Interview David Frohlich: “Connecting paper to the web is a no-brainer”

In the future novels might have sound tracks and cookery magazines may have video demonstrations. Prof. David Frohlich from the Digital World Research Centre (UK) is passionate about new reading behaviour, linking screens with paper.

He brings printed images to life, with sounds and videos. His ‘Next Generation Paper’ has even been compared to paper from the Harry Potter films. See video

 

“We are trying to design a new kind of reading behaviour involving paper and screen”, says David Frohlich. “This ‘Next Generation Paper’ is real paper which interacts with digital devices around it. Imagine touch sensitive paper with the kind of hotlinks you get on web pages. We are not talking about another e-book. In fact, this is an ordinary book with e-links.”

“You don’t expect a book to show you a video. There is something magic about that.”

How does it work?
This paper has hidden electronic sensors in the fibres of the paper itself, to recognise which page is open and what regions people are touching. The links could come up on a phone or any other device nearby, such as a television.

“For example, we are making an augmented guide book to Cornwall”, says David. “This will be full of extra pictures, videos and interviews with local characters in the area. You can access this extra information, as well as links to websites, from the pages of the book itself, rather than searching the web. Readers will also be able to link their own photos and videos of their holiday to particular pages of their guide book. It opens up a world of creative possibilities for writing multimedia stories.”

 “Next Generation Paper will make a lot of media tangible again”


Why is this relevant?
“I think we are losing something important about the physical nature of media that we used to enjoy. Media are becoming easier to record but harder to find, as they literally disappear behind a variety of screens. 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.”

Your work has been compared to paper from the Harry Potter films…
“Yes, 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.”

What role do you expect paper to play in the future?
“I think interacting with paper will get more sophisticated. For example, you will be able to use your finger to follow a route on a map, and display movement through the landscape. Or you will be able to bend the paper, talk to it, and have it turn the page for you.”

“Harry Potter images are silent. Our technology lends itself to playing sounds from a printed image”

In 20 years’ time a lot of printed things are going to be designed with additional multimedia links. Novels might have sound tracks, cookery magazines may have video demonstrations, and textbooks will have online discussion groups. Perhaps at school, children will learn to write stories in this way with music, animations, video and sounds. David: “Finally I think people will pass paper around much more as a medium for digital content.”

He is convinced that this technology will take off. “I strongly believe in the long nose of innovation”, David says. “Artificial Intelligence was already hyped in the 80s. Connecting paper and digital is a no-brainer. It will happen.”