Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Handwriting "Fingerprint"

PostedJanuary 8, 2006

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Randy Atkins:  Handwriting experts usually match samples by peculiarities, like extreme swirls.  But Mark Walch, of Alexandria's Gannon Technologies, is using computer power to examine lettering of even the most generic scribes.

Mark Walch:  The fact that they make their lower case "a"s, you know, six pixels wide, if they do it consistently, could be an important identifier.

Randy Atkins:  Don Gantz, a George Mason University statistician, is comparing such tiny—but often unique—distances, angles, and curves in the letters of unknown writers with huge handwriting databases.

Donald Gantz:  We can very accurately pull the individual out of the database, pull the needle out of the haystack.

Randy Atkins:  The researchers say this technology will add hard data to document examiners' opinions.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP Radio.

The technique should be useful even on disguised handwriting, since experts say it's hard to conceal some subtle writing traits.  To find out more about this, and other "Innovative Engineering" stories, go to and look in "Quick Links" at the bottom of the page.