be segmented gaps , as a stepper motor or other motor has only a finite resolution.
    example 3600 steps per revolution of the motors shaft or .1 degrees per step , but these gaps also identify the writer as a robotic arm , so the signature has Both parts of the real person and parts of the roboric arms
    It may not fool a writing expert if he/she can see this segmentation, because digital /robotic writing must contain segments no matter how fine, the size a function of the resolution of the motors accuracy /

  • Re:Margaret Atwood (Score:4, Informative)

    by rackserverdeals ( 1503561 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @09:26AM (#27626027) Homepage Journal

    And obviously someone that doesn't understand why people obtain signatures.

    A signed copy of a book can increase it's value but when you consider how many book signings they do these days, it's pretty meaningless, at least for the near future.

    People get autographs for the same reason they take pictures with celebrities. To have some sort of proof they met the celebrity.

    With digital cameras so readily available and portable, I'm surprised people are still looking for autographs (other than to sell on ebay).

    With book tours, people don't just want their book signed, they want to have their 15 seconds to talk to the author.

  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @09:53AM (#27626209) Homepage

    How is this any different from the "telautograph" machines common in the 1950s? As a kid I was fascinated by one I saw in a New York hotel that was used to allow a manager in one location to remotely sign documents in another. Heaven only knows that technology it used, but my vague memory is that it looked like an X-Y version of an analog, galvanometer-type pen recorder.

    Click, click, Google: Wikipedia has an article on the Telautograph [wikipedia.org] which mentions that "The telautograph was first publicly exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago."

  • by SpinyNorman ( 33776 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:06AM (#27626273)

    If you search for LongPen videos on youtube you can see a demo of this at a trade show...

    It's more than just a remote signature product - it's really meant for legal/financial use where there may possibly be disputes over what was signed, who was present. etc.

    What the product does is transmit a photo of the document in the robo-pen device to the remote signing end where it appears in a display built into to the tablet device you sign on - it's as if you're singing the real document on the appropriate line/whereever. The system also takes and stores before/after photos of the signed document and saves audio/video of the remote signer (& robot end?) so that these can be brought up if there's any legal challenge... It should be noted that the anticipated legal challenges arn't because of this being a remote signature device, but rather that the whole photo/audio/video capture system is designed to address the challenges that already occur with traditional signed documents.

    There are various comments in reply to this article about how this is nothing new, but from the video it seems that not only is it an entire singing/verification system, but also the signature reproduction quality is very high - it detects/reproduces 60 different pressure levels and samples at 2000/samples sec.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:12AM (#27626323)

    It doesn't matter, signatures aren't secure anyway. The variability between separate signatures of one person is often greater than the difference between any one of them and a reasonable forgery. In that respect the law is out of sync with reality, in the sense that a signature is supposed to guarantee that the document was signed by the undersigned while in reality it could be signed by anyone who had taken the trouble to exercise jotting down someone else's signature for half a day.
    In the Netherlands this recently caused a bit of a scandal, I'll recount it for your entertainment. If you're an official for a company or public charity or the like you have to register with the Chamber of Commerce. Because other people can have public dealings with such an entity all the books and other documents relating to it need to be public. However, that meant that the signatures of all officials of companies etc. could be obtained for a small fee filing a request with the Chamber of Commerce. Turned out crooks knew about that. They chose low-profile targets, and signed documents like "I, H. Victim, hereby donate my company to W. Crook.", milk the company, disappear and by the time anyone notices to money's gone and nothing can be done about it anymore. Apart from the attack vector these are very similar to the recent house selling scams in Britain.

  • Re:Margaret Atwood (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 18, 2009 @12:30PM (#27627531)

    This is just an author being lazy. I can understand if the author couldn't physically make it, but this just seems like a case of an author that can't be bothered with her pesky readers. In the end, I think it might give her what she wanted, but not how she wanted.

    She's 69. She has been writing for 50 years. We don't know what her health is like. Her fans will take what they can get. You aren't bothering to look into the particulars of this at all, are you?

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson