Remember the critically acclaimed futuristic movie ‘Her’? If you have not seen it, the short description would be that it is a film about a man who falls in love with his intelligent operating system. The movie got highly praised among future lovers, since it paints a future scenario where technology is seamlessly and discreetly integrated in society as compared to movies with flying cars, teleportation devices and super villains. Many futurists think that this is probably one of the most accurate films where it comes to predicting where technology will take us.
In the movie, Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix) makes his living by custom-composing intimate letters for others; printed out in an authentic hand-scripted look (the company he works for is called ‘beautifulhandwrittenletters.com’). So why are we blabbering about the movie? Well, it turns out that a company is actually starting to provide customers with beautiful handwritten letters and physically mail them to whomever the client desires – and it is happening now.
The startup Bond Gifting, Inc. is a company that has invented a robot that will put down pretty “handwritten” text on stationary and mail it for you. And yes, of course it can reproduce your own handwriting so that the recipient would not get suspicious. Talk about lazy convenience, but as we later will see the company actually has some useful applications in mind. Also, according to Betabeat, these robots go beyond replication by using software that actually learns all the intricacies and imperfections of a handwriting sample on a very advanced and detailed level. Unlike a traditional printer, the robot physically moves a pen back-and-forth to mimic personalized script. What all this means is that you can now send out customized stationary, invites, letters and notes to all the people you care about (or why not a long and personalized letter to your special loved one) without having to stress over it for days. The founder of the startup, Sonny Caberwal, tells New Scientist:
“We’re not trying to fool people into believing that someone wrote the note for them, we’re trying to give people a tool to express themselves in the way they want.”
To continue on the technological path, the robot currently is transcribing keyboard typed letters that are put down on stationary by the machine. However, it is not the wildest guess to expect that a solution working exactly like the service in the movie ‘Her’ is just around the corner. As Singularity University’s Peter Diamandis recently wrote in an article featured at SingularityHub were he states: “…natural language interfaces like Apple’s Siri and Google Now have come a long way. I rarely use my keyboard anymore; instead I dictate texts and emails”.
Interestingly enough, the printer startup was featured in the mainstream tech press and made big headlines already in 2013. However, since then the company has gotten from prototyping to conducting some real business. According to PSFK, the Bond robot traditionally works with corporate clients and large event hosts, including newly-married couples, who need to send personalized messages in large volumes. The robot is also finding employment in advertising. Last fall, it helped brewer Heineken execute a large campaign where users enter a 400-character message, printed and distributed to the attached address.
So why do we label this seemingly gadget like letter writer as something important? Well, actually it is because it might tell us something about the future – however insignificant it might seem right now. This website is dedicated to highlight innovations that indicate a direction in which the world moves and this robot constitutes a useful example considering certain aspects.
Firstly, it is a real and successful business (who would have thought, except maybe the creators of ‘Her’). Also, the software actually seems quite sophisticated and is providing us with the ability to mechanically and effortlessly conduct a task that has been at the very heart of humanity for millennia. Furthermore, it makes us reflect upon our contemporary society in terms of emotional expression, affection and intimacy. Do we live in times when sacrificing time and effort to produce something personal for those we care about is becoming redundant? We do not say that at all, but maybe this is an early, early indication of something that will send ripples throughout our stressed-out society in the future.
To end on a positive note, whatever dystopian notions we previously regarded, maybe this invention will help to write personalized letters that would otherwise not have been written. As the etiquette expert Jodi R. R. Smith of US firm Mannersmith tells New Scientist why she loves the idea:
“Anything that helps people to be more polite and more thoughtful is a wonderful technology.”