My headline won't put the Updike's of the world out of business, but maybe Google's new technique for scanning books into its ever-growing digital library will help me read more and become a better blogger.
Probably not, you're right.
Anyway, the program, as you may know, is called Google Book Search, and it's pretty simple: Google is right now busily scanning as many books as it can get its hands on and adding the images to a search database. It's just another way the company is slowly taking over the world, but who cares—you can click links in the books when they mention locations and Google Maps will take you there!
But on their way to putting public libraries out of business, Google ran into a decidedly low-tech problem when scanning the physical books for uploading into their new digital medium. Basically, the character recognition software requires a relatively flat 2D image of the text to work 100% properly. The books' bindings aren't cooperating, however, as they cause the pages to arch upward on either side. This has made the process take far longer than our future overlords would have liked.
Luckily, Google knows a thing or two about frickin' laser beams (but thankfully not how to attach them to the heads of sharks—yet). By casting an infrared beam over each book, the Google team can use infrared cameras to map the 3D shape and filter out the distortion with some nifty error correction software. And now the books are just flying off the shelves and into the digital ether. [New Scientist]