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Book-Digitizing Robots 240

Posted by michael
from the reading-over-my-shoulder dept.
Makarand writes "Robotic digitization systems are the new help available to complete voluminous scanning tasks. Robots that can turn the pages of books and newspaper volumes and attain scanning speeds of more than 1000 pages/hour are now available. They even use puffs of compressed air to separate sticky pages!"
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Book-Digitizing Robots

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  • Freedom 'Bots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rdewald (229443) * <[rdewald] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:09AM (#6006974) Homepage Journal
    I think there is a touch of naivete in this notion:

    "Think about the power of bringing our library to little schools in the middle of Africa," Keller said. "Would it make a difference for those who now have their minds closed to the idea of democracy?"


    I am not sure it would. It might turn them on to the idea of thinking for themselves, though. That could have interesting consequences. Unfortunately, just this very possiblity is threatening to those who are now profiting from their ignorance. These people are likely in a position to be gatekeepers for the dissemination of information.

    But, having a robot do something which is enhanced by mindless repetition is a natural robotic application. Then having that application be something that could enable political liberation is a interesting twist of the old "robots in service to humanity" ideals. I'm not so sure that those holding the reins are going to be so interested in this--call me cynical.

    What I would like to see is a similar device for converting analog recordings, in whatever form be at tape, vinyl, wax cylinders, to an open digitized format and then have those recording made available in like fashion. It might be just as interesting to turn those kids in Africa on to Mozart, or oral arguments from the Supreme Court.
    • by Herg (564957)
      Isn't Mozart already available in digitized format?
    • by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:19AM (#6007057) Homepage Journal
      Would it make a difference for those who now have their minds closed to the idea of democracy?

      Are you talking about the US Government here?
      • I know you're making a clever joke, but had "A" student instead of a "Gentleman's C" student been appointed President of The United States in 2001 it is quite possible that our government might be more representative of the interests of US Citizens. Certainly, I think it is quite likely that dissent and the loyal opposition would not be held in such contempt by someone who hit the books instead of the beer bong in college.

        I used to wish a third political party could develop in the USA.

        Now I'd just like t
    • Re:Freedom 'Bots (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CodeHog (666724)
      "Think about the power of bringing our library to little schools in the middle of Africa," Keller said. "Would it make a difference for those who now have their minds closed to the idea of democracy?"

      Think about the power of bringing food and water to little communities in the middle of Africa. Now that's powerful.

      • Make them free (Score:2, Interesting)

        by b-baggins (610215)
        "We have hunger and want in the world because evil men use the vehicle of government to deny men that liberty which they need to produce abundantly."

        Ezra Taft Benson

        Make them free, and they'll bring the food and water into their villages themselves.
    • Re:Freedom 'Bots (Score:5, Informative)

      by KrispyKringle (672903) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:44AM (#6007245)
      Interesting point. However, its useful to note that there are a lot of charitable and commercial corporations which currently fund (perhaps for the PR value rather than their own good intentions, and because the US dollar goes so far in most parts of Africa) technology initiatives and other educational programs. I've posted in the past about a program I'm involved in funded by a couple US coporations to put computers and networks in a West African university.

      In regards to your vinyl recording idea, couldn't you just hook up a record changer (yes, they do make these; they have a big spindle and an arm) to a DAT or similar digital recording device, and then use some audio software to cut tracks at blank space?

    • Re:Freedom 'Bots (Score:5, Insightful)

      by qoncept (599709) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:45AM (#6007251) Homepage
      Wouldn't they need something capable of viewing these digitized formats first?
    • To crib some characters from lower down--

      It might turn them on to the idea of thinking for themselves, though.

      Mbutu: Whoa. Plato sez this is all a shadow of some higher plane of existence.

      Kwasa: Die Hutu scum!

      Unfortunately, just this very possiblity is threatening to those who are now profiting from their ignorance.

