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Soon,a networking site for bookworms

Nikhil Balram,a guest professor and chief executive of Silicon Valley-based Ricoh Innovations,came to the institute last year for a workshop on turning technical innovations into plausible businesses and demonstrated his company’s visual search technology,challenging students to think of a commercial use.

Written by Adam Halliday | Ahmedabad | Published: September 25, 2012 5:51:46 am

Two students of the Indian Institute of Technology,Gandhinagar (IIT-Gn) have used a Japanese firm’s visual search technology to build a social networking site for bookworms hooked to academic publications. Having tested it among fellow students on campus,they now plan to launch it nationwide by December.

Nikhil Balram,a guest professor and chief executive of Silicon Valley-based Ricoh Innovations,came to the institute last year for a workshop on turning technical innovations into plausible businesses and demonstrated his company’s visual search technology,challenging students to think of a commercial use.

“It’s like having a magic lens on your smartphone where you’re reading something and you say,‘Well,I’d like to know more about this’,take a picture,connect to our server,we recognise it and connect you to whatever online content that article’s owner wants you to see,” said Balram,adding the company “developed it over five years ago but had not yet come up with an application for it”.

Among several ideas proposed,he picked the one by fourth-year engineering students Adit Gupta and Tarkeshwar Singh,which was to make books even on material sciences a hot topic for online social discussion and name it something catchy,like “Booksnap”.

“Whenever you go to a library,there are tens of thousands of books and you don’t know which one to read,so you call up tour friends and borrow one based on what they recommend,you read a bit of it,come back,return it and probably have to go through the whole cycle again. This network simplifies that process,” said Tarkeshwar,an electrical engineering student.

There are various uses for Booksnap,which employs a registration process similar to other social networking sites and which has an accompanying app compatible with smartphones.

One use,as its creators explain,is for those times when,just before exams,a student has little time and too many books to read.

In such a situation,the student can click a picture of the books likely to be more important and put it on the network,where the index looks for matches and,if found,shows a list of comments and reviews about the book and it’s contents. Conversely,users can log on and see what other students in the same field are reading.

Other functions would be search options for books already indexed on the network,“spaces” for groups of students with similar interests,and the option of “following” books,where updates on the book is notified to subscribing users via email.

Additionally,individual pages of a book could also be indexed and used for instructional purposes.

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