Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Third Eyes

Apologies for the thin-ish layer of dust. In December I had to manage an artificial ice rink at a christmas village during the holiday season, an activity that demanded all my Christmas cheer (and gave me a greater  appreciation for the Santaland Diaries, incidentally). Since the new year I've started up with a bit of researchy work for Duncan/Channon, an awesome advertising agency based out of the Bay Area. 

One of their clients is Blurb, which helps people design and print their own books. Given that we're in a major period of transition for media, we're all doing a fair bit of reading and thinking about futures for the book.  One thing I've run across lately is the results and findings from Portigal Consulting's Reading Ahead project, which really sets the mind abuzz. As part of that project, they did a One-Hour Design challenge with Core77, which had all kinds of cool results. I particularly liked the Booklight from Kicker Studios, which projects ebook text into a (real) blank book of your choosing:

That's pretty cool, and feeds into the greater trend looking toward ubiquitous projectors as a means of overlaying data onto the real world, of which MIT's Sixth Sense is my current favorite. But that system also involves cameras, which is where we get to the other possibility this picture raised in my head: What if you could put a small camera/projector on a print book you already owned? With the right software, you'd get some of the the added functionality of an ebook (sharing, tagging, copy/paste, analytics and so forth), though obviously none of the portability that comes from e-readers. 

If you took it a step further, what if it compared the text it was looking at with a database (like CDDB or Musicbrainz) to identify what you were reading?  You could easily comment on it socially, sync it with your other devices, and effect all manner of extensions to your reading life, with all the wonderful and regrettable things that means.

There could also be issues if this doodad had the capability (either built in or suitably-hacked) to rip books and spare consumers from the vinyl-to-cd-like pain of paying again for something you already own. All in all though, I like the idea. One thing that shouldn't be forgotten in our rush to adopt new forms of text is that the ol' print codex has a pretty long shelf-life, particularly when printed on acid-free paper. There's an opportunity to be had in unlocking extra functions out of the stuff people already have.

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