Professor David Frohlich, from the Digital World Research Centre in the UK, is bringing paper to life with a “next generation” paper that connects with the digital devices around it.

It sounds like something from Harry Potter.

Touching a page of printed paper brings images, sounds and video springing to life on your mobile phone or nearby TV set.

This is the “next generation” paper that has been developed at the UK’s Digital World Research Centre at the University of Surrey by Professor David Frohlich and his team.

“We are not talking about another e-book,” explains Frohlich, “This is an ordinary book with e-links.”

Electronic sensors are hidden in the fibres of the paper itself. In this way, information about which page is open and what regions of the page people are touching can be communicated to nearby digital devices.

Frohich says, “This is real paper which interacts with digital devices around it… Opening or touching the page of a newspaper could indeed display a moving image rather than a static one, but on a nearby device rather than on the page itself.”

One of the first real-world applications of the technology is a travel guide to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – released by Bradt Travel Guides, one of the world’s leading travel publishers, on 14 January 2019.

Bradt’s updated and augmented edition of Slow Travel Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly contains icons embedded in the text which correspond to digital links. Touching these sections of the page prompts additional digital content to be played in Bradt’s associated travel book app.

Frohlich says, “We are trying to design a new kind of reading behaviour involving paper and screen… It opens up a world of creative possibilities for writing multimedia stories.”