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DEMO: Xerox 'Color By Words' uses simple language to get great pictures

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September 24, 2009

Karen Braun, Xerox color research scientist, helped develop a natural language that allows...

Karen Braun, Xerox color research scientist, helped develop a natural language that allows users to simply describe the color they want. (Photo: Kevin Rivoli)

If you’re not a graphic designer, you may have struggled in the past to get your personal photos looking their best when relying on your printer’s color adjustment settings. Complex color wheels, sliders, brightness and contrast editors, and highlight tools all look handy – until you try to use them. Xerox has devised Natural Language Color Editing technology that allows you to adjust the colors in your printed documents by accessing plain English phrases. A drop-down Color By Words menu on your computer offers phrases like: ‘Make the blues a lot more vibrant’, which will then do just that across the entire document or image. Combining words can form thousands of different phrases to deliver the results you want. You can watch the demo video below or test drive the technology for yourself via the link at the end of this story.

The technology, to be showcased on Open Xerox, is available on the new Xerox Phaser 7500® color printer. Using easy-to-understand phrases such as ‘Make the skin-tone colors slightly more warm,’ you can adjust color in specific areas of an image. This has far-reaching implications for today’s office worker, graphic artist, printer or photographer.

Xerox says: “You shouldn’t have to be a color scientist to get the right color where you want it. We created a tool that is as natural and as easy to use as simply describing what you want to change. The tool allows customers to meet ever-tighter deadlines by bringing color printing tasks in-house, right to the desktop.”

Unlike current color printers and multifunction printers, the new Xerox technology can alter the color in specific areas of the image without affecting the rest of the document. If the sky in your image looks too dark, you simply choose words from a drop-down menu such as ‘Make the sky blues lighter’ and in seconds the proper instructions are sent to the printer and the resulting image is printed.

Translating complex color attributes

Xerox explains that color scientists use special measurement instruments (called colorimeters) to associate numbers with specific attributes of light or dark, color name or vividness and arrange these colors in a three-dimensional volume the printer understands. The technology behind Natural Color Language technology translates these human descriptions for color – such as ‘dark blue’ or ‘brilliant yellow’ into the mathematical algorithms that tell the printer to edit that specific hue.

Xerox says it used focus groups to help determine how people specified colors, as well as distinguishing between different colors and shades. “Specifying an exact color name for a set of numbers is no simple task because there are many ‘fuzzy edges’ when it comes to describing color. For example, when does blue become ‘greenish blue’ or ‘bluish green’? Is there a difference between the two?

“We tested thousands of images and word combinations to ensure the phrasing offered would accurately correct the color. The software can create over 50,000 possible different color variations instantly translating the color language.”

Try it yourself

You can take a test drive of the technology in English, Italian, German, and Spanish here. Feedback can be left at the users’ forum.

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