UXBRIDGE -- Anyone familiar with a box of crayons can describe the colour "carnation pink" but how many people can make that colour appear "correctly" on a document or on a computer display?
Xerox scientists are developing a new technology to make adjusting colours in a document as easy as simply describing the colour. Users can type "make the sky a deeper blue" or give a voice command "make the background carnation pink" and the software does the work. The invention, still in the research stage, creates "colour language" by translating human descriptions of colour into the precise numerical codes that machines use to print colour documents.
"Today, especially in the office environment, there are many non-experts who know how they would like colour to appear but have no idea how to manipulate the colour to get what they want," said Geoffrey Woolfe, principal scientist in the Xerox Innovation Group. "You shouldn't have to be a colour expert to make the sky a deeper blue or add a bit of yellow to a sunset."
At the 2007 Annual Meeting of the Inter-Society Colour Council (ISCC), on the 29 April, Woolfe described his work in a paper called "Natural Language Colour Editing." Xerox has filed for patents on the technology.
Woolfe's discovery means that colour adjustments could be made on devices like colour office printers and commercial presses without having to deal with the mathematics. For instance, cardinal red on a printer or monitor is actually expressed by a set of mathematical coordinates that identify a specific region in a three-dimensional space, which is the gamut of all the colours that the device can display or print. To make that colour less orange, the colour expert distorts that region to a new region in the gamut.
The ability to use common words to adjust colour would have far-reaching implications for non-experts as well as graphic artists, printers, photographers and other professionals who spend a significant amount of time fine tuning the colours in documents.
Woolfe focused his research on common human descriptions of colour. He found common words used to distinguish different shades and colours could be mapped to the technical language of colour created by engineers and used in devices like colour office printers and commercial presses. "The innovative part of this is the mapping language," Woolfe said. "At Xerox we've found that if you can connect the human dimension to the mathematical dimension, you get a lot of usability."
Although still in the early research stage, Woolfe's invention could be applied in many different ways. By adding voice commands to the technology it would make it possible to "tell" a computer to "punch up the purple" in a bouquet of flowers, while office printers could be commanded to print colours a certain way ("when printing green, make it more of a teal green"). It also would have many uses in digital printing - making it easier for print providers to communicate with their customers. "In the end it's all about usability," Woolfe said. "Colour is so prevalent today, you shouldn't have to be an expert to handle it."
The Xerox Innovation Group conducts work in colour science, computing, digital imaging, work practices, electromechanical systems, novel materials, linguistics, work practice analysis and nanotechnology connected to Xerox's expertise in printing and document management. For more information, visit www.xerox.com/innovation.
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