A pair of Taiwan researchers have designed what they believe to be the first webcam-equipped antenna that can be unfolded from a laptop PC for quick scans of lengthy documents.
Graduate students Wang Chi and Lai Chih-wei at the National Taipei University of Technology spent a month designing the 20-centimeter long, 1.5-centimeter thick steel antenna with the goal of capturing massive library files that cannot be taken home.
Users hold the webcam over a page facing up on a table next to the laptop, which takes a picture. They can then flip quickly to the document's next page, sparing the time required to scan the same document by placing each page face down on a machine and pressing a button.
Users can buy external webcams with a USB cable to do the same job, but Wang's and Lai's design is meant to come already attached to the laptop.
And laptop users seldom carry scanners around.
"Because in our personal lives we encounter this kind of problem, we set about finding a way to solve it," Wang said in an interview.
Webcam images look as sharp as scans, he said, and they can be looked at anytime, anywhere. Webcams are used more often for PC-to-PC video-conferencing and occasionally linked to cyber-spying accusations.
The invention won a silver prize in a notebook PC design contest sponsored by Taiwan-based Elitegroup Computer Systems. Judges found that the tool gave "fresh value" to an existing PC, the company's industrial design technology department said in a statement.
"Although we currently have no further plan to implement it, it could be a good concept for reference when we develop a new product," the statement said.
Now the inventors are talking to a teacher in their department about how to mass produce the tool.
A small order could be costly, Wang estimated, but the unit price would fall if the tool were mass manufactured. He declined to name possible prices.
"We of course hope that our design can somehow be marketed," Wang said.