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Google's Book Scanning Technology Revealed

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the real-page-turner dept.

Books 100

blee37 writes "Last March we discussed Google's patent for a rapid book scanning system. This article describes and provides pictures of how the system works in practice. Google is secretive, but the system's inner workings were apparently divulged by University of Tokyo researchers who wrote a research article on essentially identical technology. There are also videos of robotic page flippers and information about how Google wants to use music to help humans flip pages."

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Now my PC (5, Funny)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686328)

Can RTFA for me

Re:Now my PC (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#30693742)

NO, but i can scan it for you if you like...

Join GNAA Today! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30686362)

Where have all the page-lengthening and page-widening posts gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the page-lengthening and page-widening posts gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the page-lengthening and page-widening posts gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

MRI technology? (5, Interesting)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686372)

I often wondered if it would be possible for a book to be scanned while closed, using some kind of MRI technology that digitally sliced the book page by page, picking up on the density difference between the ink and the paper slice by slice.

Re:MRI technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30686490)

In theory, probably. In practice, doing that sort of thing is very difficult.

Re:MRI technology? (2, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686700)

MRIs are very slow. Ever have one?

Re:MRI technology? (1)

mschuyler (197441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686854)

No, but a book is not 6 feet tall. The issue is, is the MRI, slow as it is, faster than flipping each page manually 300 times and taking individual scans? I agree the tech isn't there yet, but it isn't inherently impossible.

Plus you could scan a whole stack of books. (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687014)

Plus, I could envision a system where you loaded many books into a cartridge of sorts, say about 6 feet long, with a divider of some kind placed between each book.

As the scanner worked its way down the cartridge, it could detect the dividers, which would delineate one book from the next.

Thus even if the scanner were slow, perhaps it could scan say 50 books in one pass.

Steve

Re:MRI technology? (1)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687090)

Even if it was about the same speed...cost is a factor as well as speed...

You could probably set up an extra google book scanner and pay someone to staff it round the clock for about the same price as taking an MRI of a book with some special MRI setup.

Re:MRI technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30687970)

But think of the possibility for rare or fragile works - if you opened them, you could damage them. This way, the book is not disturbed by manual flipping.

In such a situation, cost might not really be an object (though, I suppose neither would speed).

Maybe it's not used all the time (certainly not initially) but it seems like there's a compelling reason for exploring such technology in the first place.

Resolution dependant (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 4 years ago | (#30697748)

No, but a book is not 6 feet tall.

The speed of an MRI is proportional to the resolution you wan to have.
More voxels = More time.

The issue is, is the MRI, slow as it is, faster than flipping each page manually 300 times and taking individual scans?

In the Z dimension, you'll need an insanely extreme resolution to be able to tell apart 300 pages. And on each pages, you need a resolution high enough so the pages are clearly visible and not blurry.

For the record, a hidef anatomy-research-grade MRI scan of a brain has only 256x256x200 voxels and can take half an hour. And for that we used special high-speed techniques (3d mprage), which restrict you to 200 voxels in one of the dimensions. (You could make it even faster, but the result are going to be blurry and contain more artefacts)

For a library archive, you're going to needs much more voxels, and could end-up spending a couple of dozens of hours. (Well at least, a book is not a living patient and can remain immobile for 30hours without any problem).

I agree the tech isn't there yet, but it isn't inherently impossible.

Speaking of tech :
- You're hoping that the ink and the paper can be told appart based on their signal intensity (which is usually influenced by the proton density) - otherwise the image will be only a homogeneous monocolor blob.
- You're hoping that two adjacent pages can be told appart (air should contrast, but is there enough between the pages of a closed book ? Otherwise you'll have to do even more complicated 3D models to slice a continuous blob into pages and hope you don't slice at an angle and end up with 1 page on 2 different slices.
- You're hoping that no other material in the book will react (for exemple it doesn't have metallic paint). Because the golden leafs on older books can "eat" the MRI signal and result in image with hypo-instense shadows.
- You're hoping that no other material in the book will react II : Because some component absorbing the radio wave might convert the energy into thermal, and unlike a living patient, a book doesn't have a circulatory system or other ways to thermo-regulate and thus might get pretty damn hot after 30 hours of scanning.
- You're hoping that the device's price will drop dramatically - because you'll need a lot of machines taking 30hours per book to replace the work of 1 guy quickly flipping books in front of a camera. (30 machines if it takes the guy 1 hour to flip a whole book through the Japanese scanner).
- You're hoping that you'll find a way to pack 30 machines together with huge magnetic fields each, without disturbing each other (which *is* doable today by calibrating the machines) and without causing major problems to the environment (30 machines with magnetic fields of several Tesla each. DO NOT WEAR ANYTHING PUT A CLOTH OR PAPER GOWN when near by, and leave all your electronic gizmos and credit cards in a different building).

