If few of us take the time to write a physical thank you card to friends or family for gifts, it’s probably even less likely that we mail a card to someone in the military thanking them for their service. But a new handwriting robot has you covered for Military Appreciation Month: If you tweet a short thank you to a service member using the hashtag #thankskindly, the robot will turn it into a handwritten card that eventually gets delivered to someone on active duty or a veteran.
The project uses technology from a Brooklyn-based startup called Bond, which until now has mostly used the robots to hand-write cards for couples sorting through wedding gifts. The robots can recreate someone’s exact handwriting based on a sample, though in this case, they’ll be randomly picking from over 1,000 realistic-looking handwriting styles to pen the notes.
“Everybody can identify with the idea that you wanted to do something nice for someone, but you never got around to doing it,” says Sonny Caberwal, founder of Bond. “This is one way technology can help. It’s like the opposite of Snapchat: You still use a digital device that you have with you, but you end up with something you can mail to someone and they can keep and touch forever.”
For each tweet during the month of May, the snack company Kind–the project’s creator–will also donate a dollar to Cell Phones for Soldiers, a nonprofit originally started by a 12 and 13-year-old who learned about a soldier who had come home to the U.S. with an $8,000 cell phone bill from calling his family. The pair raised money to foot the bill, and have spent the last decade helping other people in the military stay in touch. They’ll be delivering some of the robot-written thank you notes to soldiers overseas, while Kind makes more deliveries to bases and veterans centers in the U.S.
“Having a handwritten letter is a memento, and something that you can keep with you,” says Robbie Bergquist, who co-founded Cell Phones for Soldiers with his sister Brittany. “I think having words on paper is more powerful than looking at them on a digital screen.”
“It really means a lot to these troops to receive anything from the States,” says Brittany Bergquist. “It makes them feel as though they’re appreciated.”