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This robot from Zuta Labs may change the way you print

Ian Paul, | July 4, 2014
The future of portable printing is rolling slowly across a piece of A4 paper on a hot Thursday afternoon in Jerusalem's early summer. After what seems like an eternity compared to an inkjet device, the prototype creates seven characters with two spaces; the end result looks like it was spit out of an aging dot matrix printer.

But is anybody really printing anymore? We often communicate via email, fill out applications on websites, and view photos on our PCs, phones, and tablets. For those times we do need to print, solutions like Google Cloud Print and Apple's AirPrint make it possible to print online from anywhere, on any device, and have our documents waiting for us at home or the office. Buy maybe you don't need that tabletop printer if printing is such a rare occasion. Maybe all you need is a tiny little printer sitting in your drawer or bag.

That basic appeal of using the Pocket Printer to create hardcopies in a pinch was incentive enough for 3,081 backers to pledge $500,000 to Zuta Labs in a month. Nearly 2,500 of those backers paid enough to get one of the first printers slated to start shipping in January 2015. Those aren't Pebble smartwatch numbers, but with backers pledging $180 to $300 each for an early Pocket Printer, the company may have tapped into a real desire for printing on the go.

The Pocket Printer has also gained interest from investors, and the company recently initiated a round of venture funding that it hopes to close in the coming weeks. Without naming any names, Elbaum says a number of manufacturers, distributors, and large retailers are interested in the Pocket Printer as well.

A fresh take on old tech

The Pocket Printer was born out of Elbaum's desire to scratch his own proverbial itch. "I had the idea in college." said Elbaum, who co-founded Zuta Labs with his Jerusalem College of Technology classmate Matan Caspi. "Every once in a while, I had to print, but I had to wait until I got home or to the office. So I went online looking for a mobile printer. It came basically from that."

Most mobile printers you can buy today are just smaller versions of the larger peripheral you have at home. One exception: the Brother PocketJet, a thermal printer that measures 10 inches long, about 2 inches deep and weighs a pound. That's a giant compared to the Pocket Printer, which is aiming to measure less than 4 inches high, around 4.5 inches in diameter and weigh a little more than half a pound.

Using the robotic printer will also be similar to what you do now. If you're on a PC or Mac, the device will appear to your system just like any other printer. For mobile, the company plans to release apps for Android and iOS that will allow you to print from your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. The apps can also track ink levels, battery life, and create custom print jobs.


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