Meanwhile, with the Japanese system, you just have one guy (can be a poor student hired for a low pay) mindlessly flipping page in from of a 3D camera which captures the pages on the fly mid-flip and unwraps them in post-processing.

Re:MRI technology? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687174)

MRI machine is only going to need one pass around the book. The rest of the work is the data processing. Costs would have to come down *drastically* though for this to be feasible on a large scale. Probably still much cheaper to cut the bindings off books and run them through a high-speed scanner.

Re:MRI technology? (2, Interesting)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687480)

yeah, it'd really suck if Google applied their sizable brainage to solving a problem that would have making MRI's cheap and fast as a side-effect. totally suck.


I haven't verified this, but my father-in-law told me the guy that invented the MRI wanted to develop it as a medical scanner to the point where it was cheap enough that everybody could afford it. Then GE et al locked up the idea and turned it into a profit center.

Re:MRI technology? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687534)

I'm not saying that wouldn't be great, but based on their patent, I'm fairly certain they believe they've solved the problem for now. You know how much helium costs, especially the amount you need for an MRI machine?

Re:MRI technology? (0, Troll)

fizzup (788545) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687746)

You know how much helium costs, especially the amount you need for an MRI machine?

Yes. Liquid helium in bulk costs about as much as Coca Cola from a vending machine.

Re:MRI technology? (2, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687778)

http://nanoscale.blogspot.com/2007/09/secret-joys-of-running-lab-helium.html [blogspot.com]

The downside of liquid helium is that it's damned expensive, and getting more so by the minute. Running at full capacity I could blow through several thousand liters in a year, and at several dollars a liter minimum plus overhead, that's real money. As a bonus, lately our supplier of helium has become incredibly unreliable, missing orders and generally flaking out, while simultaneously raising prices because of actual production shortages. I just had to read the sales guy the riot act, and if service doesn't improve darn fast, we'll take our business elsewhere, as will the other users on campus. (Helium comes from the radioactive decay of uranium and other alpha emitters deep in the earth, and comes out of natural gas wells.) The long-term solutions are (a) set up as many cryogen-free systems as possible, and (b) get a helium liquifier to recycle the helium that we do use. Unfortunately, (a) requires an upfront cost comparable to about 8 years of a system's helium consumption per system, and (b) also necessitates big capital expenses as well as an ongoing maintenance issue. Of course none of these kinds of costs are the sort of thing that it's easy to convince a funding agency to support. Too boring and pedestrian.

By the way, I spend most of my days on site at the largest US particle accelerator. Let me know if you'd like to chat with the cryo dept. about how much the tankers of liqiud helium cost ;)

Re:MRI technology? (2, Interesting)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687954)

I never heard the story but you might be confusing MRI with X-Ray machines. You might also remember the stories about X-Rays in shoe stores and why that wasn't a good idea.

But either way, the costs are not unrealistically high, you can pick up a used MRI machine for about a 100k. GE doesn't have a monopoly on MRI's, Siemens, Hitachi and a few others make them as well. The simple physics alone however would not allow an MRI machine for most people though. The magnets involved are just too strong that they become dangerous when any metal is brought in the room (see MRI safety videos for examples of the missile effect). The higher powered machines (1.5T and up) require high-power, supercooled magnets which draws a lot of power from the grid (about 100A or the maximum capacity of the average house installation). Of course afterwards you might need to be able to interpret them so you'll still need a doctor familiar with your MRI system as even the simplest images can have artifacts that are easily misinterpreted.

