If you've ever worked in a library, you're familiar with the drudgery of shelf reading. That's the process of verifying that all the books on a shelf are in the right order, based on their call numbers. Books get out of order fairly easily, when they're taken off the shelf and examined, for example, or when they're just stuck in the wrong place.
Miami University's Augmented Reality Research Group (MU ARRG! - that exclamation point, I confess, is my addition), led by Professor Bo Brinkman, has developed an Android app that could save librarians a lot of time and hassle. Using the Android's camera, the app "reads" a bookshelf, and with an AR overlay, quickly flags those books that are misplaced. It will also point to the correct place on the bookshelf so the book can easily be re-shelved correctly.
The app can also aid with inventory, generating a report of what a library really has on its shelves.
There are a few drawbacks. Thin books, such as those found in the children's section, would be difficult to tag. Also, this prototype only uses 16 bits? on the tag, but Brinkman says the group is working on a version that would allow them to put around 72 bits on a tag, allowing the system to scale up to work with any library collection.
The app was developed by undergraduate research assistant Matt Hodges, and it will be demoed next month at the Association of College and Research Libraries 2011 conference.