Concept Project: The Future of Digital Reading

Last week, Kicker participated in a Core77 1 Hour Design Challenge on The Future of Digital Reading sponsored by Portigal Consulting. The design brief was this:

What will reading look in the future? Will we be using printed books, rectangular electronic devices, embedded technologies? This competition challenges designers to envision a rich future digital reading experience, based on a defined set of design research.

Clearly unlike some of our worthy (cough, cough) competition, we actually did only spend the allotted time coming up with our solutions. We started by coming up with a list of design principles based off the provided research:

  • Needs to be able to show book covers (and thus personal taste) via a quick visual reference
  • Has to display traces of history
  • Can have physical characteristics (weight, visible signs of age) that reflect the content
  • Has different physical instantiations for the same content, adjustable based on reader’s context
  • Supports reading multiple things at any given time (although not necessarily at once)
  • Not embarrassed to be seen using in public.

We then quickly put together a list of behaviors and tasks that we thought the solution should support, everything from bookmarking to quoting a passage to creating a sense of accomplishment as the content is read. Then we started brainstorming. Ideas ranged from glasses to Silly Putty to cafe tables to gloves. But then we narrowed these dozen or so ideas down to three:

BookLight is a mini projector/camera the size of a book light. It can clip onto book-like objects, solid surfaces, or behind the ear. BookLight can project text onto any surface and starts by projecting a reading collection for a reader to choose from. BookLight is controlled via gestures visible through its camera. Readers can page through reading material, make bookmarks and notes, and underline text with a hand or stylus. The camera also detects usage and image changes over time to reflect fingerprints and page “aging.” Pages can permanently take on some of the texture of the surface they are projected onto. Projection can be re-sized for context: reading on a hand, on hand-held reading surface, on a table or wall, etc.

Two “paddles” held separately in each hand create BookEnds, which project a holographic image in between them that displays reading material in air. The size of the reading canvas is determined by how far apart the reader’s hands are while holding the paddles. The reader flips through pages by lifting the right paddle towards left one, as though turning a page in a newspaper or book. The weight of the paddles shifts to reflect the reader’s place in the book. The relative size of each book is reflected in the weight of the panels as well. The panels can be stored standing up on a shelf to charge, displaying the spines of the reader’s collection between them.

Book Blocks
Book Blocks are post-it sized, thin squares with a matte, touchscreen display. Book Blocks snap together to form a larger surface area for reading. For example, many blocks together can form a newspaper-sized reading surface — content adjusts for the new surface space. Publishers can sell special blocks with their content (e.g. individual books, a yearly subscription to the New York Times, etc). Readers can share content by snapping off a block and handing it to a friend. Cafes can have Blocks embedded into tables so that visitors can attach their own blocks to see what the last occupants of the tables were reading.