      Mbutu: Whoa. Marx sez the capitalists exploit the surplus wealth from their employees. Adam Smith sez each person has the ability to trade freely in the marketplace to maximize his
    • Re:Freedom 'Bots (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @11:41AM (#6007653) Homepage
      I think your concept of converting analog to digital is ridiculous.

      Analog by definition is ALWAYS readable. It is the SINGLE format that is by definiton OPEN, can always be understood by anyone, and can stan the test of time. Aliens could discover an analog recording 50 billion years from now and decode it without knowing ANYTHING else about our culture. But right now, data encoded 25 years ago in an open digital format is often incredibally hard to translate to a usable form.

      Digital requires people to understand the digital format. The ONLY advantage to it is quality via the suprression of unintended noises. But if we are copying something that started out as Analog, then the quality improvement is minimal at best.

      DO not blindly use Digital for things that Analof is far better.

      • Better for what? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by rdewald (229443)
        Analog is subject to degradation everytime it is reproduced. Digital conversion halts the degradation at conversion. Ones are ones and zeroes are zeroes from then on.
      • Re:Freedom 'Bots (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @12:46PM (#6008230)
        > Analog by definition is ALWAYS readable. It is the SINGLE format that is by definiton OPEN, can always be understood by anyone, and can stan the test of time. Aliens could discover an analog recording 50 billion years from now and decode it without knowing ANYTHING else about our culture. But right now, data encoded 25 years ago in an open digital format is often incredibally hard to translate to a usable form.

        Hey Glortzotnik! Check this out! These humans, they used lasers to inscribe little hills and valleys in aluminum discs 12" in diameter for video, then smaller hills and valleys in aluminum discs 5" in diameter for audio, and then they used lasers to start chemical reactions that changed the color of a dye later in big sloppy round holes with lots of fuzziness around the edges for video again.

        Okay, nothing wrong with that, but the funny part - get this - they called the laser paintings and the chemical dyes "digital", as if it were somehow different from scratching clay with a stick or a wax cylinder with a needle. Laugh riot, these humans!

        To a DSP engineer, everything is analog.

    • That was my reaction too. You sort of head down the same path, though -- poor people in underdeveloped countries can't "think for themselves"? What do you base this observation on?

      Having traveled in subsaharan Africa a bit, I can safely say that people I met there aren't "closed to the idea of democracy." (They're sometimes consciously "closed" to the idea of allowing mammoth, conscience-free American-based multinational corporations to subvert the democratic institutions they do have, though.)

      I bet tha

    • Re:Freedom 'Bots (Score:4, Insightful)

      by konch (631442) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @01:40PM (#6008725)
      actually, Africans such as the Igbo people of Nigeria have always had democratic institutions. And most Africans I know are very well informed. The people who need to learn more about democracy are the Americans. They've got a long ways to go.
    • Freedom 'Bots

      Word to the wise--since the invasion of Iraq is over now, we're allowed to call them French Bots again.

  • Yeah but... (Score:3, Funny)

    by mschoolbus (627182) <travisriley@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:09AM (#6006976)
    What about that Speed Reading TV Offer I took advantage of?!?!?!?!
  • They even use puffs of compressed air to separate sticky pages!

    Whoah! I guess some pr0n really have decent articles.
  • by Obscenity (661594) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:10AM (#6006979) Homepage
    After a long night of coding or sleeping for that matter, it is hard to focus on the text on the screen. Scrolling down is another matter, i end up putting text up to 200% zoom in Mozilla. So now we can all print out these digatized copies and read them. This is neat stuff sure, but reading from a screen is hard, and most people will print it out anyways. The good thing is that people can now download it from the net. Assuming it is hosted on a site.
    • I find reading on a screen much easier. I never print anything, and actually prefer to read books, news, and magazines online so that I don't waste paper.
      • Hmm.. I'm curious:
        When did you start using computers? Did you read a lot as a child? What color eyes do you have? Do you wear sunglasses? How well do you see in the dark? What brand/model of monitor do you have? What's your brightness setting? Contrast setting? Is your screen gamma-corrected and/or color-corrected?

