Scanner Debut – Video

September 26th, 2006 by Adam

Yesterday, the Exbiblio team had our first working demo of the assembled “Falstaff” prototype!

All the standard disclaimers apply here, there is much optimization to be done and several more months of hardware and software improvements before we are ready for our public beta, but it is actually coming together!

By the end of the week, we hope to have the new prototype integrated into our Exbiblio software application prototypes, so stay tuned for more news soon.

Check out the video:

Visit to JMK

September 25th, 2006 by Adam

Hugh and I had a fun visit to the office of JMK Industrial Design last Friday to interview the industrial design team working on the Exbiblio portable scanner. We discussed the story of the Exbiblio scanner, Apple’s influence on the industry, and what it is like to work for a client who turns conventional thinking on its head.

Hugh is planning to post details from the interview this week, but I thought I’d get some images from our visit up on the blog today. Including, if you look closely, the first image of the scanning device (model) that we have ever shown to the public! Stay tuned for more details.

JMK Office Stewart

Design Study (mp3 Players)

September 22nd, 2006 by Adam

Here are some of the mp3 devices that the design team looked at before working on the Exbiblio scanning pen:

MP3 Players 1 MP3 Players 2 MP3 Players 3

Industrial Design Study (USB Drives)

September 20th, 2006 by Adam

This is the first of a series of posts we plan related to the industrial design of the Exbiblio scanning device. Coming soon, we plan to have interviews with the design team, design sketches, and photos of the prototypes.

I’ll start by showing some charts the design team put together to study existing gadgets on the market for comparison, discussion, and inspiration. The following images show a variety of the USB drives currently on the market. Note that our scanning device is likely to have USB drive functionality in addition to the text scanning and voice recording features.

USB Drives 2 USB Drives 1 USB Drives 3

What’s the Exbiblio oPen for?

September 20th, 2006 by Hugh

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog while I’ve been here at the Exbiblio office. I can report that I’m collecting lots of material to write up later. I’ve also been helping Ariel with a big rewrite of the copy on the Exbiblio website. I’m looking for examples of uses for Exbiblio’s first product, the oPen, which is due out next Spring.

Let me recap. Despite its name, the oPen is not really a pen at all. We hope to give you some pictures soon. It’s a sleek and flat little rectangle that will easily slip into a shirt pocket. It’s a text scanner with big aspirations. Let me numerate a few. I would be glad for more examples.

  • If it lives up to its promise, the oPen will be the most compact and reliable text scanner to date. So if you are reading a book, it will be no trouble to highlight a paragraph and save it. There’s no need to deface your book with a note or underline, or turn the corner of the page, or stick a post-it note inside. You’ve captured the text and can keep it on your computer. This is its most simple function. It’s a little underrated in the great Exibiblio “vision” but for my money, this is its most easy-to-understand and useful function.
  • If you want to add a few thoughts about what you just read, you can mutter them into the oPen. It save the sound file linked to the quotation you have chosen.
  • If the book you are reading is out of copyright, there’s a good chance that a digital copy of it exists on the web somewhere. Once your quotation is saved on your computer, the Exbiblio system will find the context for you. You will be able to expand your quotation to look at the whole page, chapter, or book. If you know that a digital copy exists, all you have to do is scan a few words because the Exbiblio system will find the rest for you.
  • Once you have a collection of quotations on your computer, you can search them, tag them, and sift them – do all the things that you like to do on computers.
  • You can, of course, share your quotations by emailing them and blogging them.
  • The Exbiblio system will be great for cross-referencing. Suppose you are reading a biography of a British Prime Minister that quotes a few lines of a famous speech, “We shall fight them on the beaches.” The Exbiblio system will find the rest of that speech for you. Similarly, citations of other reference books and sources can lead you to the original text. There’s no need for a researcher keep going back to the library to look up every cross-reference.
  • It will also work as a bar code scanner – so you can can catalogue your book or cd collection, or if you work in business you can use it to keep track of inventory.
  • If you are reading a poster or a notice on a wall, the Exbiblio pen could lead you to more information on the web about an event - see MyTago and Smartpox

These are just a few possible uses. I’m starting to think that I would be happy to fork out a few quid (I’m English) for one of these. Let your imagination take free reign. I’d be glad to have any more examples.

Hello Rainy Seattle

September 18th, 2006 by Hugh

I left a beautiful sunny autumn’s day on London yesterday and flew out to Seattle for my third trip to Exbiblio. I didn’t bring a coat or an umbrella – an omission considering the rainy weather here this morning.

