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John Meyer, Director, Digital Imaging and Printing Lab, HP

John MeyerHP dominates the printer market, but that's not the only kind of output the multi-billion-dollar computer giant has a serious stake in.

As director of HP's Digital Imaging and Printing Lab, John Meyer oversees research into digital photography, advanced thermal ink-jet technology, ink research, color science, scanning, display technology and more.

Some of this research may not result in products or may lead to very different products and services than the original research charter. But HP has the deep pockets to explore new areas and is already testing such diverse items as a wearable camera that's always on, performing what HP calls "ubiquitous capture."

HP has developed software that uses artificial intelligence techniques to help pick out the best segments to save. Internetnews.com talked to Meyer about some of HP's latest research and how it's likely to impact both consumer and corporate customers.

Q: What are the most common requests you're getting from IT departments related to printing? Lower prices, quality, more color options?

The digital age has brought with it a ruthless reduction of expense wherever you can find it. We visit with customers and we have analytic programs that look at what their duty cycles and workflow are and we can show them how to optimize that.

In some cases we've even recommended with some of our larger customers that with improved workflow they could use fewer printers. I know that sounds crazy coming from a printer vendor, but our focus is on the customer, and if we can help them it ultimately leads to more business for us.

In the commercial print area it's not just about the press, but the technology that leads to making a document efficiently. There is a big need, for example, for standardization of templates. One customer told me he's supporting up to a thousand different templates with a variety of different updating tools.

Q: HP Labs is about more than printing. What other interesting areas are you working on?

We're focused on the materials and processes that support our imaging products; marking technologies -– anything that makes a mark on paper; advanced ink; paper handling.

As things go more digital and people want to finish what they print and bind it, we're looking at new ways to do that. I have a whole department focused on color. We also do very exploratory work on such things as fuel cells for mobile phones.

Q: How does digital media play into your research?

The worlds of print and electronic media are connected. We are making a sustained effort to improve color quality, and that has fed into our digital photography and printer business.

In the promotional and marketing world, color management is critical, as is being able to guarantee quality of color.

Q: Can you say more about HP's work in the display area?

We're looking at the ability to modulate the pixels and improve displays as more pixels are added. We're also looking at printed electronics.

As people use displays in all kinds of circumstances, there is the possibility of paper-like displays that are flexible and you can read in sunlight. Like paper these are bi-stable, you'll be able to read and write to them.

What's important here is development of low-power requirements so it can be carried around like an electronic book. We don't quite know how this will all work out, but people want ubiquitous access to information, and we think display technology will play a key role.

Q: Is the race to higher and higher megapixel resolution winding down in digital photography?

I think it has to. People like a simple metric, and number of pixels is an easy one, but if you're not a professional it doesn't make sense to go up as high as 12 megapixels.

My guess is it's leveling out to between five and seven megapixels for consumers and 14 to 22 for professional photographers.

Q: What kind of features might be more important in the next few years?

It's the same as for film cameras. You want to be able to use the camera in a wide range of circumstances without a lot of fiddling and for it to be flexible without the red light always saying you can't take a picture.