Michael has a problem. When girls drop their apples, he has a tendency to dispose of them in wastebaskets. He always feels terrible afterward, and only handwritten letters of apology can truly convey how sorry he is. In order to save him time, we decided to automate the process.

What it does

Dem Write Brothers is a novel handwriting system that takes just a few minutes to set up, but can save hours upon hours of time. Once you provide a brief sample of your handwriting, you can enter any message for our device to transcribe. The result will be indistinguishable from your own handwriting, and the device will add perturbations so no two letters are the same. Finally, for the ultimate personal feel, you can even write batch letters customized for each recipient.

How we built it

For hardware, we started by cadding our device with Autodesk Inventor. We then laser cut and assembled the acrylic pieces for our device's framework. The wiring of our Dragonboard and Arduino devices rounded out this process. Simultaneously, web app development started with user interface planning. The key components of the app, such as handwriting sampling, were then written using JavaScript. Finally, the web app was put together using many languages and services. Python and C were also used to program the Dragonboard and Arduino devices.

Challenges we ran into

The moving parts of our device often caused us great headache. For instance, when some of the laser cut acrylic pieces experienced too much friction to slide past each other, we had to buy and apply WD-40. Some of the arduinos we used also died mid-testing. On the software side, the usual missing end brackets were frustrating but easily solved. More nuanced, then, was the issue of UX. We wanted Dem Write Brothers to be simple and quickly learnable for all users, so our web app went through numerous redesigns.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Despite the electronic and mechanical difficulties of hardware assembly, our machine functions elegantly, according to design. After all, it looks pretty dang slick. In contrast to the complexities of the hardware and software, our user interface is minimalist and retro. It turns a computationally and physically complex device into something useable by anyone.

What we learned

The importance of sleep cannot be overstressed. Unlike PennApps XVI, during which we slept about 4 hours each and rushed to complete our hack, we each slept a reasonably healthy amount and submitted our hack on DevPost early. We also worked together closely, so that each member of our team was involved throughout the whole process. These were valuable lessons that supplemented the many hardware and programming skills we honed throughout the hackathon.

What's next for Dem Write Brothers

Though Dem Write Brothers was designed to help Michael with his apology letters, we're proud of its many potential applications. Companies large and small will be able to establish a more personal connection with their customers. Politicians will be able to reach out to their constituents; perhaps even political apathy and low voter turnout can be curbed. And for everyday people, writing heartfelt letters will no longer be a chore. We're looking forward to sharing our idea with the world, but in the meantime, Michael will be hogging Dem Write Brothers for a while.

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