For the past eight years, Google has been working on digitizing the world’s 130 million or so unique books. While the pace of new additions to the Google Books initiative has been slowing down, members of the team have come up with a new automated scanner design that could both make the project much more cost efficient and give everyone with $1,500 and a little know-how access to a page-turning scanner of their very own. In the video below, Google Books engineer Dany Qumsiyeh presents the prototype design that he and other teammates created during the "20 percent time" that Google (and now Apple, among others) allocates for personal projects, showing the design challenges he overcame along the way.
The scanner uses air suction from an ordinary vacuum cleaner to isolate individual pages, scanning the front and back in one pass along the device's prism-shaped body. After a quick 40-second setup, it can digitize a 1000-page book in a little over 90 minutes (although that could be easily improved with a faster motor), and unlike many popular scanners on the market it doesn’t require anyone to man the controls once it’s been set in motion. But what makes the project really intriguing is that all of the plans have been open sourced with open patents, meaning you’re free to experiment, build on Qumsiyeh’s design, and even sell derivative scanners without worrying about Google’s army of lawyers swooping down on you. With half of Qumsiyeh's $1,500 price tag being eaten up by the scanner he tore apart for parts, we'd say there's still a lot of room for optimization.