How To Scan Without A Scanner

Ever find yourself paging through a book or magazine at a friend's house and wishing you could just scan it and save it for later? NEC has a way to soup up a cell phone to do this, using 3D imaging software integrated with a digital camera.

The phone works by taking dozens of tiny snapshots when you wave it across a page in a zigzag pattern. Within seconds, optical character-recognition software in the phone uses the edge of the page as a frame and knits together the overlapping snapshots into a seamless whole. It can even detect when the page isn't lying flat and straighten a distorted image.

NEC says it may also bundle some phones with Adobe Systems' popular Acrobat document software. And to ease publishers' fears that people will start scanning everything in sight, NEC could embed sound effects that can't be muted, which announce when scanning is in progress. Sales could begin within two years.

By Kenji Hall

Edited by Michael Arndt

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