December 10, 2012
The future of book scanning
by Nick Davies
It turns out that when robots aren’t trying to kill all humans in a grim sci-fi dystopia, they can actually be pretty neat. To wit, the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory at the University of Tokyo has unveiled the prototype of a robot that can scan full books at high speed, a capability that could make digitalization of library collections much easier.
Book Patrol reported last week that the new machine, called the BFS-Auto, can scan 250 pages per minute in high definition, without damaging the book. These are all significant improvements over an earlier version of the machine that Book Patrol also reported on, which was plagued by problems with “resolution, missed pages and the scanner’s fingers.” 3D technology also allows the machine to take images that are distorted due to page curling, and flatten them out so they appear correctly after they’re scanned.
As Book Patrol points out, “this is a prototype and who knows if the cost of production would make ownership prohibitive for many institutions and universities,” but if this is a sign of things to come, real-time book scanning robots could become an important and ubiquitous piece of equipment for archives and libraries in the near future. The Ishikawa Oku Lab has posted a great video of the BFS-Auto in action, which you can see on YouTube and below.
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.