Re:MRI technology? (1)

VolciMaster (821873) | more than 4 years ago | (#30688576)

I used to work for the largest manufacturer of MRIs - and it wasn't GE. Not even close. Try looking at Philips Medical Systems for the number of units produced per year vs everyone else. Before Philips bought my old employer, they were its largest customer, but that supplier was also the one making the Hitachi systems.

Re:MRI technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30691190)

you marconi people always seem so sentimental

Re:MRI technology? (5, Insightful)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686746)

When the book is closed, the ink from facing pages will be mashed together, shouol you will need to be able to tell which page the ink is attached to. Since the ink mostly sits on top of the paper (if it soaks through you wouldn't be able to read the other side veery well) it is a very thin layer. Your scanning technology would need to be able to sense very small volumes of ink. I don't think we are anywhere close to the necessary precision yet.

Re:MRI technology? (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687222)

MRIs have resolution down to 90nm.

Simpler/faster solution would be to insert a piece of paper in between all the pages to be scanned. Then do the MRI. If the OCR turns up 0 hits, mirror the page and run it through again.

Or make recaptcha users keep a mirror at their desk.

Re:MRI technology? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30687722)

If you have to insert a piece of paper in between each page, wouldn't it be easier just to image the pages while they're open?

Re:MRI technology? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687806)

MRIs have resolution down to 90nm.

In depth? Even if that's so, it's considerably less than the error caused by crinkling and curvature of the pages.

Re:MRI technology? (2, Insightful)

Daley_G (1592515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30688104)

MRIs have resolution down to 90nm.

Simpler/faster solution would be to insert a piece of paper in between all the pages to be scanned...

Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of using the MRI to begin with? Inserting ONE sheet of paper between EVERY page in a book doesn't seem like it would take much more effort than flipping the page and photographing it.

Re:MRI technology? (2, Interesting)

trb (8509) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687356)

The patterns generated by 2 pages of text superimposed on each other (with one set in mirror image) are not impossible to read. Take a two-sided page and hold it up to the light and try to read it. It may seem difficult, the symbols may be fully or partially superimposed, but it's not impossible. It may be solvable with sufficient computes, which means that if you can't do it now, you'll probably be able to do it on your cell phone in 10 years.

As for finding the boundaries between books in a stack, if a scanner can scan pages in a closed book, I think it will have little trouble separating the books.

Re:MRI technology? (2, Funny)

cdfh (1323079) | more than 4 years ago | (#30690848)

which means that if you can't do it now, you'll probably be able to do it on your cell phone in 10 years.

I can't solve the TSP for 1000 cities on my desktop computer today, but I suspect in 10 years time I'll be able to solve it on my mobile phone.

Re:MRI technology? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687460)

Your scanning technology would need to be able to sense very small volumes of ink.

Maybe not. If you do something like a spiral CT, perhaps at multiple angles, you might be able to build a 3d volumetric model based solely on the statistical interpretation of the data points. Along a given ray you know the ink density, and if there are enough rays you could figure out the real possible solutions.

Re:MRI technology? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30688272)

just filed vague patent for that

Re:MRI technology? (2, Funny)

Snaller (147050) | more than 4 years ago | (#30689200)

Brilliant idea!

Make it so!

Re:MRI technology? (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30693128)

you could probably do this with xeroradiography, just set the power setting to high, and come up with a system that allows you to focus accurately per page. xeroradiography uses much simpler and readily avalible processes/materials than a modern MRI. just depends on the density of the ink they use relative to the paper.

Re:MRI technology? (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30707608)

You've been reading Inherit The Stars, haven't you.

Librarian Chantey (4, Informative)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686388)

Sea Shanties [wikipedia.org] were sung in association with ship-board tasks (often repetitious in nature). Is Google paving the way for the Librarian chantey?

Re:Librarian Chantey (5, Funny)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686652)

Cape Cod ladies don't use no books -
Haul away, haul away!
Well they read their stories on robotic Nook®s
and we're bound away for Australia!

Re:Librarian Chantey (1)

thoughtfulbloke (1091595) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686952)

The futures digital, by the looks
so were forever scanning books
Sound off
p867, p868
Sound off
p869, p870

summary of summary. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30686432)

human type book into PC, machine print book on paper, machine binds book ---time goes by--- machine unbind book, robot and human flip pages of book, machine photograph book, machine put book on PC.

What will the Jews think about this? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30686442)

Jews hate it when niggers learn to read. An educated nigger is a dangerous animal.

