More cool stuff from the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center

Yesterday I blogged about a few of the cool innovations presented by Xerox researchers at a show-and-tell for the press held Monday and Tuesday at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Parc). I have to confess, when I first saw my schedule (each journalist went through the demos in a slightly different order, so we didnâ''t crowd together), I suppressed a groan. My morning demos were mostly projects involving document handling, technology targeted at big business applications and not something I thought would be at all interesting.

But I was wrong. Hereâ''s what the future of documents looks like:

Hybrid categorization. Not a great name, maybe the marketing folks will come up with something better when this gets out of the laboratory, but something Iâ''d like to use right now. The idea is that categorization software looks at both images and text around the images to figure out what the document is about. In an office environment, the software could automatically tag and file scanned documents it identifies as particular types of documents, like specific forms. Thatâ''s not what got me. But the researchers demoâ''d their software processing a set of vacation photos. It tagged one photo as â''view, mountain, city,â'' then found similar photos online. By looking at the narratives around those similar photos, it went on to tag the photos Cuzco and Peru. It then distributed that photo and other ones from same trip into a blog entry, placing them appropriately near related text (at the beach, that night, an incredible sunset). Wow. If I could upload my photos to an online service, get them all tagged, and then zapped off to a personal blog, well, that would go a long way towards dealing with the gigabytes full of unlabeled image files sitting on my hard drive. Xerox is currently focused on developing the software as a business package; I think they could spin it out as a Web 2.0 company right now.

The seamless document viewer. A little better name, this Java-based technology is being developed at the FX Palo Alto Laboratory,

a research group owned by the joint venture Fuji Xerox, located just down the road from Xerox Parc. The software is intended to make viewing large documents on small smart-phone screens a lot easier with intelligent zoom (it zooms out to display sections of documents with photos, zooms in on text youâ''re trying to read, tags sections to let you browse through by keyword, and zones and numbers the document to let you select regions with the phone keypad). It did seem easier to navigate a document, though I still canâ''t see me doing much reading on a small phone screen.

Document Product Visualization and Digital Customized Packaging. These names, these names. If youâ''ve got better ideas, please comment below and Iâ''ll forward your suggestions to Xerox. Anyway, the idea is great; itâ''s layout software that lets you fold the document onscreen, to make a brochure, or a box, or complicated 3-D object. Having tried to do theater programs and tri-fold invites with standard layout software, printing countless test versions and finding out that I just didnâ''t position things correctly, I do need this product! Again, Xerox is thinking of marketing it to large businesses or print shops that do custom printing, Iâ''m thinking thereâ''s room for a â''liteâ'' version for the consumer market. The video above demonstrates a greeting card designed using the software.

Solid ink. This isnâ''t a new technology, it came out of Tektronix in the 80s and was IMG_1945.JPG

acquired by Xerox; the novelty being demonstrated this week was a new, smaller, print head that will allow solid ink to be used in more diverse printers. And the message these days is a little new; when Tektronix first brought out the technology it was all about the amazing color; these days, itâ''s about the environmentâ''thereâ''s no ink cartridge to dispose of, the block of ink simply melts away. The company says the process generates 90 percent less waste (thereâ''s still a little packaging around the ink for shipping it, but not much). Thatâ''d be a lot less trips to the recycling center for me.

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