Xerox Scientists Create Computer Language to Describe Color

Scientists at Xerox said they have created a computer language that allows users to more precisely define color tones.

Document management and technology giant Xerox Corporation announced a computer language that allows translates detailed human descriptions of color - such as "brilliant yellow" - into mathematical algorithms that tell a computer how to edit that specific hue. To develop the Natural Language Color technology, Xerox color scientists used special measurement instruments called colorimeters to associate numbers with specific attributes of light or dark, color name and vividness.

Xerox said unlike current color printers and applications that use wheel or slide color editors offering limited changes to brightness or contrast across the entire image, Xerox's technology can alter the color in specific areas of the image without affecting the rest of the document. The proper instructions are sent to the printer and the resulting image is printed. The company also announced plans to expand Natural Language Color technology to more printers, multifunction systems, and other Xerox workflows in the future.

"You shouldn't have to be a color scientist to get the right color where you want it," said Karen Braun, herself a color scientist at the Xerox Research Center Webster in New York. "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."

Braun's team of color scientists, engineers, and work-practice specialists studied focus groups to learn how people describe and distinguish between different colors as well as different shades. The team found people were surprisingly consistent with each other in their use of color language. "Xerox performed thousands of experimental observations to ensure that the phrasing accurately adjusts the colors," she said. "With more than 65 words in its vocabulary, the software can create over 50,000 possible color variations of the user's picture."

Xerox has provided a video of Braun demonstrating how to change colors in an image using Natural Language Color, as well as an online demo the technology translates detailed human descriptions of color into the mathematical algorithms that computers and printers understand. Some phrases include simple commands such as "Make the blues a lot more vibrant" or "Make the skin-tone colors slightly more warm," to adjust color in specific areas of an image. In the demo, users can change color in specific areas of a photograph without needing to use editing software. While the company notes scientists at Xerox are still researching the software, a version of the technology now is available as the Color By Words feature of the recently announced Xerox Phaser 7500 color printer.