If you have ever had any sort of passing interest in the cultural phenomenon that is Star Trek, then you will be familiar with the Borg. The Borg are a collection of species that have been assimilated into a single entity, and in the process have been transformed into cybernetic organisms that are effectively drones within the broader hive. They seek perfection. Next stop for assimilation? Printing.
Does robotic printing really exist?
Thanks to the joint venture partnership between Fuji and Xerox (the powerhouses of the printing industry), yes it does. The robot printer is now a reality and is currently being trialled in Japan. How intelligent the printer is and whether it is actually plotting to assimilate us all in its quest for world domination is probably debatable, but it is a very good printer.
Before looking at how it works it is probably best to start from an examination of the problem or need that Fuji Xerox were seeking to address in their creation of the robotic printer. This is all about secure printing – protecting your sensitive documents, data, or information from falling into the wrong hands. There are of course already quite a few different ways that people can ensure secure printing right now, from code words to smart cards and dedicated user accounts. But none of these are quite as cool as robotic printing, none of these would be worthy of assimilation by the Borg.
How does it work?
It is probably easiest to explain it by looking at a printing scenario. Imagine that you are travelling with work, you are in an airport lounge and you need to prepare an important contract that has to be signed at your next meeting. You don’t know who else is in that lounge – it’s highly likely that there could be competitors or journalists all keen to see the information that is contained within the contract that you’re preparing. If the lounge is equipped with robotic printing then you have nothing to worry about. Each desk is allocated a unique printing code. Once the print command has been issued then the Fuji Xerox office printer moves to the desk that the print command has been issued from. The user presents a smart card to confirm identity and the documents are printed and readied for collection. Easy. Secure. Safe.
The Borg work out
Notice that you never see any fat Borg drones on Star Trek? I’m guess that at some point during the assimilation process the need to eat is eliminated as being an inefficient use of time. It is something to think about though – if you are not getting up from your desk to collect the printing, what exercise are you getting? Don’t give up on that gym membership just yet!
The robotic printer from Fuji Xerox may not be anywhere close to being as sexy as Seven of Nine (another Star Trek reference) but it is an intriguing step forward in the direction of our robotic future, a future where printing is delivered to you and resistance is futile.