New Scientist reports that UK publisher Carlton have launched two titles in their Augmented Reality series. The books – Fairyland Magic and Dinosaurs Alive – include a CD with software to install on your PC. Once this is done you point your webcam at the pages of the book and the webcam image of the book displayed on your computer monitor is augmented with hand-drawn, moving fairies or dinosaurs. The New Scientist article does a great job of describing the perceived need for books to embrace technologies and the potential complications resulting from this. You can also watch Carlton’s video promoting Fairyland Magic on YouTube.
I find the books interesting in the context of a discussion we had at the Pitch Up & Publish Augmented Reading last week when David suggested that interactive digital content of this kind (we weren’t talking about the Carlton books at the time) diminishes the experience of reading rather than augmenting it. David’s argument was that adding screen-based computation to a book imposes rules and restricts interaction in a way that a paper-and-ink book doesn’t.
Books Come Alive seem a good illustration of this argument as the book has to be in proximity of the computer screen and webcam in order to create the digital images. This sets up what seems to me to be a quite unnatural reading position as the priority becomes orienting the page to the webcam. Instead of reading being an intimate experience between one person and a book this opens it up to a wider audience for whoever happens to be in sight of the computer monitor. I wonder what the effects – good or bad – will be of this?