augmented reality

Could Augmented Reality Change How We Read Paper Books?

In the future, many industries will likely see changes that result from the increased use of augmented reality. Among these will be the publishing industry, as stories can be brought to life in ways never before seen with the help of such technologies.

This combination of engaging prose and high-tech visuals could become a game-changer for readers in the years ahead, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Surrey. Through their use of the Next Generation Paper (NGP) program, the researchers found that augmented reality may actually boost the demand for printed books, as it can complement stories better than e-books can. 

Background: What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is a step between our reality and virtual reality. It uses screens (like eye glasses or a phone) to enhance our surroundings, without the need for an actual headset. This technology is already being used to help boost student learning with virtual anatomy lessons. AR is also being used in industries like real estate and retail to help customers try new products without having to leave their homes. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, AR is helping to connect people in a safer way. This, in turn, has many implications for several industries, including books and other publications.

Analysis: Testing Augmented Reality

To see just how successful AR could be, researchers at the University of Surrey introduced the third generation (3G) version of the NGP project, which gave readers the opportunity to compare a printed book’s page with an AR reader side by side. According to postgraduate researcher George Bairaktaris, “The original research was carried out to enrich travel experiences by creating augmented travel guides. This upgraded 3G mode allows for the possibility of using augmented books for different areas, such as education. In addition, the new model disturbs the reader less by automatically recognizing the open page and triggering the multimedia content.”

With this new screen reader technology, books are able to have many more added features. “This technology exists to assist the reader in a deeper understanding of the written topic and get more through digital means without ruining the experience of reading a paper book,” explained Dr. Race Sporea, a senior lecturer at the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI). These new books, called A-books (augmented books), may not only help more individuals enjoy the process of reading but could even help some individuals overcome reading difficulties.

Outlook: A-Books and Dyslexia

In a recent blog, Adara Hagman discusses how augmented reality can help overcome dyslexia. Dyslexia is a very common learning disorder that causes difficulty in writing, reading, or even speaking. Around 10% of the population struggles with this difficulty, making it a frequent issue both schools and parents work to treat.

Hagman cites several studies that are attempting to use AR to diagnose and treat dyslexia. In her blog, Hayman writes, “I think augmented reality will change the world, and recently I learned it can help us diagnose and treat dyslexia faster and more efficiently.”

With its many benefits, AR technology may not only help to increase a demand for printed books, but it could also help the publishing industry reach an entirely new audience of readers. 

Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is a staff writer at the Debrief and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). Her writing beats include deep tech, the metaverse, and quantum technology. You can find more of her work at her website: