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Turning Print into an Interactive Storefront

Publishers Weekly (NY) (02/22/13) Reid, Calvin

Publishers can transform paper products into interactive screens through augmented reality (AR) that integrates geolocation and mobile visual display, and Layar in Holland offers interactive print solutions to paper publications. Layar’s technology can be employed to “extend a publication’s narrative online or link to videos, slides or downloads” and more, said Layar co-founder Maarten Lens-FitzGerald. “A publisher can use it for social media and share its print articles on Pinterest and other social media platforms.” Upon downloading and installing the Layar app on his or her smartphone or tablet, the user can use the device as an AR viewer, where he or she points it at a specific page to activate all kinds of digital content attached using the Layar Creator online portal.

Layar’s technology starts with Layar Creator, which is offered in free and for-pay pro versions. The technology is similar to Quick Response Codes but can be activated by designating any graphic image as the Layar trigger. With the Layar Creator portal, a registered client can upload a PDF or JPEG copy of the print page that is to function as the trigger, and then assign custom-made content to it. Customers also can choose from an array of prefab buttons that will direct consumers to a website, let them call a phone number or allow them to shop right off the printed page. Client companies that use Layar to sell directly to buyers capture all the consumer information as well.

An increasing number of print magazines and print catalogs use Layar technology to add video interviews to pages and to affix video, pricing and other product information to ads, catalog pages or even physical products, Lens-FitzGerald said. He said Layar also is approaching book publishers and related businesses, stressing that its technology can convert any encounter with a book into a “shoppable” moment. Book publishers can employ Layar to add interviews tied to a book’s cover, and attach reviews, tour date information, news about other books by the same author, social media links and more.

Layar’s AR technology is primarily used as a marketing instrument. It turns any flat physical product into an online storefront by superimposing online buy buttons onto every product. Lens-FitzGerald said Layar works closely with print magazines and their advertisers “for ways to do something special, to use AR as a sponsored segment.”

Research Explores Printing Without Chemicals


Academic researchers have developed physical color technology, which could potentially and dramatically change image printing by making it unnecessary to coat material with ink or chemicals. Precisely inscribed grooves are used to generate an observable color in the lab of University of Michigan Professor Jay Guo. “Rather than using these chemicals, you could basically emboss the structure — a very ‘green’ print technology,” he said. The structural color process would not only make printed products greener but also less susceptible to fading.

“[Current print companies are] using huge amounts of chemicals,” Guo said. “A press company is not exactly the greenest place. In the future, this can all be done using structural color and it would be long lasting.” The process employs nanocavities that trap light at specific wavelengths reliant on the cavities’ depths. The cavities’ structure lets them display color to an observer. “It’s purely a physical effect,” Guo said. The researchers can produce many different hues by varying the depth of the cavities. Guo calls this a selective property, as each depth corresponds to a distinct observable color.

The cavities are fabricated through a very precise nano-imprint method. “We cannot even see these [nanocavities] with an ordinary microscope because [the size] is beyond the diffraction limit,” Guo said. The technology also has possible uses in anti-counterfeiting efforts because of a property that complicates replication. “You can only see this kind of structure when the electrical field is perpendicular to the grating,” Guo said.