The assignee for this patent application is
Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates to functions traditionally associated with converting printed papers into electronic images for processing or storing within a computer system. Flatbed scanners and multifunctional devices (MFP's) are frequently used for performing this task. Embodiments of the invention relate particularly to improving scanning speeds and reducing the number of required scanning passes to process documents or other items.
"A document processed by optical character recognition (OCR) is initially and usually presented as an electronic image. A printed picture to be stored in a computer system is also initially and usually presented as an electronic image. Such pictures are usually obtained from a flatbed scanner or multi-function printer and scanner (MFP).
"The flatbed scanner or MFP usually includes a carriage assembly that transforms a luminous flux into an electronic image, a stepping motor assembly moving carriage, and a main electronic board that forms and processes the electronic image and possibly sends the electronic image to the computer system through an interface cable, a local network cable, or wireless across a network via one or more network protocols.
"FIG. 1 shows an example of a conventional scanner 100 according to the known art and exemplifies a typical scanning operation of a paper document 102. With reference to FIG. 1, a scanner 100 includes a scanning base 104 and glass plate or bed 106 on which is placed one or more paper documents 102. A hinged cover or lid 108 is placed over the documents 102. The cover 108 includes a uniformly solid white or solid black background 110 for the working area of the scanner. In operation, the lid 108 is closed.
"When a user works with a flatbed scanner, the user first triggers a preview to see where the paper documents exist on the bed 106 of the apparatus 100. It is necessary to see how these papers or documents 102 are located on the bed 106 and the user manually selects or indicates one or more scanning areas. During a preview the scanner moves its carriage (not shown) quickly, from front to back of the bed 106 or base 104, from a starting position to an end position. At this point, during the preview, a lamp on the carriage is on. The apparatus performs the scanning and makes an electronic image of a substantially low resolution. Next, the carriage returns back to its starting position. On its way, in order to preserve lamp life and to reduce power consumption, the lamp on the carriage is turned off, and scanning is not performed. A preview image is sent to an associated computer.
"Next, the user views a result of the preview on a screen of the computer associated with the scanner. The user selects one or more scanning areas and initiates a scan, typically with high resolution, to get an electronic image of sufficient quality to perform OCR, to store it as an electronic file, to print it, to send it by email, etc.
"When the scanner 100 scans with high resolution, it moves its carriage again from the front to the back of the bed 106, but now this time slowly. The lamp is turned on and the scanner performs the scanning and makes one or more electronic images with a relatively high resolution or resolution that is higher than the preview scan. Next, the carriage returns back again to an initial position. In the case where a user has two or more papers for scanning on the scanner bed 106, the user is required to start scanning with a fresh or uninitiated scanning area--the scanner 100 has no way to detect where the next paper document is placed on the bed 106 or the dimensions or orientation of the paper document(s) freshly loaded onto the scanner bed 106. After another initial scan, the user again must select one or more areas for a high resolution scan before he can capture electronic images.
"Consequently, users are required to operate the scanner twice per document: a preliminary scan first and then a scan at high resolution second. Also, users generally must have a computer connected or associated with the scanner in order to control the scanner and the scanning process to acquire scanned images.
"On the side of the associated computer, for a collection of images, a user is required to open each image successively with the assistance of an image editing software program. The user must manually crop, deskew, remove digital noise, correct a gamma value, invent a name for the file and initiate a save operation to persist the image as a computer file. Such scenario is repeated millions of times every day. Such scenario is tedious and ripe for automation.
"FIG. 5A shows a flowchart of a method 500A for scanning documents with a flatbed scanner in accordance with a known methodology. With reference to FIG. 5A, a user places one or more documents on the bed of a scanner 502. In FIG. 5A, the symbol of a bust 503 indicates that a user typically performs this step manually. The user next presses or selects a preview button 504. A scanner's carriage is activated and moves forward along the bed of the scanner; the scanner scans its bed and captures a (low-resolution) image 506. Next, a document area is defined automatically or programmatically 508. The carriage returns (backward) to a start position 510. A low resolution image is transferred to an associated computer 512. A preview image is displayed 514 on a display that is associated with the computer. An initial border or area is identified for any documents in the image captured by the first scan. One or more areas for further scanning are manually selected 516. Such selection is based upon the first image or preview image returned from the scanner. Next, a user selects a scan button 518 or corresponding software element to initiate a final or non-preview scan.
"In response, the scanner performs a (high resolution) scan of all selected areas 520. Images or files are sent to the associated computer 522. The user usually opens the images in an image editor 524--at least to confirm that images of sufficient quality were captured. The user serially works through the captured images such as by choosing a next image 526. Often, the user optionally and manually crops images captured at the higher resolution 528, manually deskews the images 530, manually removes noise from the images 532, and manually corrects the gamma value associated with the images 534. Next, a user must invent a filename for each file 536, and save each file in an electronic store 538. The user typically works through the images sequentially until each image is saved. When the image is the last one 540, the user closes the image editor 542 and further manually processes the saved images 544 such as by performing OCR on one or more of the images, sending the images via an email client, printing the images, and sharing the images through a social networking website.