        I prefer paper to monitor. I believe it is because it is much less busy/distracting and my eyes are sensitive to bright light.
      • by JR (87651)
        I often read a great deal of my news and general research on the screen. I do this at a variety of screen resolutions, but often at 1024 x 768 up to 1600 x 1200 always at a refresh of 75 Hertz or higher.

        I've made no special adaptations for purity of screen color or gamma.

        I have excellent low light vision and wear sunglasses only on the brightest of days or in special circumstances like spending time in high glare situations (on the water, bright sand, snow, etc.).

        I've even read entire novels on the comp
      • Make / Model / Size / CRT - LCD ?

        Thanks
      • I have found at work that older people print out stuff a lot more.

        (I'm sure not ALL older people print a lot, but all the prolific printers I know are older).

    • This is neat stuff sure, but reading from a screen is hard, and most people will print it out anyways.

      Am I the only person reading Slashdot who gets amused by someone who says that?

      You won't get first post that way, anyways...
  • ...not innovation. I know it's important, but it's not as exciting. Perhaps this attitude is why software is so buggy?
  • by sin(theta) (609000) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:12AM (#6007002) Homepage
    Finally, Johnny-5 is coming alive!
  • Current Books? (Score:2, Interesting)

    With all this trouble of digitizing books, when the publishers send their books to libraries - do they include digital copies? They really should. Although, I don't know if there's an RIAA equivalent in the literary world but if there is, the idea of giving a digital copy might frighten them. Librarians? Has a publisher ever mentioned digital copies that are in a non-crippled format?
    • I forget the exact name (Book Writers Guild? Writers and Publishers Guild?) but there is an organization which has been in the news in the past for complaining about used copies of books being sold at places like Amazon.com and undercutting their profits from the new books. So, yes, I guess there is an RIAA equivalent, at least to some degree. Certainly, the copyright owners still can prevent unlimited digital copies, though, book-RIAA or no.
    • Re:Current Books? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Drakin (415182)
      I beleive that up until recently most contracts between publishers and authors didn't include rights to publish digital versions.

      Not sure in the non fiction line of books who has uncrippled digital versions, but in fiction, Baen leads the way, between their Webscriptions service, free library, and the CD's included with some of their recent hardcovers. They provide the books in HTML, RTF, Mircrosoft Reader, some format that's Palm/Psion/WinCE friendly and Rocket Ebook.

      The first two are more than enough...
  • Scanned pages (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:14AM (#6007013) Homepage
    This story is a good opportunity to plug some free software you could use to help digitize books.

    Stuart Inglis's tic98 [waikato.ac.nz] is a lossless compressor designed for black-and-white scanned documents. It achieves better compression ratios than anything else, or at least it did a couple of years ago. If you have scanned documents to make available online, it's fairly simple to write a CGI script to convert tic98 on the fly to PDF.

    Hopefully someone else will reply to this comment with a recommendation of good free OCR software.
    • Re:Scanned pages (Score:5, Informative)

      by tempestdata (457317) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:20AM (#6007062)
      Actually, I've seen this robot operate in person and it is a work of art. The way the arms move makes you think its going to rip the book to pieces, yet some how it manages to pick up exactly one page( It detects if its picked up two pages and drops the extra page) and flip it.

      I was the lead developer for the software side that actually does the crunching on the images. However, I'm not sure exactly how much I am allowed to talk about it so I wont. Basically, the software side of it does produce PDFs, JPGs and TXT files from the OCR performed on the images.
      • Re:Scanned pages (Score:3, Informative)

        by tempestdata (457317)
        Oh... and no, unfortunately, its not open souce.
      • by Dr. Evil (3501) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:41AM (#6007223)

        Time for a change in terminology.

