Augmented Reality & the Future of Printing

Interactive print is blurring the line between paper and digital media. But does it work for printed and promotional products—and is it here to stay?

The man on the magazine cover has come to life. And he’s talking to me.

Under normal circumstances, this kind of statement is grounds for therapy, but I’m not crazy. I know magazines can’t talk, and unless you’re in a David Lynch movie or you’re living a day in the life of Hunter S. Thompson, they don’t spontaneously animate. Yet, here I am, staring at a magazine as the man on the cover introduces himself.

“Hi, I’m Raimo, CEO of Layar, and this is interactive print,” he says, making a sweeping gesture with his hands. “Magical, isn’t it?”

The man is Raimo van der Klein, co-founder and CEO of Layar, an international software company with headquarters in Amsterdam and New York City. And like I said, I’m not crazy: I’m at a Layar workshop, and I’ve been given a copy of Layared, the company’s self-published magazine-slash-marketing-tool that serves as a demo of its augmented-reality (AR) offerings. After a quick briefing on how to use the app, I hold my phone over the magazine and tap the “scan” button, and the previously inanimate Raimo is replaced by a short video of Raimo digitally overlaid atop the actual magazine cover.

OK, Raimo, you got me, it is kind of magical—and now I’m scanning away like a grocery-store cashier on a Sunday morning. I scan a segment titled “Heroes of Interactive Print,” profiling Dutch comics magazine and recent augmented-reality adopter Eppo, and a clickable link directs me to the magazine’s subscription page. I scan an ad, and a link to the advertiser’s webstore appears. I scan a white Stutterheim raincoat, and a yellow Stutterheim raincoat appears beside it, along with a poll asking which variant I like better. (For the record, I voted yellow.)

Augmented reality essentially enables publishers to do in print anything that can be done on the Internet—Layar allows for links, slideshows, polls, Twitter feeds (updating in real time), HTML widgets and more—making the gap between print and digital media seem less like the Grand Canyon and more like a crack in the sidewalk.

Sean Norris is executive editor and content director for NonProfit PRO. Reach him at

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  • Andre

    I started in this business as a salesman in 1968 and I have heard since 1978-79 that the printing industry was doomed to failure because of digital technology, the internet and etc. That was 35 years ago and it is stronger now than it ever was… More competitive and knowledge based without a doubt, but yet stronger…