Re:What will the Jews think about this? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30686462)

But wouldn't they have to learn to use a computer before they could ever attempt to read these digital books?

Re:What will the Jews think about this? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30686620)

You know what the most dangerous thing in America is, right? Nigger with a library card.

Re:What will the Jews think about this? (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687302)

The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell... hi-ho the merry-o, the farmer in the dell.

Re:What will the Jews think about this? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30687378)

Thank God there are so few of those.

Build your own.... (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686458)

Simply set up a rig with 2 digital cameras and a plexiglass V to photograph 2 pages at a time. It's quite fast and cheap.

http://www.diybookscanner.org/ [diybookscanner.org]

Works great. I built one to turn a couple of rare automotive books into PDF so I dont damage a $180.00 book in the garage.

Re:Build your own.... (2, Funny)

Malard (970795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686904)

I built one to turn a couple of rare automotive books into PDF so I dont damage a $180.00 book in the garage.

Great, so now you can damage a $1800 laptop instead?

Re:Build your own.... (2, Informative)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686962)

Or damage some cheap 8.5x11 that you print out the relevant pages on.

Re:Build your own.... (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687078)

What idiot would use a $1800 laptop in the garage to view a PDF?

Let me guess, you change your oil wearing a cashmere sweater and silk shirts as well.

Nope. I risk my $40.00 fujitsu tablet PC that views pdf's just fine but has not enough Horsepower to do much else. works awesome as a garage PC to read PDF's and read the engine codes with my RS232-ODBII scanner/logger.

Re:Build your own.... (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687238)

> my $40.00 fujitsu tablet PC

I'll call you on that.
I just checked and Fujitsu's cheapest tablet PC, the T4310, is $1,149 USD.

So please indicate where I can purchase a $40 tablet PC that can read PDFs.

Re:Build your own.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687386)

www.ebay.com.... I got a Used stylistic 3500.

Are you one of those wierd people that must have everything new?

Re:Build your own.... (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687634)

Judging by ebay's completed sales, it's probably worth two or three times that, if you factor in shipping.

Re:Build your own.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30694568)

I got a lot of 3 a year ago and they averaged to $40.00 each. So Sorry you are unable to find the deals I am able to on ebay.

But then I typically find most of my items to buy on ebay at far FAR less than the "average" sale price.

Re:Build your own.... (1)

CheeseTroll (696413) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687404)

Fujitsu's cheapest new tablet PC may be $1,149. Why would he use a brand-new machine?

Here's something much closer to his price [ebay.com] , and ought to be more than capable of viewing PDFs.

Re:Build your own.... (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687610)

I agree with your point that for this use going used will be much cheaper than new.

But $189 is still a lot more than $40.

Re:Build your own.... (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687456)

Ebay? Certainly one wouldn't use a brand spankmenew laptop for something like this.

Re:Build your own.... (1)

danielsfca2 (696792) | more than 4 years ago | (#30688186)

Clearly it's an old secondhand laptop, you pedant.

Re:Build your own.... (1)

Mr680x0 (1116783) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687376)

I built one to turn a couple of rare automotive books into PDF so I dont damage a $180.00 book in the garage.

Great, so now you can damage a $1800 laptop instead?

Since when do you need a new $1800 laptop to view PDFs? There's always old used laptops and even cheap new ones.

Re:Build your own.... (2, Funny)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687606)

Maybe he is running Acrobat Reader in Vista

Re:Build your own.... (1)

Malard (970795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687816)

clearly english ironic sarcasm doesnt work on a US website.

Re:Build your own.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30689662)

No, unfunny "sarcasm" doesn't work anywhere. Saying random stupid shit isn't sarcasm.

Google wants to help humans. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30686464)

Thank you, kind overlord!

Re:Google wants to help humans. (1)

isama (1537121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687036)

I've forgotten to welcome our book reading pc overlords, can I still do so now?

Re:Google wants to help humans. (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687758)

We'll put it in the second edition.

In an appendix.

Near the back.

Missing the point? (4, Insightful)

johnw (3725) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686598)

Google is secretive, but the system's inner workings were apparently divulged by University of Tokyo researchers

Surely the whole point of the patent system is to grant exclusive use for a period in return for publishing full details of how whatever it is works? How can you have a patent without divulging the crucial information?

