New and Now

Hello Future! Take a Peek Inside the First Augmented-Reality Travel Book

by California Chaney
Go on holiday with a virtual reality book. All photos courtesy of Studio 96 Publishing.

Ask any die-hard traveler, "what superpower would you want?" and their answer would likely be "teleportation." 

To be able to snap your fingers (or wave a magic wand or whatever SuperTeleporters do) and have a perfect day: breakfast in Costa Rica, lunch in Paris, an afternoon swim on the Amalfi Coast, sushi dinner in Japan, all topped with a nightcap in New Orleans. Yes, please.

While Bezos and his billionaire cohort are focused on sending themselves into space (hope you're having fun, bros), the closest the rest of us can get to teleporting for now is virtual reality. But aside from some very cool but site-specific examples — an epic flyover of the Great Ocean Road at a Tourism Australia industry event, a headset-enhanced tour of Gaudi's Casa Batll√≥ in Barcelona, the Van Gogh Immersive Experience on tour globally — we haven't yet seen many universally accessible, real-world examples for VR for travelers.

That's why my mind was blown when I first saw and flipped through Kiss & Fly, the first interactive coffee table book by "experiential publishers" Studio 96, who set out to disrupt and reinvigorate the print world through augmented reality. Featuring the work of French sister-photographer duo Lauren and Annael Tolila (they're known as Via Tolila), the pages are filled with virtual vacations to nine dreamy destinations: Italy, Greece, France, Brazil, Iceland, Mexico, Jordan, India, and Israel. The photos are pure wanderlust and escapism: cerulean oceanfronts, striking architecture, intimate and evocative still lives of vibrant communities around the world. 

But once you hover over a photo with the Studio 96 app on a smartphone or tablet, the scene comes to life — the swimmer leaps off the cliff, the cocktail is swirled, the bustling tuk-tuk zips by. The technology, which is called Live Images, overlays the artists' live videos with the static photographs, making it seem that the scenes are moving on the page. While I thought the app would be a distracting feature or another dreary QR code (which we've exhausted in the COVID age), the result is an intimate and instantaneous simulation of a far-away land — a true sense of a place or fleeting moment. And if the title gives anything away — "Le Kiss & Fly" is the name of the artists' hometown airport departure lounge in Nice, France — the book invites you to fly away, escape, and to be a step closer to your teleportation superpower.

In future releases, Studio 96 founder Aya Abitbul hopes to use the technology to not only view videos, but also launch Spotify playlists, web pages, community groups, interviews, and other live content that will enhance the reader experience. I can't wait. 

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