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Searchable Paper

Last updated Oct 30, 2022 Edit Source

Pencil and paper is a very versatile combination. You can write, graph, doodle, and shade. You get the tactile pleasure of holding a nice object in your hands and creating something physical right in front of you.

You can shuffle sheets of paper around on a desk, place them in a stack, or fold one into a paper airplane and send it to someone. Paper is the primary medium for information transfer in the physical world.

Rather than having computers replace paper, what if they could expand its possibilities? It seems like handwriting recognition is just getting to a place where a photo of a handwritten page can be parsed into text pretty well. I bet this experience could be improved even further with some training of an ML model on one’s own handwriting.

What’s stopping us from positioning a high resolution camera above our desks at all times? Then when we write down anything, a computer could parse the text and track which page it’s on. It could maintain a catalog of not only what has been written, but where. We should be able to search our entire index of handwritten notes to get a list of search results pages back. Want to retrieve a particular page? The system could tell us not only the x and y coordinates but how many pages deep in a stack it is.

Where can we go from here? Serving markdown content right from these notes? Editing a website with an eraser?! How about your whole backend?

If find this interesting, you might also like Bret Victor, Omar Rizwan, or Batou’s Augmented Desk