‘Magic Bookmark’ Revealed as Key to Augmented Reality Books | Books
We’ve had e-books, audiobooks and of course good old-fashioned printed books – but could there soon be another way to read? The so-called “augmented reality books” – dubbed “a-books” by their creators – are one step closer to mass production after a six-year project by researchers at the University of Surrey.
While e-book readers are used to being able to access basic information and additional features, a-books would allow users to slide their fingers over a line in a printed physical book and bring up related content. on their phones, laptops or smart TVs.
The technology’s primary business focus is likely to be useful with travel guides and educational books, but could also be adapted to fiction, says Radu Sporea, a senior lecturer at the university’s Institute of Advanced Technology. .
A reader could, for example, run their finger over a character’s name to bring up their backstory on their phone, or get a callback to storylines from previous books in a series.
While these features are generally available for eBooks, the challenge has been finding a way to scale the technology to a physical volume “without ruining the reading experience of a paper book,” Sporea said.
“Obviously books have a lot of appeal for what we might call their ‘book’, the fact that they’re on paper and you manipulate them in a certain way, but there’s the limitation of that information being static,” he said. The challenge was how to integrate the additional information “seamlessly” without “breaking your reading experience”.
The research team has just unveiled its third-generation a-book, having experimented with a number of techniques, including the use of inks that react to light and activate when you turn a page. This method has proven to be unviable outside of a laboratory because “there is not enough protection against oxygen and humidity in the atmosphere,” Sporea said.
The latest solution is to embed ultra-thin solar panels between the two halves of a single sheet of paper, which activate the properties of the a-book when a “magic bookmark” is placed on a page. The team is now working on developing the paper to be less “bulky and thick,” Sporea said.
The project has so far received government funding of £900,000 and the team hope to attract interest from business and the book industry to help develop and further refine the technology.
A physical example of book technology in action is the Climate Domesday Book, which will be on display later this year in the UK and Australia, and which plays video and audio on the nearest screen, related with the passages highlighted by the reader.