Future of Augmented Reality books

The battle between Digital and Print media is long over. But publishers across the world keep harkening back to the time when physical books were the only way to discover and ingest new information. When figures released earlier this year by the Publishing Association showed that eBook sales had fallen by about 17 percent in the UK alone, it led to a lot of media frenzy. But a deeper analysis showed that the reason behind this decline is probably higher eBook pricing rather than a renewed demand for print books. Jonathan Stolper, president The NPD Group, also attested to this fact at the Digital Book World in January 2017.

Then there is the other outcry of how people are simply not reading enough these days. In a survey conducted by National Endowment for the Arts in 2015, literary reading was found to be at an all-time low amongst American adults at about 43 percent compared to 52 percent in 1982. But again, does this mean that people on average are getting more stupid or are they simply consuming information through other mediums like blogs, videos and digital magazines?

There is no simple answer to this question as intelligence manifests itself in several ways. But one thing is crystal clear, technology is here to stay. And for a generation that was born with a smartphone by their side, it seems almost absurd to even suggest that they put aside all the devices when it comes to learning. Yet that’s what we are trying to do and failing at miserably.

Teachers and parents are often confronted with the dilemma of restricting their child’s screen time yet making sure that they are prepared for the challenges of tomorrow which will undoubtedly feature technology in one way or another. So what are we supposed to do? Is learning a zero sum game or is there a way we can have our cake and eat it too?

If the emerging digital trends conference at the world’s biggest children’s book fair at Bologna is to be believed then yes, we can merge traditional books with technology in a way that’s fun, exciting and more immersive than any other form of learning. Google’s Luca Prasso who joined Daydream Labs two years ago, was more than enthusiastic about the potential of Augmented Reality when it comes to books. The unique thing about AR is that it combines the physical experience of holding a book and turning the pages with the magic of digital content that appears to almost leap out from the book.

In fact AR projects were at the forefront of the digital programming sessions in Bologna and almost all the exhibitors were either fully committed to or dabbling in VR or AR tools and software. Many of these companies, especially from Asia, are particularly keen on working on textbooks. “If done properly, VR and AR enhancement of textbooks doesn’t break the flow of the reading experience,” says Gerald Cai, cofounder of MXRi Pte Ltd, a Singapore based company that produced SnapLearn.

Even in India, AR is slowly gaining popularity across academic publishing. Lot of tech companies in the field of AR & VR are working with big publishers to augment their content. From Science to English, students can now engage with 3D animations, sound, narration and other interactive game for a better learning experience. Pearson, the world’s biggest academic publisher has just announced a partnership with Microsoft where they will be using the HoloLens to bring AR VR to schools and university campuses across the world. Their MyPedia textbooks in India are already using these technologies and they plan to keep growing in this direction. S. Chand is also moving into the AR VR world by tying up with the creators of Smartivity.

Perhaps 2018 will be the year when publishers finally step into this brave new digital world and explore new ways of teaching and storytelling. Eric Huang, director of New Business and IP Acquisitions at Penguin, has already confessed that the company is re-positioning itself as a media brand that has much more to offer than just books. And they’re not alone. Small independent publishers, authors and illustrators across the world are already producing incredible content for this young, digitally-savvy generation. And as technology progresses further, we will soon be living in a transmedia world where there will be no line between the physical and the digital. 

Authored by Yuvraj K Sharma, co-founder and director, Kompanions - a Gurgaon based Ed-Tech-Sci organisation.