      • For black-and-white images, tic98 beats the pants off compressed PNG. I don't know how it compares to JPEG, but it seems to me that JPEG is unsuitable for typical printed works.

        If you are taking the OCRed text and reformatting it, that's a different problem entirely. It is of course essential to OCR the books so that they can be put on the web, grepped and so on. But with storage space being cheap, I think it would be good to preserve the raw scanned images themselves, so that people will be able to stu
        • We handle safety documentation for a big company (a very big company), and we have to do quarterly updating of some 60 000 documents, plus update new sites as they come in. Suddenly, page-turning ultra-scanners and super-OCR programs look very interesting to me. All our output has to be in PDF, so something like what you described could be very useful.

          I can also think of a few non-work uses for the thing, too. Dare I say, avariciously, "I want one!" ;)
      • by Ed Avis (5917)
        Instead of picking the book up and flipping the pages, couldn't you use X-ray tomography (or possibly microwave tomography) to get a 3d image of the book and extract pages from that?

        This assumes two things: that the ink makes a difference to X-ray penetration compared to just paper, and that the resolution of the scanner is high enough to pick out individual pages. But typical medical scanners are pretty high-res I think. Has anyone tried this?
  • It's so expensive! The article estimates that the robot is only cost effective for huge projects (>5.5million pages). This technology is not going to make an impact until it becomes cheaper.
    • Re:Great, but.. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by daves (23318)
      ... or until someone donates one to Project Gutenberg.
    • I wonder why it is so expensive..

      It can't be _that_ hard to make surely? The ocr software is already done (unless they made lagre improvements there?)

      as for the trick of turning pages.. well go for something simple - static electric rod or something.
      Just make something that works on say 90% of the pages.

      Then you hire someone to sit there and fix it when it goes wrong.

      The whole solution would be a hell of a lot cheaper..
    • Re:Great, but.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Daniel Boisvert (143499) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:32AM (#6007144)
      All it takes is one *really* large project. If somebody like the Library of Congress started scanning/digitizing their collection (I know--subject/verb agreement :), it would obviate the need for just about any smaller libraries to do so. You don't need thousands of libraries to scan the same book, you only need one, and then you can replicate electronically. Surely there are specialty libraries around that have unique collections, but again--all you need is one...

      I didn't RTFA, but this could be useful not only for developing countries, but as a "force-multiplier" of sorts for smaller community libraries. En masse digitizing of published works would allow smaller libraries to compete on a more even footing with larger ones, without having to invest loads of money into their collections and facilities to hold them.

      Any well-heeled library patrons out there want to donate some money earmarked for one of these things to the large library of your choice?

  • by BMonger (68213) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:15AM (#6007023)
    Those people in #bookz on IRC are gonna be so excited about this...
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:18AM (#6007051) Journal
    What do the newspapers, and more likely magazines think of this?

    Now the magazine rack at 7-11 will show up on Kazoom and all that.

    I mean, comic books or "graphic novels" as the nerds call 'em already get traded freely, but that's because some joker with no life takes a day out of his life to scan and crop each page.

    But if you could just take the magazines, stick 'em in this robot, then share 'em, it could hurt the publishing industry the way it's hurt the recording industry.

    And everyone will justify it by saying "why should I buy a magazine when it only has one good article and the rest is crap!"

    So what measures can we expect to see? Lighter inks, crazier fonts to screw with the robots OCR? Funny paper that makes it hard to flip pages?
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

      by bob_jordan (39836) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @11:02AM (#6007373)
      " So what measures can we expect to see? Lighter inks, crazier fonts to screw with the robots OCR? Funny paper that makes it hard to flip pages? "

      I think you just described a typical issue of wired. Are they worried about people copying?

      Bob.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Phantasmo (586700)
      But if you could just take the magazines, stick 'em in this robot, then share 'em, it could hurt the publishing industry the way it's hurt the recording industry.

