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.

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