You Talkin’ to Me, Paper? High-Tech Advertising Through Printed Multimedia

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“Talking pictures, talking pictures!” The transition from silent films of the early 1920s to films with sound was the main focus of the 1952 musical classic, Singing In the Rain.

Today, we have the introduction of our own technological leap in pictures: interactive digital talking paper. No, they’re not the kind of pictures you place in a picture frame where you can record a message. Neither are they the kind of pictures you’d find in an electronic musical greeting card at your local greeting card shop.

Imagine walking up to a store display and touching it. Suddenly you hear a voice talking to you directly through printed speakers, using digital information embedded in the paper to sense your movements. “Hi, looks like you could use a cold one right about now! How about a Coors Light?” offers a sensuous female voice.

Sound futuristic? Actually it’s not. The technology is called digital talking paper. Regular paper is combined with printed graphic codes and electronically conductive ink that is manufactured to be sensitive to pressure. Digital information is then embedded in the paper. When the digital paper is touched, information via a man’s or woman’s voice is played through printed speakers.

One application of digital talking paper is a travel guide on a display board. The reader can touch any part of the paper and receive an interactive audiovisual description of his or her chosen destination. Another interesting application of digital talking paper is in music. A paper music display board can have multiple music tracks or albums printed directly on the digital paper. The user simply presses the album he or she wants to play, and a sample track is played through the printed speakers.

After the digital talking paper is used, it can easily be tossed into the recycling bin. This makes digital talking paper a very eco-friendly way to advertise. Digital talking paper is also thinner and more flexible, requiring less product to manufacture. It may even make bulky, large kiosks a thing of the past.

So what will the future bring in terms of advertising with digital e-paper? In the 2002 film, Minority Report, Jon Anderton (Tom Cruise) walks through a store where several large video e-paper advertisements call him out by name and advertise their products and services. In the movie, interactive advertising via personal identification is carried out by way of retina scanners. However in the future, it could very well be that radio-frequency identification (RFID) placed on or inside people will allow us to instantaneously interact with identifying audiovisual advertising all around us. Whether that’s a good or bad thing will have to be a question for another day.

Click here
to see a video demonstrating digital talking paper.


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