      The music industry hasn't be hurt by filesharing, it has been helped.
      People want the CD case, the inside jacket filled with graphics and lyrics.

      Similarly, most people hate reading off of a computer monitor. Lots of magazines give away some (or all) of their articles on their webpage already. If anything this'll inspire more subscriptions.

      Of cou
  • by CommieLib (468883) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:24AM (#6007093) Homepage
    But does this passage puzzle you a bit?

    "Think about the power of bringing our library to little schools in the middle of Africa," Keller said. "Would it make a difference for those who now have their minds closed to the idea of democracy?"

    I'm not sure I get the connection:

    Mbutu: Hey, Kwasa, check out this copy of "The Horse Whisperer" on my Palm Pilot.

    Kwasa: Incredible! We must hold free elections immediately!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Words like "Democracy" and "Freedom" is to an American what "Java" and "XML" used to be to a manager. Nowadays I guess it might be "C#" and "Dot NET".
  • Project Gutenberg (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mechanik (104328) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:31AM (#6007141) Homepage
    What do we need to do to get one of these donated to Project Gutenberg? Right now one of the biggest things holding them up is a lack of volunteers to manually scan the books.


    Mechanik
    • Re:Project Gutenberg (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tempestdata (457317) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @11:01AM (#6007365)
      Well I have some good news for you. While, I was working (and I still am actually) on this project I asked the Digital Library Projects Manager, who is basically in charge of this project about releasing the books they scan to the public. His reply was that they were probably going to release a pretty significant portion of the books they scan to the public. The rest would only be available within Stanford University Libraries.

      So, you may at one point see those books freely available for download, provided they can get those copyright issues ironed out.
    • Re:Project Gutenberg (Score:4, Informative)

      by Musashi Miyamoto (662091) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @11:06AM (#6007399)
      Actually, the primary thing holding up Project Gutenberg is the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act. The copyright law was recently extended so that nothing created earlier than the 1920s is going into the public domain.

      There is a large body of great 20th century works that will not enter the public domain for many years. Stuff by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Conrad, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Willa Cather, Wallace Stevens, Yeats, Virginia Woolf, et al.

      Its a shame. I actually enjoy reading literature, and I am forced to go to the library for anything newer than 1923.
  • Archival Projects (Score:5, Insightful)

    by borkus (179118) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:34AM (#6007160) Homepage
    This would be awesome for records/document archiving. I knew a guy who worked at our State Library who had to catalog courthouse records across the state. He'd go out to some remote county where all the marriage, land and court records were on paper and try to figure out what they had. Some of the records went back to before the American Revolution. In nearly all cases, the only records were on paper.

    If he could drag this robot along to a courthouse and scan the records over a couple of weeks, it would allow him digitize that information quickly. Not only would the digital copies be easier to search, they would be easier to preserve. One courthouse, where their file room was in the basement, nearly lost all of its old records to a flood.
    • If he could drag this robot along to a courthouse and scan the records over a couple of weeks, it would allow him digitize that information quickly.

      i highlu doubt that podunk,NJ 's courthouse made sure that all records were typed on a correctly adjusted Typewriter in a normal font. From what I remember of shuffling throught small town records is that 90% of them are all hand written and no computer on this planet can reliably read that.

      No whet is needed in those cases are 3 temp employees who do nothin
  • by dspfreak (666482) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:40AM (#6007204)
    They even use puffs of compressed air to separate sticky pages!

    I'm glad they didn't go with the design where it licked its thumb before turning each page. I hate that!

    • They even use puffs of compressed air to separate sticky pages!

      I'm glad they didn't go with the design where it licked its thumb before turning each page. I hate that!

      Actually, I was thinking this would be a godsend for those who spend their free time scanning in pictures from porno mags!

