Augmented Reality Is Coming to Printed Books and Magazines

With augmented reality technologies in digitally printed books and magazines, readers will be able to use their smartphones to access explanatory videos, supplementary websites, and online discussion groups. Authors, designers, and publishers may have to change the way they plan their content if readers begin to expect “connected books,”

At the PRINT 17 show, I picked up two books and a magazine that demonstrated augmented reality technologies that publishers could use to make printed publications more interactive.

Book: Introduction to Graphic Communication

Two leading experts in printing and publishing technologies showed a prototype of an updated edition of the popular textbook, “Introduction to Graphic Communication.” The goal is to show designers and publishers how they can combine the permanence of print with the vitality of interactive communications.

The key to making the hybrid print/digital book possible is a new Clickable Paper technology from Ricoh. Unlike scannable QR codes that only connect readers to a single website, Ricoh’s Clickable Paper Technology makes it possible to connect with multiple online experiences, including video, social networks, audio content, and live chat.

As you read through the book, you can use the free Clickar app on your tablet or smartphone to access video and other media that helps clarify the content. You can also connect and chat with other people who are reading the book.

This updated version of “Introduction to Graphic Communication”  is being coauthored by Dr. Harvey Levenson, former Head of Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo, and John Parsons of the Intu Ideas non-fiction writing and publishing consultancy firm. The prototype book distributed at PRINT 17 contained two chapters: Chapter 2 covers the History of Printed Communications. Chapter 8 discusses various types of Printing Processes.

The authors said the ability to marge print and online media changed they way they wrote. Parsons said, “Adding multimedia has made me a more visual writer.” The ability to include links to external media meant they could put less on each page.

“We found no shortage of ways to use the printed book as a ‘platform’ for directing the reader to curated digital content,” said Parsons. For some content, they captured webcam video (using several takes) and edited the results. For other content, they sought permission from creators of YouTube videos and collaborated with Viddler, a developer of video-based training technology.

“We’re not publishing an e-book,” Parsons emphasizes. “This is about a new way to demonstrate the inherent strengths of print.” The authors note that print is a stable medium that can point the way to selected content or interactive connections. They believes digital media isn’t an replacement for printed books, but as a potential extension of a a centuries-long history of innovation.

Book: The Third Wave

The book “The Third Wave” by Joseph W. Webb and Richard M. Romano uses HP Link technology to help owners of printing businesses understand how smarter mobile phones, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things will affect printing businesses.

Readers who download the HP LinkReader can scan hyperlinked text and images to get more information, watch a video, or listen to a song. At the end of each chapter, the authors include a short series of survey questions. The answers enable the authors to learn more about the types of business owners who are reading the book.

In addition to engaging book readers, HP Link Technology can be used on packages and other printed products. The HP Link technology delivers serialized marks that enable creators of printed products to securely track individual products throughout its entire lifecycle. These marks can help prevent thefts and diversion of products, reduce counterfeiting, and assist with product recalls,

The pages of the book were  printed on an HP PageWide WebPress T240HD and the cover was output on an HP Indigo digital press. “The Third Wave” interactive book was published by King Printing Co., a Lowell, Massachusetts-based company that provides short-run book-printing services for more than 10,000 authors and publishers.

Magazine: Out of Chaos

“Out of Chaos” is a digitally printed version of the online magazine published by the color-management experts at Rods and Cones.  The printed articles are enhanced with Stampatech “Print Infinity” technology.

Stampatech augmented-reality technology recognizes photographs and logos on printed books, labels, marketing literature, or packaging and triggers interactive content. Users of the app can learn more about the product, give feedback, or even make purchases.

An article in “Out of Chaos” magazine features excerpts from the white paper “Has Augmented Reality Really Gone Mainstream?” by Cindy Walas and Kevin Keane.

The Spring 2017 issue of the magazine was printed, bound, and trimmed on the Canon imagePRESS C10000VP digital press.

Will Augmented Reality Be a New Form of Mass Communication?

At the PRINT 13 Conference this month, Julie Shaffer of Printing Industries of America, discussed some of the technologies that will go beyond QR codes to make print more engaging and interactive. She started out the presentation listing seven forms of mass communications that have evolved since the Gutenberg printing press was invented:

  • Printing – (Late 1400s)
  • Recordings (1870s)
  • Cinema (Early 1900s)
  • Radio (Early 1900s)
  • TV (1950s)
  • Internet  (1990s)
  • Mobile smartphones and tablets (2000s)

Julie then suggested that this decade might see the rise of an eighth form of mass media: Augmented Reality (AR).

MetaioAugRealityCarManul.bmpAn augmented reality app on your smartphone can turn a printed ad, sign, or package into a portal to additional video, audio, or textual content. For example: See a poster advertising a concert by a new band, then use your smartphone to hear a sample of their music. Or, see a package for a new toy, then use your smartphone to watch a video of children using the toy.

After hearing Julie’s prediction, I have been looking for additional examples to support her claims. It didn’t take long to find some because it turns out that the InsideAR 2013 Conference is coming up. October 10-11 in Munich, Germany.

Some of the topics that experts will discuss at the InsideAR Conference include:

  • How Augmented Reality and Print Bridge the Physical/Digital Divide
  • Case Studies in Augmented Reality Marketing
  • How Augmented Reality is Affecting the Retail Experience.
  • The Future of AR and Wearable Computing

MetaioAugRealityCarManul2At the Inside AR Conference, Metaio will show a prototype for a hands-free interactive car manual for use with Google Glass and other wearable viewing devices. The interactive car manual might make it easier for the average person to perform some routine maintenance on their own vehicles.

Earlier this year, Metaio worked with McDonald’s Germany to develop the “McMission” AR app. The app takes a playful approach to educating restaurant visitors about McDonald’s commitment to sustainability. The app consists of four “missions” that teach kids about renewable energy, recycling, waste disposal, and product origins. The games are launched by scanning printed items such as a McDonald’s box of French fries or images in McDonald’s “Sustainability Report.”


In her presentation at PRINT 13, Julie Shaffer showed some examples of the different ways that Nellymoser is making print more interactive with mobile-activated campaigns. While some campaigns require prints to include digital watermarks, QR codes, or NFC (near-field communications) codes, augmented reality can be used with any photograph or printed image without altering the prepress process. . 

It seems to me that a lot of creativity will be required to make sure that customers are delighted (not disappointed) by the additional content they access through smartphones. (Otherwise, why bother “augmenting” printed materials at all?)

But once we all start wearing computing devices that don’t even require us to lift a smartphone, it’s easy to imagine that we might expect to see augmented reality everywhere we look.

What do you think? Have you seen any particularly creative applications of augmented reality that make printed pieces more interesting? more meaningful? more useful? 


McMission AR App

Inside AR 2013 Conference




Metaio Develops Augmented Reality for Google Glass

You Tube: McDonald’s McMission Augmented Reality App