Going where no man has gone before...

Print Solutions

The University of Surrey has won an award that will help its research to revolutionise paper technology. And, we mean ‘revolutionise’.

It is very easy to bandy around words such as ‘revolutionary’, ‘groundbreaking’, and ‘trailblazing’. It is very easy to get caught up in the hype of the moment and in the next big thing. But, how much technology is actually that – revolutionary and groundbreaking? Or is it just natural evolution of existing technology?

Part of the philosophy of Print Solutions is to venture out and find new things that really fit the category of ‘innovative’ – I am sure that you have seen some of them on our covers. So, when we hear of something that is utterly different, which really looks as if it could be revolutionary, we get very excited here in Earth Island Cove.

So, I am sure you are familiar with augmented reality. You certainly will have seen that on the front cover of various Print Solutions this year and we hope you downloaded the app, scanned and brought print to life. But, what if you didn’t need to download an app, or scan a page to create interaction? What if you could simply touch or turn a page to cause your print to come to life? Sound a bit like something from Star Trek to you?

Well, in fact, this could soon be reality – real reality not virtual.

Next generation

The University of Surrey’s Professor David Frohlich has won £1.17 million funding from the Digital Economy programme, to research and develop paper materials that would allow readers to ‘interact’ with printed materials in a more incredible way than ever before.

The project is called ‘Next Generation Paper’ and will develop a new media with hyperlinks to the web. Readers will be able to obtain related information on nearby digital devices, just by turning a page or touching the surface of paper documents, photographs, posters or books. This could lead to documents ‘interacting’ with their readers as they impart information – like the fictitious portraits in Harry Potter which are magically able to react to their viewers.

These interactive documents, which are a hybrid of print and digital information, could have links to video clips, animations, sound recordings or music which play at the touch of a printed button, rather like AR without the need to download and app and scan.

The digital links would appear on TVs, music players, smartphones, tablets and computers, with documents effectively paired with a device using the project technology.

Going beyond

People currently scan printed QR codes with a smartphone as an early method of linking paper and digital information. But the project will go beyond this into full document recognition and even instrumentation of the paper itself with electronic sensors and chips.

Professor Frohlich, from the Digital World Research Centre, said: ‘We plan to give physical paper a whole new lease of digital life. Elements of interactive paper have been around in prototype form for some time, but we hope our research will help create a mass market next generation paper for the 21st century.

‘The project will create new business opportunities for the digital economy that we will research in parallel with the technology. For example, publishers will be able to add value to print products and services by connecting them to digital material, while web companies will be able to use paper as a tangible interface to online information.’

People will also be able to ‘write’ interactive paper materials, like photobooks with associated video clips or sound recordings. These could be assembled as interactive e-books online, and then played back from the printed version. Optical or other sensors would be needed to recognise which page is open and where someone is pointing in order to play the associated media.

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Ticehurst, East Sussex


United Kingdom


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