      GMD

  • I did quite a bit of research on a low cost book scanner awhile ago, because the though of not having to lug around a heap of books from class to class is a dream come true. I hope this technology really takes off, and they find a way to make the whole thing a bit smaller/cheaper. I bet textbook publishers are scared silly about this..
  • by blakespot (213991) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:49AM (#6007286) Homepage
    I don't know about you, but when I see a robot latched onto one of humanity's tome's of knowledge, poring over it at 1000 pages / minute puffing and aiming its high resolution CCD, I see what is clearly the first step in the rise of machines which will lead to the utter anhialation of humankind!!! We can't just feed them our knowledge!!

    For the love of GOD, someone check this!!


    blakespot

  • A book is essentially a form of encryption. You cannot copy pages from a book into a digital form without using some sort of technological device that breaks this "analog" encryption, which under the DMCA is clearly illegal.

    Expect to see these outlawed real soon. Either that, or expect a "Steven King" model to be available this fall.

    --
    Slashdolt
  • by zebadee (551743) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @10:54AM (#6007319) Homepage
    The article says it would become cost effective for 5.5 million pages. Later it says it costs between $1 - $4 per book in the Far East. So if you estimate a book to have around 300 pages, doing the digitising manually would be $18333-$73333 per 5.5 million pages (ie 5500000/300 multiplied by cost per book). From the way article is written I expected it to cost ALOT more. I guess the proof reading cost for manual conversion could be high?
    • "I guess the proof reading cost for manual conversion could be high?"

      I thought students were PAYING to do this. Just give them some extra credit for finding mistakes;)
  • while the books crumble away because they have fallen back into copywrite and some suit with no vision beyond the next quarter refuses to allow his 'property' to be 'stolen'.

  • by boy_afraid (234774) <Antebios1@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @11:10AM (#6007427) Journal
    Not to long ago I had to do a research paper for a college class. No big deal, I've done many of them, and I was not looking forward to this one. Well, I went to the Houston Public Library in Downtown (which I hadn't been to in many many many , you get the idea, years). I got the library card that gave me access to some computer terminals and computer card catalogue. I was amazed about what they had converted electronically and links to other sites that had dictated material. I was also amazed that I could get all this same access from home using the information printed on the library card. So I go home (I have Road Runner cable modem) and do my research instead of being trapped in the library and get to work. I find electronic format of lots and lots of textbooks, magazines, government docs, and many many more. What put me a notch or two down from my high horse was that I even found that they had radio talk shows transcribed (which I used in my research paper) that helped a lot!

    There is a lot of information ALREADY converted from text and audio sources at your fingertips that was unfathomable a few years ago. And all of this is free from the website (and links to other sources) from the public library. Talk about your one stop shop.
  • Heidelburg press (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @11:14AM (#6007460)
    Using air to separate and move paper is not new. Heidelburg platen presses (you may remember them from high school graphic arts classes) have had this feature for about fifty years.
  • Yes, but can it take tests too?
  • I'd love to be able to scan my textbooks and put them all on my laptop. It seems like a waste of effort to carry a laptop and two other eight pound books around all day. Toss in my Aiptek hyperpen and I should be able to take notes right on the scanned pages.

    Sure there are IP issues to iron out and *gasp* cutting out the middle man (paper publishing) might help make college textbooks actually affordable.

    Actually, I'm in the middle of using an ultra-fast scanner at work just to see how this exact setup p
    • Man, I've been thinking about this for years. But the effort involved in scanning a 600+ page textbook is HUGE. And OCRing all those pages is HUGER. :) But imagine the final product - your entire textbook in a gigantic, searchable PDF file with all the graphics and the ability to add annotations wherever you want.

      I'm drooling over the idea alone.

      Then buy a sub-notebook, or a PDA (and put the textbook on external storage, like a CompactFlash card) and kiss those backaches goodbye!

      Alas, it's unfeasib

  • ...to build a Tivo for books!

    -JDF
  • by shoppa (464619) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @11:26AM (#6007539)
    The page-turning robots are unique because they do little (or no?) damage to the book to get them digitized.

