Up until this spring, augmented reality—a software program developed in France by Total Immersion to create a hologram-like 3-D experience—has mostly been used in print for marketing brochures for cars. Then in March Topps added augmented reality to enhance its baseball cards. By going to the Topps Web site and holding up the card to a webcam, the player seems to pop right out of the card—and play ball (see this demonstration on YouTube). So it was only a matter of time before the program, which ties a brand with a Web site, migrated to books.

The first book with a bound-in augmented reality page is Templar Publishing’s Drake’s Comprehensive Compendium of Dragonology, released earlier this month in the U.K. The heavily illustrated book contains a drawing of a European dragon that can wake up and roar, when linked to the Dragonology Web site and a webcam. “As soon as we saw this technology in Bologna,” says Templar managing director Amanda Wood, “We knew that we had to find a way to incorporate it into one of our titles. We have always tried to be innovative when it comes to our Ology series, and this amazing 3-D technology gives us the opportunity to offer our readers a unique experience.”

A still from the demo of Templar's augmented reality dragon.

But when the U.S. edition of the Compendium is published by Candlewick in late October, it will be a more “traditional” book, sans augmented reality. According to Jennifer Roberts, executive director of marketing, publicity and events for Candlewick, “We are looking into augmented reality, but there are no plans or dates for the U.S. market.”

However, Total Immersion, which has a 60-person office in France, has no doubts about U.S. potential for its software and has begun growing its presence on this side of the pond, with a 17-person office in Los Angeles. Greg Davis, general manager of U.S. operations, envisions a number of creative ways to merge augmented reality with traditional pastimes like reading. In the coming weeks, he says, a well-known magazine will utilize augmented reality on its cover and at several other places inside. In addition, a global retailer will roll out augmented reality in a number of its stores.