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Augmenting Reality with Poetry

Readers can hold a physical book of images and a web-based application to create 3-dimensional poems.

The increasing prevalence of e-readers has left many wondering where the future of the book is headed. Some even preemptively mourn the tangible book, with a pressing nostalgia for the classic book-reading experience.

Credit: Amaranth Borsuk

But others see ubiquitous technology as a means of appending the book-reading experience, rather than replacing it altogether. “While some bemoan the death of the book, I saw in augmented reality the possibility for page and screen to coexist,” says Amaranth Borsuk, a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Comparative Media Studies at MIT. After studying the role of books in the digital age, her project Between Page and Screen was born—and it can only be described as a novel experience.

Between Page and Screen has three prime components. The first is the physical book, hard-covered and filled with large, geometric images rather than words. The second component is a computer, equipped with a Web camera.

Credit: Amaranth Borsuk

The third, and final, component is an almost liminal space, the augmented reality that springs to life “between” the book and the screen. Once the reader goes to the accompanying website, she must then hold the book at an angle—almost extending the book forward like an offering, so the webcam can register the chunky geometric image. What happens next is seen in the image above. A simulated 3-dimensional poem or object appears and moves when the reader moves the book, creating an engaging experience. Between Page and Screen documents the exchange of cryptic letters between two lovers, “P” and “S.”

Interactive literature isn’t a new idea; fans of the Goosebumps series might recall “Choose Your Own Adventure”—type stories that represented an earlier kind of interactive fiction. What is novel about Between Page and Screen is the way it integrates technology so that the book and website can’t be meaningful without the other.

Borsuk and her partner, interactive application developer Brad Bouse, are now working on other literary-technological projects, including one involving the Microsoft Kinect and another interactive book that features “mutating poems.”

“For me the relationship between form and content is paramount,” Borsuk says. “Rather than interaction for its own sake, I would like to create work that calls out for its medium.”

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