When I was in high school, I never took advantage of getting my yearbooks. It’s actually been one of my biggest regrets in life and I was recently able to remedy that issue because I reconnected with an old friend and she had the yearbooks I was missing out on. So, I asked her if I could borrow them to copy them. Now, if you’ve ever tried to copy a book you know what a pain it can be. If you use a typical copier, the book won’t lay flat enough to capture a good image. Fortunately, I had access to the CZUR Aura Smart Book Scanner to help with this quest.
CZUR is a high-tech company founded in 2013. They focus on Smart Hardware Solutions and CZUR entered the office equipment sector with a Smart Scanner Solution that was designed to quickly scan bound materials. In 2018, they announced the launch of a new smartbook scanner with side lights called “Aura”. The device scans books, magazine, objects, and any other paper documents at commercial speeds through AI technology. It features their own patented Curve Flattening technology. The Aura can also be used as a table lamp. CZUR released Aura on Indiegogo at a discounted price and it was full funded on December 8, 2018. As of today, CZUR is estimating units will be delivered to backers in March 2019 (click here to get an estimate on your delivery if you provided funding through Indiegogo).
The Aura comes packaged with a foot pedal, charger, finger cots, USB cable, CD, user manual and other paperwork, and a black work mat. Once it’s set-up, the scanner will capture a page within about 2 seconds and pages up to A3 sizes. The lamp is lightweight and only weighs 1.5kg.
Getting the Aura set-up is pretty easy. As a lamp, you simply have to unfold the arm from the base and plug it in. You can control the lamp manually by pressing the power knob and turning it to determine the brightness level or you can use app control. As a lamp, I felt that the Aura was above average. It has a very bright light and it’s easily adjustable. As nice as the Aura is as a lamp, I was really interested in it as a scanner.
So, when I got to the scanning operation of the device, I have to admit that I was a little lost at first. First of all, CZUR has multiple applications to use with their products. I actually downloaded the incorrect one first. I actually had to end up going all the way to CZUR’s support page to find the correct software. With that in mind, I would love to see CZUR’s website reorganized so that it is easier for customers to find what they need. I know that the Aura is a new product and is still technically not ‘in the market’ yet, but there is nothing about it on their website. So, when I started having issues with getting started, I didn’t have anywhere to look. I’m hopeful that they will fix this in the near future.
When you are scanning with the Aura, you will want to connect the foot pedal to the Aura and the USB cable from the Aura to your computer. You will also need to use the black work mat (provided) to ensure that captured images don’t have interference from bouncing light from a table surface. It is also the basis of smart algorithms. To enter scanning mode, you press/hold the power knob for > 1 second and then short press the knob again. This should activate the LCD screen that is located on top of the lamp arm. From here, you will want to ensure that the black mat covers the entire screen. It is suggested that you will not want to scan anything near bright lights because it affects the processing of documents. I found that you essentially have to be in a dark room in order for images to be captured with clarity. Once you begin a capture, you will need to make sure you don’t move the book or document or it will cause a horrendous blur across the screen. You will also want to use the Finger Cots (provided) or the fingerprint erasing function may be affected.
With the Aura set-up and the basic instructions understood, I began scanning the precious yearbooks I had collected. I found that because the pages were glossy, I had to use the side lamps only otherwise there was a horrible glare on the pages when they were captured. I actually capture the book in two ways — first as a two-page spread and second as individual pages. I found that the two-page spread didn’t remove the finger cots automatically, but he individual page method did. The only issue with it is that the cots are removed, but there is an awful blur/smudge left on the page.
I have included some examples of the images I captured during this scanning process to demonstrate the differences in a few scanning methods. The first is the two-page spread. As you can see, the yellow finger cots are still included and you can see the entirety of the pages — including the spine. The next example is the individual page capture from the Aura. I haven’t edited the photos (except to resize them and place them side-by-side) so what you are seeing is the raw capture from the Aura. Even though the image included the smudge from the finger cot, it did remove the curve from the facing pages nearly 100%.
After looking at the images that were saved to the computer, I wasn’t entirely happy with them, so I decided to see what it would look like if I captured the same pages using an iPhone using the app Scanner Pro by READDLE. The app has proved itself to be an asset to me many times over. So, I gave it a shot. In this example, I was still using the side light from the Aura and the black mat. I tried to place the camera of the iPhone in the same approximate place as the Aura’s camera to get the full effect. As you can see, the images are not as dark as the ones captured from the Aura, but there is a glare across the top of the page that is more prominent than when using the Aura.
Finally, I decided to simply take pictures of the yearbook pages using an iPhone XS Max. I positioned the book near a window where some nice natural light was spilling into the room. Aside from the page curl, I think this actually produced the nicest result. It’s shown below as two separate pages, but you can see that the images actually appear more crips and not blown out as black and white.
While I definitely appreciate the speed of the scanner and think it’s useful for capturing some types of books, I’m not sure it was ideal for my project. I wasn’t as impressed with the Aura’s performance as I thought I would be and as it turned out, I was able to get the same — if not better results — in less time, by using an advanced scanning app that is available on iOS devices. It’s true that the Aura is a much better option than a flatbed scanner or copying machine, but with the advanced camera systems included on smartphones these days, I think it’s much smarter — and less expensive — to invest in a professional-level app for book scanning projects like this.