Xerox Moves R&D Headquarters to Boston (Kind Of)—Looking to Network, Develop Green Technologies, and Hit the Airport Faster
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at PARC and text and image content processing and data mining work at Xerox Research Centre Europe in Grenoble, for instance, can be used to facilitate such tasks as automatic scanning of documents for key facts relevant to a case: “When was Bob talking to the mayor, and where were they?”
—Mass customization. Here’s a stat Vandebroek threw out: the worldwide offset printing market is some $600 billion, still five times as big as digital printing. Xerox’s goal is to help “digitize all these mass-produced items and ultimately be able to [customize them] at the individual level.” The aim is to allow people to print just what they want—including certain sections of a newspaper or chapters of a book—on demand. “I think the more you digitize, the less waste there will be, and hence the better [it will be] for the environment,” she says. Much of this work goes on at the Webster center.
—Sustainability. This is a huge area of concentration for Xerox that overlaps work in the other two focus areas. It includes things like solid ink printers (Mississauga, PARC, and Webster), which Vandebroek says generate only 5 percent of the waste associated with laser printers; high-yield paper (Webster) made with a process that produces two times as much paper from a tree as conventional techniques; and reusable paper (Mississauga, PARC) that automatically erases itself after a set amount of time. Vandebroek says the reusable paper research evolved from Xerox’s anthropologists noticing that some 45 percent of paper in offices was going into the recycling bin within in 48 hours. Xerox has already made some prototype paper. The biggest surprise, and potential stumbling block, she says, is that user tests show that people want to control the amount of time it takes the paper to erase itself. That is a much more difficult technological problem than creating a product with a standard expiration date.
Vandebroek says she is looking forward to testing Xerox’s research ideas from her new home office. “I’m actually at the seam of experiments personally,” she says. “I’m always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.”