Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

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

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the precedent-set-by-the-governator dept.

Government 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."

cancel ×

154 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Margaret Atwood (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625717)

Canada's best-known novelist and inventor of the LongPen.
Boy, you learn something every day.

Re:Margaret Atwood (3, Informative)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626027)

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.

Re:Margaret Atwood (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27626151)

They're using the system to do video-conference book-signings. You still get your 15 seconds, and you still get a personal signature. The only difference is that the author doesn't have to travel, and doesn't have to smell you.

Re:Margaret Atwood (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626289)

Author's security from that over-friendly fan.

Re:Margaret Atwood (2, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627765)

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.

Re:Margaret Atwood (1)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627355)

They're using the system to do video-conference book-signings. You still get your 15 seconds, and you still get a personal signature. The only difference is that the author doesn't have to travel, and doesn't have to smell you.

The fans want to see the author in person. Might as well just have the author take email requests for book signings, record it, put it on youtube or even do it live over the internet. Then ship the autographed book. Would be much cheaper.

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.

Re:Margaret Atwood (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

Re:Margaret Atwood (4, Interesting)

omeomi (675045) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626285)

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

Realistically, I suppose I'd be more likely to head down to the book store to see the weird robotic arm signing books than to talk with some random author I've never heard of.

Off Topic (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27625735)

But where else can I post a question about slashdot? What's up with those scripts on slashdot? Even with a fast and modern PC, I have to put this filter in adblock to make the slashdot pages load decently fast: *fsdn*js* To disable slashdot scripts. Either make the scripts load faster, or more efficient, or remove unneeded ones? They all render wrong in mozilla based browsers anyway! HTML forms are much better for tags.

Great Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27625739)

...what could possibly go wrong with this idea!?

Re:Great Idea (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626307)

Cheque fraud would be awesome.

Re:Great Idea (3, Insightful)

omeomi (675045) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626325)

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"...to 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...

Re:Great Idea (1)

obarel (670863) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627395)

So you've heard of my invention then?

I speak into a machine that has 15,000 sensors that measure the air speed at each point in a three-dimensional cube. It then converts my speech into a complex symbolic description which is passed by e-mail to another machine. The other machine then converts it into movements of synthetic diaphragm, lung, throat, tongue, teeth and lips (it cost me $1,500,000 to build this unique machine).

The result is a near-perfect replica of my voice. This allows me to send my voice remotely, and to actually have conversions with people in other places (well, it's unidirectional at this point, but the other direction can be implemented by phone... oh, wait...)

Re:Great Idea (1)

codewritinfool (546655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627445)

This is very similar to what Alexander Bell was thinking about before he invented (or didn't) the telephone. Seriously. You can read about it in "The Telephone Gambit".

Re:Great Idea (2, Funny)

joshuaheretic (982785) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627893)

"I saw this in a movie about a bus that had to speed around the city, keeping its speed over fifty. And if its speed dropped, the bus would explode! I think it was called... 'The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down.'"

The real question (4, Insightful)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625741)

is whether a handwriting expert can tell the difference.

Re:The real question (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625751)

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.

Re:The real question (5, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625783)

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.

-jcr

Re:The real question (4, Informative)

TheRedSeven (1234758) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625897)

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 (3, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626161)

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).

Re:The real question (2, Funny)

kohaku (797652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626583)

Hah, well this won't affect me: my signature comes out different every time!

Re:The real question (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626385)

I have signed documents and later found that someone had them notarized without my knowledge.

That's fraud. Did you file charges, or complain to the authority who issued the notary's license?

-jcr

Re:The real question (1)

jshackney (99735) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627575)

Geez, so now there'll be a Notary service at every book signing. Sounds like a business opportunity.

Re:The real question (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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:The real question (2, Insightful)

j_sp_r (656354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625951)

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.

Re:The real question (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625967)

In robotic arms, There wil be segmented gaps , as a stepper motor or other motor has only a finite resolution.

How do you know the gaps will be segmented, and not smoothed out by some sort of low-pass filter?

Re:The real question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27626097)

Too much low pass filtering , smoothing as you say would also destroy the unique ID of the person , Rendering the signature useless .

Re:The real question (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626261)

because digital /robotic writing must contain segments no matter how fine
However it is certainly plausible that they are lost in the noise.

