A survey of existing projects related to my work.

Related examples

Updated on Dec 3, 2014.

 

 

The idea of augmenting the physical book object is not new, of course, but so far I have only been able to locate a few examples that are directly relevant to my direction of inquiry.

The most obvious example is Elektrobiblioteka, a 2012 diploma project in fine arts by Waldek Wegrzyn in Katowice, Poland.

Wegrzyn's work, which received quite a lot of attention in the design and digital culture spheres, is a one-of-a-kind production based on El Lissitzky's typographical manifesto from 1923. The reading experience is designed around the physical book, with supplementary visual content activated mainly by flipping the pages of the book. There are also a few examples of on-off switches on the pages, activating animations and the like on the screen.

The exact construction of the page-flip detection mechanism is not documented, but my impression is that it is based on printed circuits on the pages and that every spread of the 32-page book has its own circuit and corresponding output signal. In other words, it may not scale very well to thicker books.

Elektrobiblioteka is documented in a project site and a four-minute video. The screen-based part of the work is also available for web access.

 

A preceding example with similar aims is Påvirket som kun et menneske kan være (Affected as only a human being can be), a 2010 mixed-media artwork by Danish artists Konrad Korabiewski and Litten.

Here, the reader wears a pair of headphones and as he or she flips through the book, each section is augmented with a custom-composed audio track comprising music as well as narration.

The tabs protruding from the top edges of section start pages (visible mainly on the right-hand side of the book) appear to work as switches against one of the boards, yielding a dedicated circuit for each section. As in the case of Elektrobiblioteka, the construction is not documented in detail but appears to be a one-off solution rather than a scalable approach.

The work is reported in a 3:30 video and there is also an online version of the book itself, showing each spread and playing back the corresponding audio.

 

Elektrobiblioteka as well as Påvirket... are both close in spirit to my work, in that they preserve the material essence of physical books, including print on paper as the primary focus for the reader. The research literature offers occasional examples of work in book augmentation that explores broader fields of possibilities. For instance, the QOOK project by Zhao et al. (2014) aims at combining the strengths of physical and digital books in supporting active reading, and specifically the location of specific concepts in revisiting previously read material. What they do is to project digital book content on a physical book with pages that are blank except for fiducial markers. A camera is used to detect the markers and thus determine which page the book is opened to.

[Zhao, Y., Qin, Y., Liu, Y., Liu, S., Zhang, T., Shi, Y. (2014). QOOK: Enhancing information revisitation for active reading with a paper book. Proc. Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI '14), pp. 125–132. New York: ACM Press.]

Departing even further from the material qualities of the physical book, Sony launched the Wonderbook in 2012. It is an interaction device for the Playstation 3, using the Eyetoy camera to create an augmented reality overlay on the screen.

The device looks like a bound volume, containing six spreads with symbols similar to few-pixel QR codes. When a compatible game is run on the Playstation, the camera detects the codes and uses them to overlay 3d graphics on the video feed on the screen. Actions such as flipping pages and tilting the book serve as player input, but on the whole it would appear that Wonderbook is more of a game control device than a book; reading as such is not part of the experience.

Sony Wonderbook is described on a Playstation product page, with links to images and videos.

 

The Telescrapbook by Jie Qi, Natalie Freed and Adam Setapen is a 2011 example of a significant trend towards paper electronics, where electronic components are designed in flat shapes and connected on a piece of paper using connective ink or printed connectors.

In addition to providing a platform for experimenting with sensors and actuators in the general form of a physical book, the Telescrapbook is wirelessly connected to enable two people to play together. There is a 2:03 video that explains the concept quite well.

Freed et al. (2011) offer a brief survey of research projects in design and new media where books and digital technology are combined in various ways, often including paper electronics.

[Freed, N., Qi, J., Sylla, C., Branco, P. (2011). Beyond the binding: Exploring the future book. Proc. Creativity and Cognition (C&C '11), pp. 445–46. New York: ACM Press.]

 

Finally, and very tangentially, Brazilian company Tramontina has recently (2014) launched a barbeque cookbook combining some essential barbeque supplies and implements into the form of a book. Here is the trailer.

The book contains, among other things, charcoal, ignition paper, an apron, a whetstone, some salt, a chopping board, a place mat, a serving tray and a kitchen cloth. All this along with recipes and cooking instructions, of course.

Certainly gimmicky, decidedly non-digital, but in some ways a very good example of a capable book. At least once.