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Published: 05 October 2018

The magic of paper

Ground-breaking technology that allows readers to ‘interact’ with printed materials like Harry Potter portraits is being showcased at the COMM Museum in The Hague until the end of the year.

Books with lights coming out from pages
Getty Images

The futuristic exhibition, which brings together paper innovations from across Europe, has selected the research project of Surrey’s Digital World Research Centre, called Next Generation Paper.

Led by Professor David Frohlich, the centre will develop a hybrid form of paper that will combine ‘print and digital’ information to enable users to play video clips, animations, sound recordings or music just by turning a page or pressing a printed button.

David said: “What we are creating is something like the moving pictures in what might be called Harry Potter paper. Opening or touching the page of a newspaper could indeed display a moving image rather than a static one, but on a nearby device rather than on the page itself. Interestingly, the Harry Potter images are silent. Our technology lends itself to playing sounds from a printed image.

“Next Generation Paper will make a lot of media tangible again. You don’t normally expect a book or magazine to sing or show you a video. There is something magic about that.”

The project team from Surrey is also working with Bradt Travel Guides, one of the world’s leading travel publishers, to create the first augmented travel guide book to Cornwall. The interactive book will offer readers a more enriching and immersive experience, combining extra pictures, videos, web links and interviews with local characters.

The extra digital content has been created by Kirsty Fergusson, author of Bradt’s Slow Travel Cornwall guidebook, and design researcher Emily Corrigan-Kavanagh on the Next Generation Paper project, in a new kind of authorship process. 

Emily said “Translating published books to augmented paper is tricky. Current publishing software was not intended for this purpose, forcing us to become more creative and inventive in how we approach it. Consequently, the emerging process has the potential to remodel completely how books are made and consumed.”

Find out more via David’s Q&A interview as part of the exhibition.