"If a user works with an MFP, he cannot perform a preview. In this case, the user selects a functional button on the MFP, for example a button or menu selection corresponding to 'Scan to folder' or 'Scan and E-mail.' Also, the user usually must adjust or select one or more settings of the MFP. For example, the user must select a destination folder on the local network or set an e-mail address, required settings associated with the previously mentioned functions.
"Typically, when a functional button is pressed by a user, the MFP moves its carriage from the front to the back of the bed with a lamp on the carriage turned on. The MFP apparatus scans its entire bed area and makes one electronic image at high resolution. Next the carriage returns back to its initial position. At this point, the lamp on the carriage is turned off, and scanning ceases.
"In this scenario, the user does not have an opportunity to review an initial scan, preview the results of the MFP scanning, or select an area different from the entire bed of the MFP for scanning Instead, he must go to his computer to view the scanned image that has been saved or emailed by the MFP. Upon viewing this image, the user can then optionally crop, deskew, OCR or perform other operations on the image. However, if the scanning were of a book, and the scanning fails to capture the appropriate usable portion of the paper document, the user must again return to the MFP to again perform scanning.
"FIG. 5B shows a flowchart of a method 500B for scanning documents with a multifunctional device or multifunctional printer (MFP) in accordance with a known methodology. With reference to FIG. 5B, a user places one or more documents on the bed or feeder of the MFP 552. The user next presses or selects a function button 554. A scanner's carriage is activated and the scanner (or associated computer) captures a high-resolution image 556. Next, the carriage returns (backward) to a start position 558. A generally high resolution image is saved to local internal electronic storage location, the image being saved with a default or generic serialized name 560. The image or file is transferred 562 according to the function associated with the function button that was previously selected. Next, a user goes to a computer such as a personal computer or computer electronically connected to the MFP 564. A user is required to find the file on a local hard disc or other file location such as in a network shared folder associated with an account of the MFP 566. The user next must determine if a particular file is the image or set of images corresponding to the paper documents that she placed on the MFP initially 568.
"When found, the user usually opens the images in an image editor 570--at least to confirm that images of sufficient quality were captured. Often, the user optionally and manually crops images 572, manually deskews the images 574, manually removes noise from the images 576, and manually corrects a gamma value associated with the images 578. The user may close the image editor 580. Next, a user must invent a filename for each file 582 such as based on its content, and save each file according to its invented filename in an electronic store 584. The user typically works through the images sequentially until each image is saved. When finished naming the files, a user may further manually process the saved images such as by performing OCR on one or more of the images, sending the images via an email client, printing the images, and sharing the images through a social networking website.
"Accordingly, there is substantial opportunity to improve the highly manual process of scanning paper documents and working with images of such documents."
In addition to obtaining background information on this patent application, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent application: "Methods and devices are described for detecting boundaries of documents on flatbed and multi-function scanners on a first pass of a carriage assembly, and then performing a high resolution scan on a second pass. High resolution images of documents can then be obtained with little or no interaction normally necessary to identify areas of interest on the scanner bed. Patterns on the scanner cover or lid facilitate not only edge determination, but orientation of text and other objects, and straightening of images in preparation for OCR and related functions. Certain functions such as functions related to OCR may be automated. For example, images and electronic files derived from paper documents may be automatically cropped, deskewed, OCR'd and named consistent with content or other information derived from paper documents.
"Any of a variety of patterns may be useful when applied to a scanner cover or lid. A pattern may be an image that includes one or more fragments or cyclically repeated designs or patterns. For example, a pattern may be a regular grid formed with uniform lines, a set of stripes running parallel with the scanner bed, two sets of parallel lines, a set of unevenly spaced lines, and a series of dashes, dots or one or more other shape arranged in a variety of configurations.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
"While the appended claims set forth the features of the present invention with particularity, the invention, together with its objects and advantages, will be more readily appreciated from the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. Throughout, like numerals refer to like parts with the first digit of each numeral generally referring to the figure which first illustrates the particular part.
"FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a flatbed scanner according to the known art.
"FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a flatbed scanner according to one implementation of the invention for flatbed scanners.
"FIG. 3 shows a diagram illustrating documents (e.g. checks, business cards) lying on a bed of a flatbed scanner such as the one illustrated in FIG. 2.
"FIG. 4 shows a variety of patterns for a lid, cover or background for a scanner in accordance with various embodiments of the invention.
"FIG. 5A shows a flowchart of a method for scanning documents with a flatbed scanner in accordance with a conventional methodology.
"FIG. 5B shows a flowchart of a method for scanning documents with a multifunctional device or multifunctional printer (MFP) in accordance with a conventional methodology.
"FIG. 6 shows an exemplary implementation of a method for scanning a document according to an embodiment of the invention.
"FIG. 7 shows a table illustrating differences between conventional scanning techniques and scanning according to an embodiment of the invention.
"FIG. 8 shows exemplary hardware (computer) that may be associated with a scanner, hardware for implementing the disclosed procedures on an electronic device, in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure."
For more information, see this patent application: Isaev, Andrey. Using a
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