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Scientists have just invented a real life version of the Marauder’s Map

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David Frohlich at the University of Surrey has received funding for his "Next Generation Paper" project, which is going to revolutionise paper technology as we know it.

What it is

Next Generation Paper is offered as an alternative to present technologies which allow information to be shared only through printed codes such as QR.

While these "augmented paper technologies" require a separate device in order to be scanned and accessed, next generation paper will create a "print-and-digital" hybrid where the text will link to video clips, sound recordings, and even music all with the touch of a physical printed button!

Using this, readers will interact with printed materials in a way we have only experienced in fictional worlds like the one of Harry Potter, where pictures and oil paintings come to life and talk back to you.

How it works

The interactive printed text is equipped with its own embedded electronic sensors and chips, allowing paper to be paired up with an external device of your choice.

The days of having to read CDs to access video clips and recordings from a book are long gone. By downloading the designated app, you can pair any device and play the digital media and material effortlessly.

The project will go even further, allowing people to write "interactive paper materials" adding video clips or sound recordings and assembling their own personalised online e-book.

Applications

With this project, the team is hoping "to create new business opportunities for the digital economy that [they] will research in parallel with the technology."

In schools and universities, printed textbooks will prompt students to access additional online resources.

In offices and hospitals, documents and patient records will be paired to their virtual archives allowing a fast and secure access to information. Newspapers, magazines, and travel guides can also make use of this technology.

Next Generation Paper builds upon several projects at the university of Surrey such as "Light tags": commercial applications of augmented print and packaging using sound feedback and "Interactive Newsprint", a project that developed printed electronics focusing primarily on improving newspapers and digital storytelling. 

Rather than replacing traditional books and printed text with an e-reader device like a Kindle or an iPad, this project combines physical and digital media and facilitates their interaction, providing users with an enhanced reading experience.

By creating a mass market for their project, the team hopes to give physical paper a new breath of digital life. Still not quite the Marauder's map, but we are getting there.

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