Digital printing disrupted the printing press industry starting in 1993. Nowadays, you can directly publish to Amazon and they'll print batches of your books from the Kindle format. It’s a 100% digital process that puts the printing power in individuals’ hands.
When it comes to reading books, the reading world has changed. We don’t only read books anymore; we consume them. We listen to audiobooks, check out book podcasts, read books on e-readers, or still read the old-fashioned way– on paper. Reading books has become an even more connected, community experience. Bookstagram, book influencers, book reviewers on Amazon, and quote collectors on Goodreads (which Amazon bought), are all ways reading has changed since the internet.
But, not surprisingly, AR glasses will change and enhance how we consume books.
The question is, however, are we augmenting books and still involving the reader? Our attention spans are already at goldfish levels (ok, more like 47 seconds on screens). Will AR glasses enhance our time in stories? One company working on hands and distraction-free reading is Sol Reader, which makes e-reader glasses. Sol Reader claims their glasses are “noise canceling for your eyes.”  Instead of trying to make everything hands-free, they’re focused just on reading– hands-free, distraction-free, and with e-ink.
Sol claims their e-reader glasses have the warmth and texture of e-ink. “I sacrificed tactile satisfaction for digital convenience,” wrote Valentina Palladino in Engadget.  AR glasses have to do more than change what we see, they have to change how we see it, plus connect those sights to our tactile experience.
Will Apple’s AR glasses help us to focus on the task at hand? Will they cancel out distractions so we can focus on the people we care about? AR glasses can have a positive impact by moving away from a notification-centric interface to one that conceals the unimportant bombardments in our life. This will be a significant change in our lives since we are already bombarded by thousands of sensual and visual images every day.
For those hoping to use AR glasses for printing benefits, the information we embed into packaging, billboards, and ads will become smart and connected. Through AR glasses, you can print an ad once, and it will automatically display in the language of the wearer. AR glasses will turn one marketing campaign into localized media in an instant. Today, we can film an ad once and use AI to change the shape of the actor’s mouth to match the word in each language. And we can use CGI and AI to switch out products from a single scene. But it still takes effort to create ads like that. AR glasses put the work on the wearer’s device so that what they read makes sense to them and who they are.
This can still be done in a way to push people outside of their comfort zones, help them learn something new, and think about things in a different way. We live in a world where books are being re-written and banned. Trusted sources of information are far and few. We don’t want AR glasses to create a Fahrenheit 451 world, where people communicate with emojis and fear books.
AR glasses, at the end of the day, are a tool, just like the printing press. What we print can be true or false, an escapism story or a knowledgeable tale. It’s up to AR glasses manufacturers, OS and app developers, publishers, and content creators, to allow us to read the world.
As a side note, we see AR, spatial computing, and volumetric video as key technologies for the preservation of history for newer generations. A lot of work has been done scanning and recording the stories of Holocaust survivors in order to preserve their stories for people today and for future generations and for the world not to forget the horrors of what they suffered with the hopes that history will not repeat itself. We also see the work that companies like Unity are doing with Unity for Humanity critical for the use of tech for historical preservation. We also think these technologies can be used to preserve dances and even languages that have no written tradition from going extinct, as was the work that Cathy was involved in at its inception with the Osage Nation that used volumetric video to preserve native heritage.  We believe that all of us that work in XR are working to create the printing press of the future.