Erasable paper, smart documents just tip of Xerox PARC cutting edge research projects

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Xerox’s famed Palo Alto Research Center, scientists put some of their most ambitious projects – everything from intelligent document technology to solar energy ventures --  on display this week .  

The 2008 "Inside Innovation at Xerox" featured scientists and projects from Xerox research centers across the US and the globe. They showcased a number of new technologies including: 

·          Intelligent redaction. Xerox and PARC scientists are developing ways to access and sort through content from massive amounts of documents, for what can or can't be seen, printed or copied.  The intelligent redaction project, automates the process of protecting sensitive information in documents, and it matches the information that is revealed to the viewer’s level of access. For example, a mortgage application is typically processed by a number of employees of the lender. Not everyone needs to see all the information in the application. Xerox’s technology lets a single version of the application circulate within an organization, with the guarantee that each employee only sees what he or she needs to see in the document, according to the researchers.  

·          Next generation categorization. Xerox is looking at letting customers simultaneously tag text and images, for more effective categorization of online and paper-based documents. Researchers at Xerox Research Centre Europe (XRCE) have demonstrated a software technology that can link text and general images together. Current tools classify or "tag" either text or images so they can be processed; but until now no one has combined the two effectively, according to the company’s Web site. By linking image and text-based content, this new software technology significantly improves fundamental document management tasks like retrieving information from a database or automatically routing documents. For example, if a brochure from an isolated hotel in the French Alps describes the hotel's features and includes maps and pictures of mountainous surroundings, the categorizer will automatically discover the content and link the text and the images together. Then someone searching for an isolated mountain lodge within a certain price range would retrieve the brochure even if "isolated lodge in the mountains" were never mentioned in the actual text. 

·          Seamless documents. At Fuji Xerox's U.S. lab, scientists are solving the problem of easy access to documents on small-screen devices such as cell phones.  The idea here is to be able to take a picture of a document, upload it to a  server which would process it and present it on the small screen. The experimental printing technology, a collaboration between the Xerox Research Centre of Canada and PARC (Palo Alto Research Center Inc.), could someday replace printed pages that are used for just a brief time before being discarded. Xerox estimates that as many as two out of every five pages printed in the office are for what it calls "daily" use, like e-mails, Web pages and reference materials that have been printed for a single viewing. 

·          Self-erasing, reusable paper:  Xerox scientists have invented a way to make prints with temporary images, so that the paper can be used again and again, the group said.  The experimental printing technology, a collaboration between the Xerox Research Centre of Canada and PARC , could someday replace printed pages that are used for just a brief time before being discarded, Xerox stated.  Xerox estimates that as many as two out of every five pages printed in the office are for what it calls "daily" use, like e-mails, Web pages and reference materials that have been printed for a single viewing. This project is developing compounds that change color when they absorb a certain wavelength of light but then will gradually disappear. In its present version, the paper self-erases in about 16-24 hours and can be used multiple times, the group said. 

·          One-to-one communications technology: Xerox showed of its XMPie products which blends data and images to create personalized communications. The product family utilizing XMPie is already on the market.  

Researchers also showed off what they call Clean Tech technology. The project includes PARC’s low-cost solar concentrator that integrates the optical, thermal, and electrical aspects of high-efficiency concentrator photovoltaics into a single, flat, solid piece of glass. The result is a smaller solar panel that converts significantly more sunlight into electricity, is durable, safer to operate, and cheaper to manufacture – all of which adds up to solar power that is drastically more affordable and easier to implement than competing technologies, according to the group’s Web site.   

According to researchers, by using novel printing technologies to pattern the metal traces on conventional silicon solar cells, PARC's approach increases solar cell efficiencies by about 6-8% relative – leading to increased profits for manufacturers and more compact installations for consumers.  The group is also looking to purifying water more effectively via particle filtration technology.

Last year, Xerox was awarded 584 U.S. utility patents. Xerox holds about 8,600 active US patents and with its partner, Fuji Xerox, invests $1.4 billion a year in research and development.

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