The Spector Typography Sensor Makes Design Dreams Come True

But can it save us all from Comic Sans?

Vimeo/ Fiona O'Leary

Typography is important. If you’re a website designer, book maker, or decided to get an impulsive tattoo after a night of drinking with your college friends, the font you choose is going to be hugely important for every one of your readers (depending on where the tattoo is). Sure, Times New Roman is a pretty safe bet, but fonts are a complicated, subtle, and nuanced concept that can influence the tone and theme of how words read on a screen or on the page. Just ask Comic Sans.

Like photography, the business of printing has major differences between digital and hard-copy products. Often, typefaces look different on a screen than they do on the page, and when they’re in hard copy, there’s no way to easily recognize the subtle difference between say “Times” and “Times New Roman.” Until now, at least. Fiona O’Leary was tired of struggling to find the right font online or in Adobe InDesign, only to have it look completely different when printed out. So she designed Spector, a tennis ball-sized device that can scan and analyze colors and typefaces with the push of a button and import them to your computer for use in digital design.

The design is simple — Spector takes a picture, and then its algorithms analyze the print or color, identifying it from a font and color database. It can transfer this information directly to your computer and swap out the scanned font for whatever you were using, or store data for up to 20 scans if you’re on the go.

Check it out in action:

The device is still just a working prototype, but O’Leary hopes to have a commercial model out eventually. It currently only recognizes seven typefaces, but will eventually expand to add more. While Wired reports that the device could contribute to typeface piracy (which is a real concern in the creative industry), O’Leary says she sees it as more of an educational tool.

Either way, if you ever find yourself in the situation where you just have to know what font someone’s tattoo is in, you can just scan them with Spector (note: please don’t actually do this, people deserve their personal space).