    The more traditional way to preserve the contents of the old books is to destroy them in the process. Actually cutting the page out of the book lets you get a much higher quality scan because the page is then really truly flat. (Yes, there are correction techniques for turning scans of non-flat pages into flat "projections" but they aren't nearly as good as just ripping the page out and scanning it.)

    • Rather than ripping the pages out, wouldn't it be easier to just cut off the binding with some kind of a bandsaw?

      They both trash the book, but this should only be a problem for really rare books.
  • by crovira (10242) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @11:31AM (#6007581) Homepage
    This is not new.

    The hardware has been hard at work since the late 70s/early 80s when PDP-8s and PDP-11s were used to control the hardware and store the results.

    The first scanners had very small CCD arrays and these had to be pulled across the page horizontally as well as vertically AND it had vacuum "bars" on robot-arm "page turners".
  • by Ugmo (36922) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @11:36AM (#6007622)

    Once books are digitized and OCR'd they need to be proofread by humans. The people who can afford this machine might do it another way but Project Gutenberg has volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders [archive.org].

    There was a Slashdot Article about it last year but there have been a lot of changes since then (many due to Slashdotters). If you haven't seen the project in a while you should check it out.

  • They even use puffs of compressed air to separate sticky pages!

    Sometimes, I need a puff of compressed gas to separate my cheeks...
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday May 21, 2003 @12:05PM (#6007845) Homepage
    The NWAA (Novel Writers Artists Association) has issued that they will fight for legistlation to fight this piracy tool in congress.

    "These reading Bots will put the book publishing business under within months..", their congress represenative said.

    "There hasn't been this strong of an attack against the goodness of books and authors cince that evil man Gutenburgh created that evil printing press." Word on the street is that Hillary Rosen is oging to be hired as their spokesperson to help outlaw this evil that will undermine american life as we know it.

  • They even use puffs of compressed air to separate sticky pages!
    useful when archiving all those old hustler's...
  • > They even use puffs of compressed air to separate sticky pages!

    Oh good, that means these robots can digitize my porn magazine collection!

  • Now you'll have librarians running around going Input? Input!!! Need More Input!!!
  • by heby (256691)
    well, maybe something like this finally gets the people from nature, science, europhysics journal (successor of several older european journals) etc. to do what they should have done long ago - make all their old issues available electronically and not only the ones from the 90s and later; the AIP did this years ago and it's absolutely awesome to be able to look up stuff in, say, physical review from 1920 or so without having to leave my desk.
  • ...will be the telephone.

    75% of the world's population may finally get telephone access in the 21st century, thanks to the relatively inexpensive infrastructure requirements of cellular phones.

    The bicycle, the internal combustion engine, the telephone, the light bulb, the AC generator. 19th century technologies whose impact is yet to be felt in much of the world.

    I don't think folks in villages in Africa will be reading about "freedom" on their web browsers any time soon.
  • Bah. Johnny 5 could do that in ten seconds flat, without OCR errors, and that was back in the nineteen eighties.
  • Gah, now in addition to downloading 100+ MB amature racing (on real race tracks, not street racing crap) videos, I'll be downloading PDF copies of books in excess of 500MB from stanford, etc.

    so when is stanford going to put these books up on the gnutella network? i'd be happy to mirror their collection (or as much as i can) of digitized books on my gnutella node.
  • beside small puffs of compressed air? :)
  • How expensive could these be to make? The mentioned unit sounds big and probably has some interesting features to handle various problems but still I can't see why these should cost more than a few thousand dollars. In college I built a small robot (about the size of a toaster) that could do the same thing. It had arms for popping a book off the stack and pushing it into a new stack when finished. It also had small arms for flattening and turning pages (credits to Real Genius for the concept). The last arm
  • "Automatically separate sticky pages"? Finally I can digitize my Playboy collection!

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