Friday, 11 October 2013

Four Reasons Why New Print Technology is Making the Old School Cool Again

Digital innovations are set to kill print forever, right? The Kindle is going to spell the end for books, no-one reads magazines anymore and if you can’t find a product on a smartphone you’re unlikely to know it exists. That’s the way the doomsayers for print would have us think, anyway. In actual fact, some of the coolest digital innovations right now are all about augmenting the experience of print information. From QR codes to interactive ink, the future is starting to look a lot like the past…

QR codes
The QR code is that funny black and white thing you see printed on the sides of drinks cans and cereal packets. It’s like a bar code, only it holds more information and can be scanned with a phone camera (provided you’ve downloaded the reader software as an app). Most QR codes are used as web addresses in the real world: you take a picture of the code and your phone brings you to a site that has direct relevance to the item you just engaged with. The point being that QR codes are printed on actual things in the actual world, but are directly intended to make your experience of the digital world better. Without good old fashioned ink, where would you be?

Conductive ink
Science fiction is increasingly looking like science fact. Conductive ink can be used in any printer that will accept the cartridge – and in time that’ll be all of them – meaning it’s now possible to print electronic interfaces onto bits of paper. In other words, the book and magazine only aren’t dead, but could have a whole new lease of life as a genuinely interactive object. Kids’ books and magazines seem the most obvious candidate for the technology, which can (for instance) activate sounds when the reader touches images on the paper.

Near Field Communications
Near Field Communications are what power the contactless credit/debit card – and they can also be incorporated into print media such as posters and banners. If you’ve got a smartphone smart enough to recognised the existence of the embedded NFC chip, you’ll get taken on a digital journey of discovery just by waving your phone at a Near Field-enabled piece of print advertising. Currently, there are only a few smartphones able to detect the NFC chip, and the cost of making the chip itself is prohibitive for large scale use: but then a personal computer used to be the size of a house and cost the equivalent of a small arms budget, so keep your eyes peeled for future use!

Microfilm Scanning
A microfilm scanner enables the holders of existing bodies of print information (libraries, universities and Government departments, for example) to digitise catalogues going back hundreds of years. A microfilm scanner converts the information contained in 16mm and 35mm film of original print documents and records into multiple digital file formats, allowing the archives of some of the world’s most important institutions to be opened to the public. Microfilm scanning also ensures that irreplaceable knowledge isn’t lost in the unfortunate event of fire or flood damaging the originals. Click here for details.
The Author is a professional online journalist, who has spent the last 15 years tracking the development of digital technology in his blogs and articles. He has had articles published on more than 200 high profile sites, and his own network of technology blogs routinely attracts more than half a million daily visitors.

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