They're calling the process 'book flipping scanning'. It allows one to scan a book by simply flipping its pages in front of a a high-speed camera. Currently, it can digitize a 200-page book in a minute.
Here's the details, courtesy of the robotics blog of IEEE Spectrum:
The camera operates at 500 frames per second, with a resolution of 1280 by 1024 pixels. For each frame, the system alternates between two capture modes. First it shines regular light on the page and captures text and images. Then a laser device projects lines on the page and the camera captures that as well.
The scanned pages are curved and distorted, but the researchers found a way to fix that. The laser pattern allows the system to obtain a page's three-dimensional deformation using active stereo methods. So they wrote software that builds a 3-D model of the page and reconstructs it into a regular, flat shape.
As with all prototypes there are issues. Resolution, missed pages and the scanner's fingers all present challenges. Over time these should all be worked out.
And here's the kicker- "in the future, they hope to simplify and miniaturize it for integration into portable devices like a smartphone. So one day you might be able to flip the pages of a book in front of your iPhone and get a digitized version in seconds."
The Google plane is on the way to Tokyo.
Previously on Book Patrol:
The Hands of Google
Digitize Your Own Books: How to Build Your Own Automated Scanner
Thanks to Boing Boing for the lead