Miami University Associate Professor of computer science and software engineering William Brinkman and junior Matt Hodges have been working on an Android application designed to revolutionize the way books are shelved in libraries.
According to Brinkman, when held in front of a shelf of books, the app uses augmented reality to view the books and then displays to the user which ones are out of place. The app does this by reading a special tag on the spine of each book and then displaying a green check or a red “X,” depending on whether or not the book is in its place. This all happens instantaneously, according to Brinkman.
“Once you download it, you start the app, point it at the shelf and it just works,” Brinkman said.
Brinkman and Hodges said they started working on the project in hopes of designing a useful application of augmented reality, which more or less superimposes digital data on the real world.
“The technology of augmented reality has been around for a while, but there aren’t that many useful applications of it,” Hodges said.
Brinkman said the app would save time and money for library workers who currently have to spend a lot of time shelving books, leaving more time for working with people and research.
Getting the project up and running in libraries will be expensive, Brinkman said, noting for the app the work, a special tag needs to be generated and applied to each book. But he hopes that it will be worth it.
“In the end, libraries can’t afford to waste a bunch of money on something just because it’s cool,” he said.
Elizabeth Brice, assistant dean of digital and technical services for the university libraries, sees promise in the app.
“It certainly looks like it has some potential,” Brice said. “Shelf-reading does take a lot of time. This could certainly save time.”
Though the app is still just a prototype, Brinkman said the hope is to have the app available for use by this coming November. The project will continue as a capstone class next semester, Brinkman said. Hodges will continue to develop the phone application while other students work on software for the book tags.
Brinkman and Hodges are designing the app to work specifically for libraries on campus, but according to Brinkman, after more development the app could be used in more places than just King Library.
“We’re going to try to extend this to work on the Dewey Decimal System,” Brinkman said.
He added that the app could eventually be put into place at bookstores as well.