Xerox opens virtual research lab to public

The company hopes customers will use Open Xerox to test new products and influence its research

Xerox has launched a website allowing customers to test drive its technology research projects, including PDF converters and an Arabic language analyzer.

Open Xerox, launched Thursday, allows participants to use some cutting-edge technology while providing feedback to Xerox, said Victor Ciriza, lab manager at the Xerox Research Centre Europe. Users will be able to incorporate many of the technologies in their own websites, with Xerox providing output through HTML or open APIs (application programming interfaces), he said.

The new website will allow Xerox to have new products that are "robust and well tested," Ciriza said. With the crowd-sourcing site, Xerox is hoping for immediate feedback on the projects so that the company can improve the research, he said.

But the benefits extend beyond the company, he added. "The end user is going to access world-class research on topics that may not accessible through out-of-the-box projects," he said.

For example, the functionality in Xerox's Arabic Morphological Analyzer may not be easy to find elsewhere, Ciriza said. The program accepts modern standard Arabic words and returns morphological analysis and English notation.

The website will also allow users to influence Xerox research and will allow the company to pilot new technologies more easily, Ciriza said.

As of Thursday, 15 research projects were posted at Open Xerox, and the company has another 70 projects in the pipeline, Ciriza said. Eventually, Xerox plans to launch one new project a week on Open Xerox, he said. Many of the projects are new technologies, while others are new versions of existing Xerox products.

Among the first projects listed is Copyfinder, which takes an electronic document and returns the URLs pointing to it, to different versions of the document, and to related documents.

PDF to XML, another research project, has a fairly obvious use. The goal of the Simple Personalized Imaging project, a favorite of Ciriza's, is to allow users to create customized photos, by inserting or replacing text, in less time than tools such as Photoshop.

Trailmeme is a new publishing tool that allows users to tell stories through hyperlinks, with readers able to navigate in both Web-like and book-like ways.

Not all of the research projects will make it into Xerox products, company officials said. Xerox plans to offer a wide variety of projects on the site, although many will be in the area of Xerox's main business lines of imaging, document handling and business process outsourcing, Ciriza said

"The technology will be covering a vast spectrum of use cases or applications," he added.

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