Last week, my wife called me over to the sofa to behold the new tricks she can do with the iPad Mini that she got for Christmas. “Honey, I know you got three stars on that level on Angry Birds,” I say.  “No, come check this out!” she replies. 

In one hand, she held the latest issue ofSmithsonian Magazine, and in the other, her iPad. “This app that I downloaded makes this magazine come to life!” she exclaimed, as she held her tablet in front of the magazine cover. A horizontal line scanned the page (a la facial recognition from sci-fi movies) and a video appeared on her iPad, while still integrating the printed page in front of her.

Throughout the magazine, each article of a 2012 Innovator complemented the printed word with a video of the person and their contribution. The augmented reality app brought sound and movement to an otherwise still piece of paper. Videos explained in greater detail what the magazine started to show, and offered more visuals that could simply fit on the printed page. This experience would not have made sense or existed by itself as a video or an app, as the printed piece served as the stepping stone for the rest of the story to come to life. Several other aspects of the magazine came to life, and my wife was fully enamored in the experience.

That word, “experience” is what made this example so compelling to me. The key to print continuing to thrive as a medium is the experience that people get from it. I have numerous friends that are paper-purists, that only read books and magazines that they can hold. There is something to be said about the tactile experience of reading, holding the item and of opening the mailbox daily. This experience paired with augmented reality, mobile apps, video and QR codes will maximize the effectiveness of print.

Late last year, Craig Blake wrote an article for our blog called “Is Print Dead? Not According to Lexus!”. In this example, the user would hold a tablet behind the advertisement, and a motion display would make the page come to life. Discussions around this technology often centered around the inconvenience of placing the iPad behind the magazine, and why you would have an iPad in hand while reading a printed magazine in the first place. Fair points, sure, but that Lexus ad and this experiment in Smithsonian Magazine are rooted in taking the reader on a journey through movement, sound and touch.

Where some assert that print is dying, I would assert that it is coming to life with modern technologies, and the augmented reality example in Smithsonian is just one more example how a magazine about innovation and ingenuity really gets it: print is here to stay and print/technology innovation will only create a MORE engaging experience.