The February 2023 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Book-Scanning Robots Digitize Delicate Texts

21st-century robots read 16th-century Bavarian books

3 min read

Students come from the world over to study the Bavarian State Library’s collection of works from the time of Martin Luther. But this year, the Munich institution’s 450th in existence, the most voracious readers of its ancient collection will be a pair of robots. In the library’s basement, two machines called ScanRobots are whirring away at 700 pages per hour and are scheduled to digitize all of the four­century-old books in the library, some 7.5 million pages’ worth, by 2009; the scanned books will be put online.

”This is the entire knowledge of this period”
—Markus Brantl, director of the Bavarian State Library’s digitization center

Markus Brantl, director of the library’s digitization center, says it’s vital to digitize unique content like the 16th-century collection, both for preservation purposes and to open access for readers, academics, and laypersons alike. ”This is the entire knowledge of this period, [from] theology to mathematics—everything,” he says. But in making the material much more widely available, the Bavarian library is also giving a boost to a scrappy band of robot engineers from Austria’s Vienna University of Technology, who are out to upset the scanning market.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

An IBM Quantum Computer Will Soon Pass the 1,000-Qubit Mark

The Condor processor is just one quantum-computing advance slated for 2023

4 min read
This photo shows a woman working on a piece of apparatus that is suspended from the ceiling of the laboratory.

A researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center examines some of the quantum hardware being constructed there.

Connie Zhou/IBM

IBM’s Condor, the world’s first universal quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits, is set to debut in 2023. The year is also expected to see IBM launch Heron, the first of a new flock of modular quantum processors that the company says may help it produce quantum computers with more than 4,000 qubits by 2025.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

While quantum computers can, in theory, quickly find answers to problems that classical computers would take eons to solve, today’s quantum hardware is still short on qubits, limiting its usefulness. Entanglement and other quantum states necessary for quantum computation are infamously fragile, being susceptible to heat and other disturbances, which makes scaling up the number of qubits a huge technical challenge.

Keep Reading ↓Show less