Digitizing That Cluttered Desk

Newspaper clippings, dog-eared business cards, glossy brochures, handwritten recipes, or a child's prized artwork: There's value in every one, but together it's just a lot of paper cluttering our desks, drawers, and counters. Entrepreneurs at Visioneer Communications Inc. looked at the same mess differently, however. What they saw was the opportunity for a breakthrough product--an inexpensive desktop scanner into which all of those bits of paper could be fed, with their data or images captured electronically.

The idea was to capture text and simple images, not produce professional artwork, so the device wouldn't require the precision or flat-bed design of a graphic-artist's scanner. But it would need to be compact and easy to use.

The design wizards at GVO Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., have made all of this happen in PaperPort (originally known as PaperMax). It has a footprint no bigger than a box of Reynolds Wrap but has the potential to snag the value off the page and send the skeleton to the recycling bin.

Within a few minutes of setting up PaperPort, you start imagining a little voice whispering, "Feed me." The device sits best between the keyboard and a PC or monitor. There's no on/off switch: The machine switches on automatically when you put the edge of the paper into the slot. Immediately, an image of the scanned item pops up on screen, a nifty software trick that lets the user enjoy watching the computer digest it.

PaperPort is compact, minimalist, and inviting to use. Putting a curved face forward, PaperPort throws out its little chest to receive your orders, sucks in the page through its curved path, and then spits the scanned paper right back at you. If the item that is to be scanned is delicate, or precious (a birth certificate or photo), a quick shift of the curved top lid creates a straight path for safer scanning. Once it has been scanned, the data can easily be filed, printed, faxed, or E-mailed. Says GVO's Michael Barry: "This is going to help your life. It's not a statement about the power of technology."

Retailing for about $400, PaperPort has been a big hit for three-year-old Visioneer. IDSA judge Dallas Grove of Palo Alto Design Inc. sees PaperPort's simplicity as a precursor: "It's a plug-and-play kind of product. We're just beginning to see that [in computer products] because the technology is getting sophisticated enough." Sophisticated enough to be simple.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE