While I primarily read most new papers on Read by QxMD, I still get some printed journals delivered to my home. One, the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy (AJHP), has incorporated a new feature that caught my attention. The journal has incorporated augmented reality (AR) via the app Layar.

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Essentially, the printed journal incorporates text and items that are scanned by the app to propagate further features for the reader to explore.

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In this case, the app gives the reader the ability to watch videos on Youtube, or listen to interviews by linking to online content.

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AJHP is not the first journal to incorporate Layar, the medical journal Neurosurgery had incorporated it as well a few years ago. That being the case, the use of AR has been discussed, as seen in a BMJ Blog post from 2011. In addition, PDFs printed from AJHP also incorporate the AR ability, so readers who elect not to receive the monthly issue can still utilize those features if printed out.

What brings the most attention to the use of AR in printed journals is whether this is a ‘Stop Gap’ measure for printed journals. The sale of printed media is decreasing, and with a push for many journals to go completely digital (the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education has since stopped printing its journal and is open access online), current renditions of printed pieces are looking for ways to be innovative.

Currently, digital journals are being adapted at an increasing rate, and their integration into mobile apps has been beneficial. However, with multiple apps for multiple journals, this has led to services like QxMD, Docphin, and Docwise finding a niche to encapsulate all of those journals through proxy institutional access. However, these digital PDFs do not allow great integration for other features (e.g. Youtube, outside references, social media), which AR printed journals are looking to incorporate into their articles.

In a reversal of what makes sense — who would have thought the printed journals who are incorporating augmented reality are now creating a better experience than when you access the article in PDF form from your iPad.