Re:The real question (2, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626607)

In robotic arms, There wil be segmented gaps , as a stepper motor or other motor has only a finite resolution.

Who says they have to use stepper motors? There is a type of motor called a selsyn [wikipedia.org] or self-synchronizing motor. The way it works is this: You take two identical motors, called the transmitter and the receiver. You hook them up coil for coil. Then you supply power to the rotor coils. Any movement of the rotor on the transmitter motor generates a voltage in the stator coils (the stationary coils in the motor). These voltages are transmitted to the receiving motor, and produce a magnetic field that turns the transmitter motor's rotor by the exact same amount. This type of motor permits continuous angular displacement (ie no stepping). All you have to do is transmit the voltage levels long distance.

Granted, when you transmit things over the phone lines, there is an analog-digital-analog conversion that takes place. However the phone system samples at a high enough rate (8000hz) that a voice signal comes through. I think it could handle the 60Hz synchro motor signals with a high enough resolution that any digitization artifacts would be unnoticeable.

Re:The real question (1)

codewritinfool (546655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627533)

In a practical sense, I doubt that movement would be at all fluid in the system you propose. The pen would only move when the magnetic force on the second motor was high enough to overcome the friction losses. The result is non-fluid movement, or no movement at all if the input was subtle enough. The second part of your comment doesn't make sense to me. Digitization artifacts are a function of the A/D conversion, not of the transport mechanism. Over a telephone, that is remedied by time.

Re:The real question... (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626191)

...is can this (not) be hacked? Now where did that checkbook go?

Re:The real question (1)

SIR_Taco (467460) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626731)

According to an interview with one of the inventors (on CTV):
"We worked closely with forensic scientists and they deemed it 100% accurate in replication as well as pressure"

Now take that with a grain of salt, but they seem to have done their homework.

Re:The real question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27626975)

Handwriting experts are frauds, and have been found as such as testing. It's pseudoscience at best. They simply don't have the ability to analyze writing as they claim.

My point, a handwriting expert can't reliably tell the different in any situation, let alone with this technology.

Better than (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27625757)

This is less laughable to me than the State of Michigan where government workers are required to "sign" memos by typing their name in italics over their non-italicized name.

Re:Better than (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627615)

Legally, in English common law jurisdictions at least (which includes the US) the signature itself is irrelevant: what matters is the intent. All you need to do is signify (note the etymology) that you have consented to whatever you have "signed". An X is more than acceptable. So are signature stamps and autopens ( by the way, can anyone enumerate the difference between this and an autopen?). Even a physical mark is not strictly necessary: contracts, after all, can be verbal and effected with nothing more permanent than a handshake.

Write once, reproduce more (4, Insightful)

piripiri (1476949) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625777)

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

Re:Write once, reproduce more (4, Interesting)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626077)

Not only that, how do you know what you're actually signing if you're not there to read it in person?

You don't even need to figure out a way to store and reproduce it. Just through a piece of carbon paper under the document and have a second contract under it, or even just a blank sheet of paper to be filled out later.

Re:Write once, reproduce more (2, Interesting)

koro666 (947362) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626221)

From my experience, when filling forms that use carbon paper, there's no carbon under the signature area so you have to sign all copies separately.

I'd assume a carbon-copied signature would not be considered binding at all, and would be also be dead easy to spot.

Re:Write once, reproduce more (1)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627447)

Someone could just cut a small hole in some random document needing signed and put something else underneath it. It is doubtful someone could tell the difference and the machine would be signing directly onto the paper. Just shred the document that was SUPPOSED to be signed and claim something happened to it. Unless you sign your documents slightly differently when you use the robo-arm there would be no way to tell. Maybe a special ink could be used or a tiny code that indicated the machine that signed it could be added.

Re:Write once, reproduce more (5, Informative)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Write once, reproduce more (4, Insightful)

bentcd (690786) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626089)

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.

Re:Write once, reproduce more (3, Insightful)

NonSequor (230139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626643)

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.

Signatures aren't secure anyway (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Signatures aren't secure anyway (1)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627357)

House selling scams in Britain. I live in that there Britain and hadn't (I think) heard of these scams. Could you enlighten me?

Ps - Your prose might benefit from some paragraphs [wikipedia.org] , your post was interesting but I had to read it three times to understand.

