By Olivia Cahoon
Interactive print methods such as augmented reality (AR) and quick response (QR) codes are on the rise. These solutions offer a link between physical and virtual worlds, especially with the use of digital print technology.
While AR has great potential in retail and e-commerce sectors, it’s also making waves in education and publishing due to its ability to cost-effectively provide a deeper, more interactive experience for students and readers.
Clickable Graphic Communications
The Introduction to Graphic Communications, published in 2007, is an educational book that discusses the graphic communication industry’s past, present, and future prospects while also covering new printing and imaging technology issues impacting day-to-day communications.
In April 2018, it was decided that the book needed updating. “Not only to reflect the changes in print itself but also to highlight the many ways in which the internet and mobile technology have affected the graphic communication equation,” says John Parsons, co-author, Introduction to Graphic Communications.
The co-authors ultimately decided on Ricoh Clickable Paper to demonstrate print’s connection with mobile technology. Clickable Paper is an interactive AR solution that can be used with any type of printed or digital media such as brochures, magazines, newspapers, and posters. According to Parsons, the benefits of using Clickable Paper in publishing work is bringing the best of both worlds—deeply engaging, tactile learning possible with print plus the discoverability and updatability of online media.
Dr. Harvey Levenson, co-author, Introduction to Graphic Communications, worked with Ricoh at the California Polytechnic State University to develop and test Clickable Paper. “Hence, when it came time to consider a second edition of Introduction to Graphic Communications as a unique, never-before-published-book, using Clickable Paper came to mind,” he explains.
By using Clickable Paper, Levenson says the project provides an opportunity to publish a book that is seminal and a model for how books in the future can be published to appeal to different learning styles.
However, Clickable Paper wasn’t the co-authors first choice of interactive print. Parsons says they originally considered QR codes but rejected it in favor of Ricoh’s image recognition technology. He explains, “Clickable Paper recognizes the text and images of a page in lieu of an awkward 2D barcode. It creates the bridge between a printed surface and multiple online experiences.”
Levenson also disagreed with the notion of using QR codes and describes them as design impediments. “They are ugly and interfere with the aesthetic look of a printed piece when design-appeal is important,” he offers. Further, to activate a QR code, a camera or scanner must be aimed properly. Unlike QR codes, he says the invisibility of Clickable Paper and its full-page sensitivity makes it unique as an AR embellishment.
For this project, the co-authors selected a RICOH Pro VC60000 to print 1,500 book copies on 80# CVG silk book stock and 10pt C1S cover stock. According to Parsons, the VC60000 is well suited as it provides high-quality printed output with relatively short runs, a near requirement for book publishing. Heeter of Canonsburg, PA is expected to print future book runs.
From job submittal to finished book, it took between eight and nine months to produce the newest edition of Introduction to Graphic Communications. Future book copies are expected to be printed on demand. “Since this was the first of its kind, a lot of planning was involved,” adds Levenson.
According to Parsons, the co-authors experienced difficulty with finding suitable videos, obtaining video permissions, and the overall video editing process. However, he believes the benefits far outweigh the challenges. “Printing is a complex process, with an astounding variety of physical and chemical processes. Most schools cannot afford to invest in even a fraction of the equipment used today. However, with video, students can observe multiple processes as well as read about them.”
Compared to previous projects, this book stands out for its multi-media dimension. “The book communicates with the reader, and the reader can communicate with the book,” offers Levenson. It includes chat group possibilities, links to social media, and communicating directly with the authors.
“The AR part of this book is the exceptional, interactive video environment created by our use of the Viddler training portal,” adds Parsons.
The book received positive reviews and response, partly due to its multi-media dimension. In fact, Levenson expects Introduction to Graphic Communications to be adopted by many schools that teach graphic communication and related disciplines, and by companies for employee training.
AR Deep Dive
AR and additional interactive print methods are viewed as an embellishment to traditional print. A variety of clients and authors request interactive print for their books. In fact, Parsons believes books that support education and training are arguably the most suited to interactive or hybrid media. Additionally, travel guides and children’s books are also prime candidates. “The best use cases include situations where online media supports print—not replace or distracts from it.”
Despite interactive print making waves in the publishing industry, there are still few requests for this type of value-added print method. According to Levenson, today’s demands are low because few clients, publishers, and authors know about it. However, awareness is growing.
“We hope the Introduction to Graphic Communications makes the print buyer community—particularly book publishers—aware of the benefits of interactive print methods,” says Levenson.
While these were produced on a RICOH Pro VC60000, Clickable Paper works with any printed output. “To be specific, any traditional or digital printing process would work including lithography, flexography, gravure, screen printing, letterpress, electrostatic, electrophotographic, as well as inkjet,” says Levenson.
Clickable Paper also includes a free, downloadable Clickable Paper mobile application (app) for iOS and Android mobile devices. According to Parsons, it provides an online Creator tool for creating scannable zones on a page and assigning multiple online events to each zone. “Both the mobile app and the Creator environment are simple to learn and use.”
Other developers use additional interactive print methods besides QR codes and AR such as digital watermarks or an OCR-like approach to recognize literal URLs or text links on a printed page, says Parsons. “Still others are experimenting with 3D object recognition, which may be useful in consumer packaging.”
However, Parsons believes Ricoh’s approach is superior to these, since it does not impose an added burden on the print designer. “It recognizes the page itself—even a page printed years ago—as the basis for the AR experience,” he says.
AR technologies like Clickable Paper are an easy, intuitive process that converts traditional print into a multi-media experience, appealing to a variety of learning styles and industries.
“Some people learn best by reading, others by viewing videos, and others by listening. And many people like the look and feel of a printed book. Ricoh’s Clickable Paper offers all of this,” says Levenson.
While Introduction to Graphic Communications is currently the only book produced by both co-authors that involves interactive print, Parsons says they plan to produce separate chapters as self-contained booklets—using the same interactive approach.
Oct2018, DPS Magazine