Online bookseller Bol.com tried to engage customers during the Antwerp Book Fair this year with an innovative stunt -- it made a robot that could sign books with authors' authentic signatures, including that of a deceased poet.
Paul van Ostaijen, the Flemish poet and modernist prose writer died in 1928, but is renowned as the author of the typographic poem "Boem Paukeslag." His book "Music Hall" was reissued especially for this 100-year anniversary, and the robot recreated his signature for eight days of signings along with those of authors Nicci French, Paula Hawkins ("The Girl on the Train"), Andy Griffiths (The Treehouse Books), David Baldacci ("The Last Mile.") David Lagercrantz ("Millennium 4,") and Robert Harris ("Imperium").
Agency DDB Brussels created the robot in collaboration with the Antwerp research and design lab Beyond. It analyzed, parsed and then reconstructed all the signatures and manuscripts of the authors, not only mimicking signatures automatically and accurately, but also being able to leave personal messages. Kevin Verelst, co-founder and art director of Beyond, said in a statement: "The greatest challenge was above all to imitate the writing as faithfully as possible. In the process, it was essential to completely fine-tune four important elements. Namely, the choice of pen, the angle of the writing, the pressure of the pen on the paper and the writing speed."