Wont work with me (1)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627315)

I have already got a system to prevent this.
No two signatures are the same. That's how you know my signature is genuine - it doesn't match another signature of mine.

Used to cause a bit of annoyance at the bank when they checked these things.

This is news? It isn't new. (5, Informative)

pz (113803) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625795)

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:This is news? It isn't new. (3, Interesting)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625827)

Auto signature machines are not the same as long distance signature machines. It's also worth noting that mechanical signature systems are rarely used for sensitive data etc. (they're normally used on cheap merchandise etc. and hand writing experts can tell the difference between the mechanical version and a real signature)

Re:This is news? It isn't new. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27625961)

someone hooked up the recording part and the writing part across an internet connection and made them work in real time

Excellent! Someone just worked out my business model patent! I'm going to be rich! I love how this works, think of a idea, get a patent on it, then wait for someone to actually work out the details.

Re:This is news? It isn't new. (2, Interesting)

nbauman (624611) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626403)

You're right. I remember seeing a long-distance handwriting machine at an airport 50 years ago, where someone in a remote city was writing messages to our city -- I think about the weather and flight delays. (I assume they could also have used teletype.)

And Harry Truman was the first president to use an Autopen to reply to constituent letters.

Re:This is news? It isn't new. (1)

OctaviusIII (969957) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626947)

Oh, the autopen is used for so much more than just signing letters. When I worked for a certain elected official, we kept a stack of autopen-signed papers so we could do floor orders and the like. Nothing big, of course, like "move to add Member X as cosponsor to my Bill Y", but there's no reason why they couldn't have been used for more sinister ends. If I ever wanted to write a racist, pro-Nazi diatribe I could've gotten my boss's signature on it without any hassle. Needless to say, it requires a lot of trust to put one of those machines in the back room of the office.

Re:This is news? It isn't new. (1)

Steneub (1070216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627811)

IIRC didn't Thomas Jefferson have something similar?

Like a duplicator of sorts. The device attached to the butt of the pen and simply followed along with another pen held aloft with pulleys and counterweights.

long pen (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27625803)

longpenislong

Re:long pen (1)

codewritinfool (546655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627565)

No one wants your longpenis machine.

Does not make much sense for authentication (1)

tucuxi (1146347) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625811)

Manually signing things is cumbersome because (a) you have to be within arm's reach of the signature's destination, and (b) because it takes a certain amount of time to sign each paper.

These folks seem to have a (complex) system to create signatures remotely, addressing (a). If you record and play back what comes into the signing machine, you would also have (b) - at the expense of an even greater security headache. I really hope they are keeping the connection encrypted. And kudos to them on account of imitating fine manipulation.

But signatures as authentication are more than flawed. Only a specialist can distinguish between a valid signature and a forgery of any quality, and there are few specialists. About the only saving grace of signatures is that they are low on technology - anyone can sign, and anyone can "low-leve-verify" a signature.

If you are going to use a machine and a secure communications channel for identification -- use cryptography.

Also, if whatever the machine signs in your name is going to be legally binding, you had better be very sure that the machine is signing what they tell you that it is signing. I can imagine all types of mischief with blank checks instead of "book covers". An advantage of being (a) within arm's reach of something is that you can easily examine what it is that you are signing.

Re:Does not make much sense for authentication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27625981)

Yeah, I don't see the point of this solution.

Here in Finland nearly all officials (anyone working for the ministry, police, etc.) gets a card with a chip. In addition to letting you to crypt emails with any card holder's public key, it also allows you to give electrical signatures (which need your card and a six digit PIN) that are legally accepted here.

Every new personal ID card given here also has similar chip and lets you do the same things but the systems are separate (IE. the police have their personal cards and one from their work) to let the employers to remove any cards from their registries without affecting the people's personal lives...

It is a good system. It works well. It is much more reliable than this kind of crap. Why not use something similar?

(And yes, it has the single pitfall that it requires the certificate authority to be trusted. Here our VRK (Population Register Centre) is the only entity that has been authorized to give certificates that are legally binding in signatures.)

I don't know where to post this... (1)

windsurfer619 (958212) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625825)

Yes, off topic. Where should I post this then?

Slashdot's CSS is all broken. I can't see any images! And the pages are fugly. My error console in firefox has "$ is not defined" about a million times for slashdot.org, even if I log out. Anyone else getting this? It's been going on for about a day.

