Can an interactive paper revolutionise the print industry?
Interactive paper - the future?
Submitted by: Vince Collins
We are on the cusp of a sea change. Mobile computing is putting increasing pressure on the print industry, as the public continue to migrate to the web to consume news and media content. Tablets and smartphones are transforming the news industry as internet connected devices replace traditional mobile phones at an unprecedented rate, bringing the web to the palm of your hand at prices nearly everyone can afford. So what does the future hold for the humble newspaper? A research project called Interactive newsprint believes it has the answer.
Interactive Newsprint is a collaborative effort between Dundee, Surrey and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), that aims to integrate the rich media of the web into traditional news print, thanks to an innovative new form of internet connected paper. Working with technology company Novalia and funded by the Digital Economy (DE) Programme, the three universities are researching and developing printed electronics that work in conjunction with ordinary paper to add capacitive touch functionality to the printed page.
What’s more, the technology can be applied to more than just newspapers. With posters, leaflets and advertising signage all potential surfaces that could take advantage of interactive paper. The team at Interactive Newsprint have already produced several prototypes that can play audio content and interact with online polls and social media services simply by touching interactive areas on a page.
The paper is able to download additional content from the web, enabling the ability to update content even after distribution, provided the paper has a connection to the internet of course. Exactly how interactions with the paper are powered and internet connectivity achieved, has not yet been detailed.
Headed up by Paul Egglestone, Digital Coordinator at UCLan’s School of Journalism, Media and Communication, the interactive Newsprint team have been working in collaboration with local businesses and services to explore different designs and applications for the interactive paper.
I’m sure you’ll agree that this is an exciting idea, but now that we have such a diverse and affordable array of tablets and smartphones at our disposal – capable of producing everything an interactive paper ever could and more – is it too little, too late for paper? To a certain extent yes. Interactive paper will never stem the tide of public migration to mobile devices for consuming news, but that’s not really the point, nor is it the goal set out by its developers.
There are many practical applications for interactive paper in a wide variety of industries, such as education, advertising, tourism and of course news. For example: Imagine tapping on an interactive restaurant menu to find out details and ingredients for individuals dishes, or touching locations on a street map in a foreign country to hear the pronunciation of place names in your own language. In some situations paper is, and always will be, the most appropriate medium.
There are many scenarios where information is better served on paper than on an electronic device, and with that in mind, there is no doubt that this technology can, and will, have a place in the future of print media. Exactly how large a part it will play however, is still very hard to predict. The development of such a technology is exciting and is destined to lead to some ingenious applications in the future, and best of all, it’s being pioneered here in the UK.
The Interactive Newsprint team are expected to demonstrate new prototypes of their interactive paper at this year’s London Design Festival, running from the 14th – 23rd of September, across approximately 150 different venues spanning the length and breadth of the capital.
For more information about Interactive Newsprint’s technology and forthcoming appearance at the London Design Festival 2012 visit www.interactivenewsprint.org This article, written by Alex Masters, originally appeared on The Independent website on 17 September.