HITLabNZ: Magic Book

Writing about Rita King’s Second Life and augmented reality Story Cubes reminded me of the Magic Book project I came across a while ago.

Developed by researchers at the HITLabNZ and led by Mark Billinghurst, Magic Book enables readers to augment their reading experience with 3-D images. Viewing the pages of the Magic Book through a handheld display reveals digital content superimposed over the physical pages. Viewers can choose to fly into the digitally augmented scene and experience it as an immersive virtual environment. There is a great video of it in action on YouTube here..

From the YouTube video of Magic Book produced for the Australian Center for the Moving Image

One aspect I especially like is that the reading can be collaborative. Viewers each have their own device for seeing the digital content and if they are looking at the same page of the book they will each see the same image but adjusted so that it is viewed from the particular angle at which the viewer is held to the page. In addition, when one reader zooms into the immersive virtual experience the other readers see them as a computer-generated figure in the scene.

During the time the Magic Book project ran (2002 – 2008) the potential of augmented reality was transformed by increasingly powerful mobile phones equipped with cameras, sensors such as accelerometers and compasses, and wifi that are able to act as handheld displays for augmented content. Given this, I wonder if augmented reality could be a way for eBooks and Story Cubes to share time-based and digital content – videos, 3-D graphics, audio files and so on – as well as text and images? How great would it be to receive an eBook via email describing your friends recent trip to Peru (or your grandchild’s performance in the school play) and when you print out and make up the eBook as well as reading the text and looking at photos, you can use your phone to view a 3-D model of an ancient site, watch a video of a performance or hear the musicians. What would this add to the experience of reading?

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