For all the talk of “paperless offices,” go into just about any modern workplace and you’ll find stacks of documents piled up on shelves. Everyone realizes that this volume of paperwork is bad for the planet, bad for efficiency, and bad for the mental well-being of the poor temps who get called in to record them on a spreadsheet. Fortunately, robots are here to steal yet another job — although, in this case, it’s a job that very few people would want.
The startup solving this problem is Ripcord, which has developed a giant machine for scanning documents at record-breaking speeds. If scanning documents quickly doesn’t exactly sound like rocket science, then consider that Ripcord’s “robots” also have to be able to deal with things like automatically finding and removing staples, as well as adjusting to documents of all kinds of sizes.
Not only this, but Ripcord’s machine promises to scan documents in a way that makes them instantly and easily searchable after the fact. Heck, it will even make the data readable to a variety of established business systems and workflows. No wonder it has secured $65 million in funding from major investors, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
“One of the key breakthroughs at Ripcord that enabled our machines to handle the highly unstructured input of documents and fasteners was our vision system,” Kevin Hall, Ripcord’s chief technology officer and co-founder, told Digital Trends. “This technology intelligently recognizes sheets and fasteners of various types and sizes, distinguishes between folded or cut-edges, and identifies real staples from photocopied ones with sub-millimeter accuracy. By continually learning and sharing data across our fleet of machines, our approach is able to adapt to new content types and guide the robotic hardware to effectively handle this ever-changing input.”
Hall said that Ripcord was created after its founders stumbled upon the fact that billions of boxes of paper data are piled up in warehouses around the world — and the problem is only getting worse. “In 2014, we were shocked to learn that most businesses were used to waiting days or weeks to access paper data, and that digitization costs and timelines were sky-high due to heavily manual processes,” he continued. “Ripcord was founded on this realization, and we set out to leverage modern robotics and machine learning technologies to radically change the speed, quality, and scale of digitization.”
Automating the records management industry might not be quite as sexy as, say, building an artificial intelligence to replace lawyers. However, it’s a field that’s crucial in just about every industry under the sun. And while it won’t solve the problem of our over-reliance on paper on its own, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.