Xerox researchers are developing a way to change the colours in a computer document using natural language commands such as "make the background carnation pink" or "make the blues slightly less purple".
Colour control systems tend to be complex, so most consumers who need colour images colour images and documents have trouble making adjustments, Xerox Innovation Group research scientist Geoff Woolfe notes in a paper that describes prototype "natural language colour editing" technology.
"Today, especially in the office environment, there are many non-experts who know how they would like colour to appear but have no idea how to manipulate the colour to get what they want," Woolfe said. "You shouldn't have to be a colour expert to make the sky a deeper blue or add a bit of yellow to a sunset."
Xerox has made prototypes of natural language devices that would let users change colours by giving voice commands or typing words and phrases like "slightly less yellow", "much darker", "more saturated", "greener", "significantly punchier", or a "smidge lighter".
These expressions are less precise than numerical colour encodings used in colour image-processing and device-control applications , but more useful to typical consumers, Woolfe writes. Facilitating the use of natural language is not easy: Xerox researchers have faced complications while developing a mapping structure that translates natural language colour specifications into the more precise numerical descriptions.
"First, there is no uniquely defined natural colour language," Woolfe writes. "The words and grammar used to describe colour can vary based on culture, geographical location, professional affiliation and individual preference. Second, the boundaries between named colours are not precisely defined -- indeed; they are somewhat fuzzy and can vary, to some extent, between individuals."
Current technology often requires specialised training to effectively adjust colours, according to Woolfe. The new methods being developed by Xerox could allow more people to manipulate colours without having to hire a graphics professional or printer.
"Colour graphics professionals require extensive training and experience to successfully and efficiently manipulate controls in such applications to achieve an aesthetic effect that can be stated simply and concisely in verbal terms," Woolfe writes. "It is advantageous therefore to provide a natural language interface for colour adjustment and image processing applications to address this usability issue."
The Xerox application uses a dictionary of 267 colour names composed of one to three words each. This includes simple names like red and green, names with hue-modifiers like yellowish-green or reddish-blue, and colour names that utilise modifiers distinguishing levels of lightness and colourfulness, such as dark, light, pale or vivid.
The research paper does not say when this technology might be made available to consumers.
Find your next job with computerworld UK jobs