Re:I don't know where to post this... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626177)

Refresh your cache.

Re:I don't know where to post this... (1)

windsurfer619 (958212) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626249)

Thanks, I did. Many times. :\

Not fixed...

Re:I don't know where to post this... (1)

iYk6 (1425255) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626435)

What browser and OS are you using? And can you give us a screenshot?

Re:I don't know where to post this... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626779)

Do you mean that you pressed reload, or do you mean that you deleted your disk cache?

The most likely reason that I can think of is that you have a partial CSS file stuck in your browser cache. That certainly isn't the only thing that might be wrong though.

Re:I don't know where to post this... (1)

windsurfer619 (958212) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626957)

I went tools> clear private data > disk cache. I also restarted firefox after that.

Re:I don't know where to post this... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627877)

Looking at the source of this page, Slashdot loads javascript and css from s.fsdn.com, so I would guess that s.fsdn.com is somehow being blocked (or otherwise failing) on your end.

Re:I don't know where to post this... (1)

windsurfer619 (958212) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627921)

Aparently that's not just me, though:
http://downforeveryoneorjustme.com/http://s.fsdn.com/ [downforeve...justme.com]

Re:I don't know where to post this... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627959)

At the moment, I can successfully load this url:

http://s.fsdn.com/sd/core-tidied.css?T_2_5_0_252a [fsdn.com]

This one also works (in fact, the above loaded from cache and the below from the network):

http://s.fsdn.com/sd/core-tidied.css [fsdn.com]

It is their content delivery network, something in the configuration must be tricking downforeveryoneorjustme.

anything that can be sent can be recorded (1)

bombastinator (812664) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625831)

On a business, rather than celebrity autograph level, how is this different than an autopen except that it's (lots) harder to detect forgery? How is this a good thing?

Anything that can be sent can be recorded, and anything that can be encrypted can be decrypted given enough time. The security of the device seems to be based on the fact that it is more or less unique. This will not remain true, and therefore the security offered will not continue to exist. All this machine has done is make one of our last fairly good low tech verification systems useless not even for some other great purpose, but for the convenience of celebrities. Forgive me if I find this less than noble.

Re:anything that can be sent can be recorded (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625863)

Pshaw. 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.

We all know where this is heading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27625845)

Cryptographic signature anyone?

How many versions... (1)

TheRedSeven (1234758) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625879)

It's going to be hilarious when the LonPen 15 is introduced...

Re:How many versions... (1)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627377)

It's going to be hilarious when the LonPen 15 is introduced...

Well, perhaps for those who get the joke.

Impact == 0 (3, Interesting)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625887)

The value of a signature is its difficulty to replicate. The historical cut off for this has been the talent and prevalence of expert forgers. Having automated forgers is quite irrelevant if they require more investment of time and effort to perform the same replication. (which would clearly be the case for this implementation, at least)

If anything, I would say the problem is that these machines are being underapplied. What they should *really* be used for is to create extremely complicated signatures a human being would not be able to accurately reproduce. Then for the first time in hundreds of years written signatures would become more secure.

(Granted, only until someone develops a machine that can reverse-engineer them, but at that point human-written signatures would have been even less helpful.)

Re:Impact == 0 (1)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626181)

The real problem is that these forgeries are for some reason legal in US and Canada, and God-knows-where-else.

Wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27626351)

The value of a signature is that it is a deliberate act, nothing more. It's like the flippy thing over the "weapons hot" switch. It's there so that you can't say, "I didn't mean to agree to those terms."

A signature is NOT a security device. I don't think they ever were.

Re:Impact == 0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27626367)

It's called a watermark

Historical footnote (1)

earlymon (1116185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625889)

http://www.earlyofficemuseum.com/copy_machines.htm [earlyofficemuseum.com]

Scroll down to the Polygraphs paragraph.

I swear I saw in a very old movie the original-idea polygraph on a machine separated over a phone line. Cannot find a reference to it anywhere.

I love /. for what I learn while looking for other things - originally, a polygraph was a machine to copy signatures.

Props to the LongPen for its tech - but I think we have a history-recording gap between it and the polygraph.

