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Postal Machine Reads Handwritten Envelopes

The Postal Service announced Tuesday it has made a significant breakthrough in getting machines to read handwriting.

William J. Dowling, the agency’s engineering vice president, disclosed a new computer program has been tested that can read up to 30 percent of handwritten addresses on envelopes.

That is a sharp improvement over programs that now can read less than 2 percent of handwritten addresses, but it is far short of the agency’s original goal of developing programs that can read all handwritten addresses.

Creating machines that can read handwriting has been the cornerstone of the agency’s $4 billion automation program and a key to eliminating thousands of temporary letter-sorting jobs. The jobs were to be abolished as soon as computers could be taught to read all addresses, a goal the agency maintains will take decades to achieve.

Tuesday officials predicted “substantial” savings from their newest computer program.

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