Re:Missing the point? (3, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687278)

I work for a company with a lot of patents. Our products are protected partially by patents and partially by trade secret information. In other words, to recreate our product you would need to license the patents AND figure out how we did the other stuff, that is NOT patented, but is secret. There's no reason you can't mix patented and trade secret technology in one solution.

Re:Missing the point? (2, Informative)

zavyman (32136) | more than 4 years ago | (#30690898)

While you may be correct in certain circumstances, your wording gives a false impression that this always works. You must disclose the best mode [uspto.gov] when filing a patent application.

The specification . . . shall set forth the best mode contemplated by the inventor of carrying out his invention.

"The best mode requirement creates a statutory bargained-for-exchange by which a patentee obtains the right to exclude others from practicing the claimed invention for a certain time period, and the public receives knowledge of the preferred embodiments for practicing the claimed invention." Eli Lilly & Co. v. Barr Laboratories Inc., 251 F.3d 955, 963, 58 USPQ2d 1865, 1874 (Fed. Cir. 2001).

The best mode requirement is a safeguard against the desire on the part of some people to obtain patent protection without making a full disclosure as required by the statute. The requirement does not permit inventors to disclose only what they know to be their second-best embodiment, while retaining the best for themselves. In re Nelson, 280 F.2d 172, 126 USPQ 242 (CCPA 1960).

As you hint at, there's nothing wrong with combining one invention with another, one protected by patent law and the other by trade secret.

Re:Missing the point? (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#30689404)

How can you have a patent without divulging the crucial information?

By not playing fair. I'm sure there are lots of companies who deal in IP who can teach you about doing this. In particular, I hear the music, film and software industry players are good at this.

Video of book scanner... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30686602)

on youtube. [youtube.com]

The link is slashdotted so I'm not sure if this is the same technology mentioned ITF...

Re:Video of book scanner... (3, Informative)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687124)

Elegant, hypnotic, and not what google uses. Google scans the books, lying flat. It projects a grid-like pattern over the pages in IR, photographs up the distorted image using 3D cameras, and recreates a 3D model of the book, and uses that model to undistort the pages. It uses human slaves to turn the pages, since robots aren't as gentle.

The link isn't slashdotted anymore [nyud.net]

Re:Video of book scanner... (1)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#30688146)

It uses human slaves to turn the pages, since robots aren't as gentle.

Hmm... if I were google, I would use suction power to flip the pages... take a pipe, drill in some holes, and attach a vacuum cleaner... then attach the pipe to some robot arm.

Re:Video of book scanner... (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30689406)

take a pipe, drill in some holes, and attach a vacuum cleaner... then attach the pipe to some robot arm.

Pervert! Leave our fine robot women alone.

Re:Video of book scanner... (1)

iknowcss (937215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687180)

Oh God, I've just watched book porno. First they show you the parts of the book scanner slowly, like you're undressing it with your eyes. Then, the protruding scanning mechanism rhythmically penetrates the pages of the prone, inviting book. And then, to top it all off, they present to us an unreasonably large book that takes it from the scanner. What porno is complete without an unreasonably large member? I'm sure that there is a librarian somewhere pleasuring herself to this.

Re:Video of book scanner... (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687240)

And then, to top it all off, they present to us an unreasonably large book that takes it from the scanner.

Large books are some of the hardest to scan-- too many curves. They're also among the best candidates for digital storage because they take up so much space.

Re:Video of book scanner... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30689684)

Large books are some of the hardest to scan-- too many curves.

Not unlike women.

Musical page flipping. (4, Funny)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686804)

...and information about how Google wants to use music to help humans flip pages.

...you will know it is time to turn the page when Tinkerbell rings her little bells like this...

Yaz.

Executive summary (2, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686886)

Google's book scanning technology? Two guys and an Epson V500.

Executive summary of WWII (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686912)

The United States invaded half of Europe.

Re:Executive summary of WWII (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#30686976)

The United States invaded half of Europe.

... then split it with the Russians.

Re:Executive summary of WWII (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687872)

So the net difference between 1940 and 1945: Effective Russian border moves a few hundred miles West. Oh, and lots of dead people.

