By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Kodak trotted out several research scientists and a number of technology demos for the press on the anniversary of its EasyShare system to make the pitch that, despite its analog legacy, the company is at the forefront of “digital innovation.”
With the initial EasyShare system, Kodak sought to simplify the experience of capturing and moving images off of the camera to the PC, said Pierre Schaeffer, Kodak consumer digital imaging group VP and chief marketing officer. The company's printer dock was an effort to simplify home printing. The next step, he added, was tackling issues of the “digital workflow.”
“We used to talk about ease of use, but there could be a thousand 'easy' steps in a process.” The new watchword, Schaefer said, was “smart convenience,” which would streamline the process of finding, sharing and creating with digital images.
Elements of this new phase in the EasyShare's evolution are visible in the EasyShare One's wireless networking and in the recently announced Kodak Voice service co-developed with VoIP provider Skype, Schaefer said. But it was for the innovations not yet commercialized that Kodak invited its senior research scientist Dale McIntyre to the podium.
McIntyre demonstrated several concepts and technologies that he later said were in various stages of development and would likely be deployed in both Kodak's EasyShare Gallery Web site and its consumer software.
Only one — a high-speed digital photo scanner — was already in the market. That scanner can batch-scan hundreds of photo prints in minutes to create high-resolution files that can be burned to CD or DVD. Software under development would automatically date those pictures and, since the scanner can read both sides of the photo, add any written information scribbled on the back of the photo into the picture file.
One demo involved using the Wi-Fi-enabled EasyShare One to place a Skype call while simultaneously e-mailing a photo. Another involved a technology, dubbed Konga, for sending digital images via instant messaging. Images could be streamed from PC-to-PC, while recipients could pick and choose which they wanted to save or print.
Kodak is pursuing solutions to the confusion that is the “digital shoebox” — consumer's hard drives — where thousands of image files sit unorganized and unnamed, McIntyre said. The company has hinted at several of these solutions, such as facial recognition software, for years now.
That technology can scan a photo archive and return pictures with specific faces. An “intelligent albuming” program was also shown. It can scan and organize photos based on their composition (landscapes grouped with landscapes, etc.) and automatically create photo products — such as hardbound books — based on scenes or events.
Echoing themes aired by company president Antonio Perez during International CES, Schaefer said that the 100-year-old company would retain its heritage of one-button simplicity while breaking from the analog past. Just as digital audio has ushered in new modes of interaction with music, so too will digital imaging transform how we relate to pictures, he said.
“The old doesn't dictate what the new is about,” Schaeffer added.
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