Xerox Content Technology Dreams of Genie

A future Xerox technolgy uses a content "genie" that wants to take the parts of a page and free you from having to put them back together.

Researchers at Xeroxs thinktank this week gave a peek at a number of technologies, including one automated document design and creation that uses so-called genetic algorithms to pick the right look and feel.

So who needs a graphic designer?

Thats not exactly the question posed by a new breed of software being developed by Xerox, but its close. At Xeroxs Solutions and Services Technology Center in Webster, New York, researchers are working on automated document design software that takes the text, graphics, and other elements that might be parts of a complex document and flows them iteratively into example page layouts.

Rather than replacing the graphic artist, Xeroxs software is designed to function like a page layout genie that looks over the shoulder of the person creating a document, whether the person is an artist or a graphically-challenged office worker. The automated document-layout software starts with raw content such as text, graphics, headlines, and diagrams, then arranges them in accordance with sound design principles until the software comes up with pages that look good. If the user adds more elements—more text, graphics, or pictures—the software automatically redesigns the pages.

Genetic algorithms in the software pick the best design, and Xeroxs programmers built the algorithms to follow the example nature sets in the way it picks the best genes. That is, the application examines many "species," eliminating those that arent good enough and allowing the most fit to survive. Once provided with the elements of a document, the software can present the viewer many iterative examples of how they all might be put together. Users can provide rules that must be observed in producing the iterative page layouts—preservation of logo colors, restrictions on the amount of page overmatter, and more.

"As an example of this automation," says Lisa Purvis, Xerox research scientist, "lets say youve created a brochure with many elements in portrait orientation, but youd like to see how the document might work in landscape orientation. The software will rearrange all the elements in that orientation and can present you with many examples of how landscape layouts might look. If you see one you like, you can accept it." In this sense, the software is somewhat like a dynamic, automated desktop publisher.

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