Lemme guess... (2, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687060)

It involves pigeons, doesn't it?

We used to call them "Service Bureaus" (4, Interesting)

kriston (7886) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687068)

Back when we called them "Service Bureaus" book scanning was fast, easy, and cheap, as long as you didn't want the book back.

You deliver your book, magazine, phone book, map, large format document, or whatever to a Service Bureau.
They will then use a paper saw and cut the binding off and the other three sides to make perfectly smooth edges.
Then they put the whole mess into a hopper. The hopper feeds the pages to a scanner.
When it's done, flip the pile over and put it back into the hopper to get the odd-numbered pages into the scanner.

What you get back is your original book (as a pile of pages with no binding) and a CD-ROM of its contents in both original TIFF and OCRd text files. Now you can get them as PDF/A and DejaVu formats.

I suppose Google's point is that they don't want to ruin the books, or maybe they are so proud of their 3D-scanner enough to use it at all costs. But think of this: there are usually several thousands, perhaps millions, of copies of the books I've seen in Google's library, so destroying one copy of the book seems fair enough.

Re:We used to call them "Service Bureaus" (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687192)

This method is for books in academic libraries where it isn't feasible to saw the binding and use a traditional scanner.

Re:We used to call them "Service Bureaus" (1)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687282)

I think this technology was developed to scan rare books. the kind you cant destroy you know ?

Rare books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30687384)

I think this technology was developed to scan rare books. the kind you cant destroy you know ?

But once Google puts them online, they are no longer rare.

Re:Rare books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30689506)

Even then they are still rare, because the quality of Google's scans are shit.

Re:We used to call them "Service Bureaus" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30687590)

rare like the Necronomnomnomicon?

plus, it probably screams when you try to saw the covers off.

Re:We used to call them "Service Bureaus" (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687482)

Back when we called them "Service Bureaus"

Damn kids, get off my Syquest cart!

Re:We used to call them "Service Bureaus" (3, Informative)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687492)

There are ALOT of books out there which would NOT be suitable for this method. A friend of mine in University for Museum Studies often has to read these books which are incredibly old. I believe the University has a couple that date somewhere around the 1830's which is older than the books you find in the historical village we have in town.

Yes, the university lets you read books that are old enough to belong in a museum. She showed me one of them one time. It was like a manuscript, Thick leather binding, nothing written on the front, heavy faded pages. I almost couldn't believe it.

Sadly, that was the most exciting part of it. The writing was dryer than a desert, and it was on some subject that I had zero interest in. They are supposedly starting to go ALL digital, so I have no idea what they're going to do with those old books and mansucripts they've got sitting around.

I hope they don't destroy them.

Re:We used to call them "Service Bureaus" (1)

Ankh (19084) | more than 4 years ago | (#30713048)

There's no reason you couldn't do this with a book from the 1830s; on http://words.fromoldbooks.org/ [fromoldbooks.org] I have text from 18th century books that have been scanned like this, and on http://www.fromoldbooks.org/ [fromoldbooks.org] some considerably older books.

IIt turns out that there are interesting old books too, you'll be pleased to know, although the futher back you go, the more likely you are to find a book in Latin. Well, until you get far enough back that scrolls are common, and then Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic are common :D

In an antiquarian book fair I was once offered Etruscan tablets, probably the most seriosuly antiquarian "books" I've seen for sale :-)

Re:We used to call them "Service Bureaus" (2, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#30690940)

That's insufficiently destructive.

They should use the method from Vernor Vinge's novel "Rainbow's End", where the books are fed into what is essentially a giant chipper/shredder. The shredded pages are then blown through a tunnel studded with cameras, swirled around so that every side of every piece of paper is photographed at some point, and then all of the images are reassembled to form complete images of every page. At the end of the tunnel is an incinerator which burns the shredded paper.

The books are gone.

Re:We used to call them "Service Bureaus" (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 4 years ago | (#30697234)

I recall that they kept the "shredda", sterilized and sealed in helium canisters buried deep underground. This was their argument that the shredding-process is actually better for preservation, since the text is rot-free and could in principle be reconstructed later.

Or at least that's what they claim. Is it revealed somewhere that they actually were burning it? I don't remember.

It's a neat idea though and not like you need to destroy every copy of the book anyways. Unique or rare books could be scanned page-by-page, and this done to the others.