It’s easy for me to stroll into work early as I’m still on London time and am staying just around the corner near Pioneer Square. I’m able to chat with the office early birds, Spencer and Claes Fredrik. I’ve not met Spencer before, but he helps me find a room in the new “wing” of the expanding office. I’m strategically positioned just near the table with the enticing snacks – fresh berries and tangy sheep’s cheese. Claes Fredrik helps me get my aging laptop plugged into the network. We chat a little bit about some of the technologies that have been showing up on the blog.

While blogging away in London, I’ve been trying to fill in the picture of the universe in which Exbiblio is operating. There seem to be a number of companies working on bridging the divide between paper and digital. They are rather disparate, and I don’t think you can quite call it a movement yet – but there’s a lot going on in this space. This week I’m planning to write more about what Exbiblio’s up to.

On this trip I’m hoping to see the first prototype of the Exbiblio Scanner Pen, code-named Falstaff. I believe there have been some glitches causing delays – which is only to be expected on a project of this nature, but it can be hard to get engineers to talk about glitches.

As Spencer has just been saying to me a minute ago, Exbiblio is a stimulating place to work, both intellectually and on the “values” level of not being overtly hyper profit-driven. It’s striking how recruits say they were attracted by Exbiblio’s values page on its website. However, I am hoping to tease a business / marketing plan out of the more “senior” people in its “flat” management structure. It’s time to write about matters such as useful applications for Exbiblio’s technology, target markets, return on investment – the sort of stuff that business people normally talk about. I haven’t heard a great deal of that ilk on my previous trips. Perhaps I haven’t asked the right questions, but I also get a sense that these matters are not always to the fore, perhaps because the technical challenges are so absorbing for Exbiblio intellects. I’m also going to ask about Exbiblio’s laudable aims to change the world for the better (which I think people will be very glad to talk about) but Exbiblio’s good intentions depend on being a business success first.

Company Lunch Pics

September 8th, 2006 by Adam

I wanted to give some more visuals to go with Hugh’s description of our company lunch. Here are some shots from this week’s lunch taken by Claes-Fredrik.

hardware test Spencer Demo

The above photos show Spencer demonstrating how the laptop can participate in round trip communications with our new hardware device. All I know is that I saw the lights blink… If you want more detail than that, we’ll have to get Spencer to write a blog entry!

Adam Demo Exbiblio Folks

Here I am presenting some design concepts for a new product idea to the team. That’s all the lawyers will let me say for now, stay tuned…

The CueCat

September 7th, 2006 by Hugh

CueCatThis is a story about a scanner device that was mentioned in an anonymous comment on this blog. I thought it was worth reading up a little more about it. It’s a failure story – but there’s always something to be learned from others’ mistakes (and your own!).

As a note to new readers, Exbiblio’s first product will be a scanner pen with a difference. It will link a paper document to its digital equivalent by means by capturing five or six words of the text. It turns out that a few consecutive words in any text are almost always unique.

CueCat was a scanner device designed by DigitalConvergence in the late 1990s (there’s a nice article about its history on Wikipedia). It read barcodes, and when plugged into a computer, it could take readers to a related page on the internet. The company mailed out free CueCats, often unsolicited. Wired Magazine gave them away. In 2000, CueCat bar codes appeared in some leading publications, including Forbes and Time. RadioShack gave away the devices and included CueCat barcodes in its catalogs.

Hackers quickly saw the CueCat might have other applications as a general barcode reader. For instance, if modified, it might be used to build a catalog of your book or CD library, or to take you to an Amazon page. The firm expanded its licence agreement to forbid such modifications, claiming that it remained the owner of the device.

The product soon ran into more controversy. Each CueCat had a unique serial number, and it was asserted that DigitalConvergence could spy on how individuals used them. The company set its lawyers on hackers who published ways to modify its product.

It all ended the way many businesses do. In 2005, a liquidator was offering 2 million CueCats at 30 cents each.

Exbiblio has a very different approach. It’s committed in its values to protecting users’ data and to generally being good (“leaving beauty in our wake”). Still, there are some interesting parallels here and lessons to be learned.

The Multi-Media Newspaper

September 7th, 2006 by Hugh

If you want a glimpse of the newspaper of the future, you could do no better than take a tour of the Daily Telegraph’s new offices in London. The UK Press Gazzette has been inside the new Telegraph.

In keeping with the Exbiblio vision, paper and digital content will live happily side by side. All print journalists will be put through multi media training courses, and some specialist video journalists will be recruited. The Editorial Managing Editor, Will Lewis, says the Telegraph will develop an entirely new type of journalist.

“There’ll be no old media versus new media, them and us”.

The Telegraph will offer down-loadable PDFs of some its articles that will contain embedded video and audio. This is the sort of content that Exbiblio plans to enmesh inside a paper document by use of its hand-held scanner.

It’s Alive!!!

August 31st, 2006 by Adam

Falstaff is Alive!

But, no memory yet…