Facebook AI can mimic text styles with a photo of a single word

You could turn your handwriting into a font.

fizkes via Getty Images

Ever wish you could mimic a font or handwriting just by taking a snapshot? You just might in the future. Facebook has unveiled an AI research project, TextStyleBrush, that copies the text style in a photo just by looking at one example word. While past AI could do this in a narrow set of conditions, the Facebook technology can recognize a wide variety of handwriting and type styles, even with less-than-ideal angles and backgrounds.

The technology works much like style brush tools from word processor apps, just applied to images. Where previous approaches depended on specific criteria like typefaces, Facebook's method tries to "disentangle" the text from its appearance.

Facebook AI copies text style from photos

It's not perfect, as you can see in the example above — it's still fairly clear that the AI has stepped in. Facebook warned that its technology has problems with some visuals, such as metallic or multi-color text. The social network is openly sharing its work in part to foster additional research.

The technology could be very useful both inside and outside of Facebook. The company sees this potentially thwarting deepfake text by looking for telltale clues of copying. It could also be used to create personalized fonts based on your writing, or improve translation from images and augmented reality. Like existing deepfake systems, then, TextStyleBrush is a technology that might need to be carefully managed to obtain its benefits without opening the door to misuse.