Who says print can’t be interactive? More and more innovative companies prove that dividing the world into interactive and print media is arbitrary at best. A recent example: Novalia, a British award-winning technology company that makes interactive print products that play music and connect wirelessly to digital devices, like the boombox made from paper. Out of the lab came a new album cover that scratches, spins and mixes like a DJ when touched.
“As the content of many of the things we know and love has moved to the digital world, their form in the physical world has been declared dead; print, books, print media and even the high street”, wrote Kate Stone, Novalia’s managing director, in an opinion piece. She is more than ready to challenge that notion. “I don’t believe they are dead, they are just changing and I am excited about how new print technology can breathe new life into them”, Stone continues. Her dream is to make content physical again and to enhance the experience by incorporating touch, connectivity and data.
While several research projects at universities are underway that are either prohibitively expensive or impossible to scale, Stone wanted to print touch sensors on a regular press with low-cost ink to recreate an experience on paper that many know only from touchscreens. By using carbon ink, Novalia is now able to print touch sensors on screen, offset litho and flexography presses. The sizes range from A5 to 2A0. Part of the design is a small circuit board with the capacitive touch software and Bluetooth or, if desired, sound software, batteries and a speaker.
Novalis most recent project is the album cover for DJQBert, which shows a graphic representation of DJ turntables inside the fold. The cover connects via Bluetooth to one’s smart phone, which scratches, spins and mixes like a real DJ when the printed turntable is touched. The cover connects using MIDI, a technical standard that allows electronic musical instruments, computers and other devices to communicate with one another. Because the album cover created such high levels of excitement, Novalia is now producing a limited edition of a printed MIDI piano keyboard.
DJQBert’s album cover is not the first noteworthy multisensory project that emerged from Novalia’s labs. Last year, Novalia, together with project partners Grey London, conceptual illustrator Billie Jean and spice brand Schwartz, attracted a lot of attention for their “Sound of Taste” campaign. The posters that articulated the flavor of spices in vivid colors allowed for a synesthetic experience where sound, taste and color came together. Using conductive carbon ink as in the DJQBert album cover, the poster connected to a smartphone when touched and played piano music, effectively using the smartphone as a speaker. The “Sound of Taste” was followed by the launch of the first interactive playable poster for Beck’s Beer in New Zealand in late spring last year.
For Stone, it is all about bridging the gap between the traditional and digital media. “What I love most is seeing the videos showing the delight on people’s faces as they are having an experience with paper and print”, Stone writes.