100's of years, just now piped somewhere (2, Insightful)

cenc (1310167) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625891)

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

Complicated solutions to easy problems (2, Interesting)

Tarrio (151332) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625923)

Using robotic arms to sign official documents? In Spain we use rubber stamps.

Re:Complicated solutions to easy problems (2, Interesting)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625973)

Indeed, often I get documents where there is a signature of someone else, like the secretary, just saying "in assignment of". If the document is really important you could always have it hand-signed later on.

Wot? (2, Funny)

XMode (252740) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625965)

Where is the 'whatcouldpossiblygowrong' tag?!

Did this in 1992 (1)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625977)

Look at patient #5,222,138

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=5222138.PN.&OS=PN/5222138&RS=PN/5222138 [uspto.gov]

It was called the Telesignature and used dual key RSA for authentication and encryption. The system used a combined scanner (chinnon planetary configuration scanner) attached to a flat bed plotter inside a security enclosure. A pen computer was used at the remote end to review and sign the document. I am listed as co-inventor as I was responsible for most of the systems design. My wife and best friend did all of the programming. We first showed the operating prototypes at Fall Comdex in 1992. My wife used a bezzier curve to smoooth the signature and many people marveled at how good the signature was.

We later did a spinoff product for mass signature reproduction called Autosignature (no patent).

Later I'll dig up some of the old brochures and scan them and put some of the picts at the link below.

http://explorer/cyberstreet.com/telesignature [explorer]

secure (1)

anonieuweling (536832) | more than 5 years ago | (#27625991)

How can such an arm be secure?
I mean: how is the data transmitted? Any details?

Re:secure (1)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626303)

Look at the above patient. Details on how the system was secured are included.

Most of this is moot at this point as faxed signatures are deemed legal anyway.

Please explain the "criminal" comment to me (0)

.Bruce Perens (150539) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626029)

No doubt another example of unbiased "journalism" on slashdot. There's nothing in the article to indicate any sort of criminal or illegal activity.

Re:Please explain the "criminal" comment to me (1)

quitte (1098453) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626431)

to quote the article: "In reality, as a LongPen press release delicately put it, "legal complications" made it impossible for Black to appear in person. Black isn't allowed to leave the U.S. because of bail restrictions following his conviction on fraud and obstruction of justice."

Ancient "telautograph?" (2, Informative)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626209)

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."

Re:Ancient "telautograph?" (2, Insightful)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626219)

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.

This pen.is long. My long pen.is leaky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27626377)

What else can this baby grip from a distance. Cyber handjobs will grip you if your pen.is leaky.

Where do I get one? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27626427)

I couldn't find the LongPen at PenIsland. Can anyone tell me the URL of LongPenIsland?

#irc.7rooltalk.com (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27626437)

Were taken ov3r but now they're

Ronald Reagan (1)

eples (239989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27626459)

Didn't Reagan use one of these? I seem to remember that.

Missing the point? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627101)

I thought part of the reason a signature is important in the first place is to verify the signers presence at the time of signing.

Waldo (1)

Scarbo27 (1150965) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627115)

Is no one going to mention Robert Heinlein and Waldo? They don't make nerds like they used to. http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/content.asp?Bnum=23 [technovelgy.com]

Re:Waldo (1)

Alan426 (962302) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627965)

Sorry, I meant to mod up but my finger slipped. Damn these mechanical arms!

Plain old signature is ... (1)

Sepiraph (1162995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627135)

Plain old signature is getting obsolete, they need digital signature for authentication + something like TACACS/RSA for authorization.

A robotic long-distance arm? (1)

m0rphin3 (461197) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627239)

This should be used with hookers and blackjack instead.
In fact, screw the blackjack!

Robo-penis penetrations are real... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27627277)

What's next?

No major crap ups (1)

whiledo (1515553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27627345)

Reading about this, I just can't help but think of Nixon on Futurama. I'll be much more impressed when they get this technology working to the level where you can sign by rubbing your nose against the glass.

almost there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27627841)

Ahh one step closer to being able to stab people in the face over the internet.

* nmp3bot dances :D-<
* nmp3bot dances :D|-<
* nmp3bot dances :D/-<

This has a quaint feel to it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27627869)

I can't get rid of the feeling that I've seen this somewhere already...somewhere in a book about 19th/20th century telecommunications equipment, next to Pantelegraph and Bildfunk. :)
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>