Developed at Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute and its Digital World Research Centre, the idea is that the bookmark communiates with a phone app via a bluetooth link.
One of the concepts uses a pattern of black patches printed close to the book’s spine, and the other (pictured right) has perforation in the same positions.
“This solves a problem with our earlier attempts to instrument every page with electronics,” said project lead Professor David Frohlich. “The Magic Bookmark means books can be printed on regular paper as usual, yet the electronics move through the book as you read.”
In the first case, reflective opto-swiches strategically-positioned in the bookmark detect the presence of absence of the black patches. In the second case, the bookmark needs to be in the next page and its photo diodes get illuminated (or not) by what ever light the human reader is using.
The reflective case needs no holes and can be extended by printing greys as well as black to encode more information, and coding could be made invisible on the page by using infra-red absorbing inks that transparent or white to visible light. Industrial collaborator Printcolor has already made an off-white ink that is almost invisible to the human eye but detectable by the sensors.
The eventual aim is to use fully-printed photosensors, and make the active bookmark indistinguishable from a conventional one.
“We have been developing expertise in compact electronic devices for sensing and interaction with the real world,” said tream electronic engineer Georgios Bairaktaris. “We focus on minimalistic solutions with a view of low-cost manufacturability and robustness during use. It’s important to us that there are responsible disposal options at the end of products’ life cycles as well.”
The bookmarks and a third concept using conductive ink have been published in Advanced Intelligent Systems journal as ‘Magic Bookmark: A nonintrusive electronic system for functionalizing physical books‘. This paper also includes an extensive review of earlier work to similar ends.