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Virtual books and interactive posters

Programmers and multi-media designers combine visualization, real-time and Internet technology – turning static books and posters into interactive multimedia experiences. Viewers can play with words and images without needing a mouse or a keyboard.

Does this sound familiar? You cannot put the latest thriller down, but the book is so heavy and cumbersome that it detracts from your reading pleasure. Of course, for real bookworms this is no deterrent. But modern technology can make reading easier: The ‘virtual book’ turns the pages automatically when you simply touch the screen. It also recognizes places in the text that are associated with particular keywords, and the most important keywords can be selected and searched for with the help of an index. This is made possible by digitally formatting the text as a knowledge structure. An automatic text analysis system ascertains keywords which then provide the basis for navigation within the text. “It looks like a real book, but the text is supplemented with images, video and audio files,” explains Monika Fleischmann from the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information systems IAIS in Sankt Augustin. “The reader can search by author, title, subject or keyword. The ‘virtual book’ then turns to the appropriate point in the text.” Libraries could take advantage of the digitalization of valuable or delicate books to make them more widely available to experts and the public – and in other languages. Another example of bringing a static medium to life is the ‘interactive poster.’ This combines the poster’s eye-catching presentation with interactive interfaces and video clips. The basis for this is provided by PointScreen technology developed by the IAIS. It allows the computer to be intuitively controlled using gestures. The user navigates by simply pointing at the screen. In contrast to touchscreen technology, the user does not need to make physical contact, but rather becomes the ‘conductor’ of an audio-visual presentation. “The ‘interactive poster’ is a touchless information terminal that puts topics, images and keywords in focus,” says Fleischmann. Using simple gestures, viewers can interact with elements of the text and their form, can create new headlines and control their ´stroll´ through a story. Advertising therefore becomes much more striking, because of the involvement arising from the interactive experience. A quantitative and qualitative analysis of the interactions enables the location of the poster and its message to be evaluated and its communicative power to be optimized. The staff of the eCulture Factory rely on the results of basic research carried out by the MARS Exploratory Media Lab when developing new eCulture products and application scenarios. eCF and MARS are both project groups of the IAIS.

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