Re:We used to call them "Service Bureaus" (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#30698600)

You may be right about the shredda. I don't remember for sure, and don't have the book handy.

Maybe they did it following /.'s current QOTD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30687524)

"Twist the spine"

Don't trust a chinky (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30687756)

"the system's inner workings were apparently divulged by University of Tokyo"

Yet another example of how they respect other people's hard work [slashdot.org]

Not "music" -- just a "tone" (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 4 years ago | (#30687878)

There are also videos of robotic page flippers and information about how Google wants to use music to help humans flip pages.

From TFA:

The patent describes how a musical tone can be played from the speakers at regular intervals to give the operator a pace to flip pages to.

Not sure what this means, but what is the difference between a "musical tone" and a "tone"? Probably none, except a pleasant timbre with a pitch. From the description, it likely just means a pleasant-sounding "beep" or "ding" or something that recurs at intervals so people know when it's safe to turn the page.

In any case, hardly "using music" to encourage page-flipping -- which brings up weird images of people "Sweatin' to the Oldies" while turning pages for Google.

manga... (1)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 4 years ago | (#30688154)

The University of Toyko's version is demo'd using a manga... go figure. The high-speed camera approach is also really cool. Reminds me of that TNG episode (yeah yeah, I know) where the aliens built that casino/hotel based on a book for that astronaut... Picard hands the novel over to Data and asks him to summarize. Data just flips through all the pages in like 3 seconds and spews out the madness.

Short Circuit (1)

thenextstevejobs (1586847) | more than 4 years ago | (#30688710)

Johnny Five had no problem flipping pages and scanning them back in 1986. I don't see what the big deal is here.

Re:Short Circuit (2, Funny)

Ksevio (865461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30689390)

Yeah, but Johnny Five was ALIVE!

Secret Patent (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30689420)

Doesn't patent law require Google to disclose the invention in order to get it protected? I mean, I only have a vague idea of how it works, but I thought this was one of the points.

Nothing to see here (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30689606)

Just posting to undo a moderation mistake, nothing to see here.

in this economy (1)

deodiaus2 (980169) | more than 4 years ago | (#30690560)

I am sure that in this worldwide depression, Google can easily find people willing to carefully place and turn books for $1/day. Sugar cane farmers in S. America work for $1/day. I would think being a book scanner would be a highly sought after position. Si Senor, the room has AC to keep the books comfortable?

I dont care anymore (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#30694576)

I was very closely following this project having know the project team lead and talked to him about different projects he had going for the library deal. I remember 8 years ago talking to him about how he was accomplishing the scanning part of it, he told me they even created their own scanning software.

Today I saw the coolest little gadget that some homebrew tinkerer made, covered on /. a month ago, don't have link sorry....
and he used 2 cheap cameras and a big ass metal frame meant to keep the book open and then flip the pages hydrolically...or something like that....this makes more sense and is much more cost effective for you and me....then use pdf to take all the images and place them in pdf format, voila!

Since then, I don't even want to bother hearing about this project, as I know it cost millions of software dev. and hardware creation, and this other guy did his under 1000$....goes to show, not because your are Goggle big, that you need to spend google big money to get the job done.

Page flipping is hard (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30697362)

It's surprisingly hard to automate page-turning. I saw the first page-turning machine many years ago, at the Census Bureau. It was used for 1970 Census form booklets, and used a vacuum belt to hold the booklet down while a wheel with vacuum holes rolled over the page to turn the page. This only worked for booklets with known dimensions, and it was rather rough on the booklets. But it was fast, doing about two flips a second.

It's such a boring job for humans that they screw up. A hand appears in the picture, or they turn two pages. So you need automation, or at least automated error checking.

The problem with mechanism design is making it both fast and gentle. There are lots of things that will work at one page every five seconds. Getting to two pages a second and never tearing one is tough. Most of the existing designs are simplistic; they're just some dumb mechanism making a repetitive motion with an air picker. The book-scanning developers haven't progressed to closed-loop force control yet.

Festo [festo.com] , the German robotics and actuator company, could probably build a better page turner. They build a wide range of machines which handle delicate objects fast in production environments. Their Bionic Tripod with Fin-Gripper [festo.com] is an example.

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