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The first textbook with clickable paper

Education could be a huge market for augmented reality, but questions persist about its value in the classroom

Purists will say books are interactive enough just the way they are.

Nevertheless, there's a race underway to jam more user experience into the age old rite of reading text off the printed page.

Not since the Choose Your Own Adventure books has reading been so unpredictably non-linear.

The latest entrant is an interactive textbook that's enhanced by Ricoh's Clickable Paper augmented reality app.

The textbook -- fittingly, a college-level graphic communications primer -- is meant to offer a "hybrid learning experience," according to its authors. Instead of providing text links students can follow for further study, the book is meant to be used in real-time with the app open.

Ricoh's goal, according to the company, is to bridge the gap between ink-and-paper and the online world by embedding AR triggers in 2D printed text. When Richoh's Clickable Paper app scans one of the triggers, it launches a new feature, such as a video.

"Each hotspot links to one or multiple sources, instantly taking readers from two-dimensional printed content to online, multi-channel content."

AR-codes have more commonly been targeted at marketers for printed displays, but the foray into education tracks a growing trend in augmented reality technology, which is creeping into schools.

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Understandably, that's sparked debate.

As Jennifer Carolan, co-founder of Reach Capital, which invests in ed tech companies, recently argued, new technologies like AR can expand on literacy's fundamental value, which is the creation of different vantage points.

"Demand for these tools originates from educators both in schools and corporate environments who have a mandate around successful collaboration," she writes. "Teachers who are on the front lines of this growing diversity consider it their job to help students and employees become better perspective-takers."

Others, of course, see the allure of more tech like AR in the classroom as chimerical.

"An iPad is an amazing device for transmitting information, but what makes a difference in a student's life is the information, not its mode of transmission," argues author Jervey Tervalon in a thoughtful essay reflecting on the rush underway to sell tech to school districts. "An iPad loaded with inane apps is just another boring textbook."

Virtual reality hasn't taken off in education as many predicted it would, but augmented reality developers, struggling to lift the tech out of the novelty phase, have taken square aim at education as ripe market.

According to a recent Technavio report, the global AR education market could grow at a CAGR of more than 82 percent by 2021.

That means more tech in the classroom, and more experiments with books you can "click."