When the robot apocalypse gets here, I don’t think many of us Americans are going to be surprised to find out the uprising originated in Japan. Any country which created a MechaGodzilla for fun is certain to be a leading factor in Earth’s demise. Well, they’ve also created the BFS-Auto, and while it doesn’t have legs or guns attached to its torso, it may revolutionize the practice of digital book scanning. So, I guess this guy isn’t a warrior, but more of an office drone.
Aiming to create a product far more successful than any speed-reading course Kevin Trudeau used to hock on late-night TV, the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory at the University of Tokyo was working on creating a high-speed method of scanning book pages in real time. The BFS, for “Book Flipping Scanning,” get that done in spades, and probably doesn’t complain about Thomas Hardy half as much as I would have.
The standard versions of this practice, such as how Google digitized the British Library’s collections, are mostly scanned on manually operated flatbed scanners, and are only able to accomplish about 12 scans per minute. The BFS destroys this average by using the page-flipping technique of someone looking through a shitty magazine in a waiting room. Optimized for both speed and accuracy, it scans 250 pages per minute, even accounting for the pages’ 3D curvature by auto-correcting the scan to present a clean, flat image. This may sound like a lesser accomplishment than the speed aspect, but if you’ve ever read a shoddily scanned book, with every line drifting off and shrinking at the ends of the pages, this is worth rejoicing over.
Chances are, this technique may not be optimal for damaged books or older ones with broken spines. But the technology to scan those quickly and effectively is almost certainly on the way. Check out DIYBookScanner.org for group-thought solutions from the dedicated book-scanning community. But before that, be amazed by this video showing how the BFS-Auto works.