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Why Pop Up Books Are the Original VR

December 20, 2018

If we take a closer look at technology, we see that there are possibilities of the world growing into a mostly automated world. A sometimes-forgotten technology and art is pop-up books. This forgotten credit is a shame, especially when considering that pop-up books the original Virtual Reality. Pop-up books have been around for thousands of years, but it was only a matter of time before virtual reality storytelling evolved the technology of pop-ups into an incredible story for the world. 

When we think of pop-up books, we think of the decorative covers and surprising objects that come bouncing off the pages. It’s a world that creates an adventure for our minds and lets our thoughts run wild until the book closes. Pop-up books are a form of magic for children because it lets the door to creatively open. 

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Technically speaking, pop-up books are a form of a hidden 3D dimensional paper that is discovered when opened by rising unfolding or a pulling action. It changes from a 2D figure into a 3D figure with a simple motion. The technical and all-encompassing term for pop-up art is paper engineering.


Paper engineering is the process of how paper is created and formed into a product that produces a three-dimensional art. It focuses on a product that is designed to have moving parts that catch your eye. It comes in many different forms like cards, invitations, flowers, origami, brochures and all kinds of special packaging. It’s created from a process of bleaching wood pulp into thin sheets which then is pushed through an apparatus, comes out, and is formed in a mesh of fibers. The textures are then pressed until the water is completely removed and dried. After the paper is coated with a thin amount of China Clay or Calcium Carbonate the final step is resizing.


As technology has developed and we have entered the 21st Century, books have formed from paper, to audio tapes, to movies, and so on. We used to tell stories with words and movable paper that slides or pulls. Now pop-up books have entered a technological advancement that allows it to be even more real. With 3D technology, we are able actually to step into that world and experience it for ourselves. It allows us to experience how history is changing and growing.  


With the limitations that came with pop-up books, humans weren't able to experience the full effect of the story. They were merely a small story with the actions of paper coming out and giving more impact of what was happening. Pop-up books were the first of stories being dipped into the pool of dimensional movement. They made it possible to create more of a story than just by using words. Pushing history forward by using pop-ups was only the beginning of 2D and 3D work.    

Pop-up books were originally created for adults; strange right?

But they have become a learning tool for children. Centuries ago pop-up books were designed for adults to learn more about Anatomy and Astrology. People were very fascinated with how creative it was and how the artwork stood out. The rich were very attracted to the art and technical innovation of pop-up books.

Fast forward to the modern age, even though pop-up books are no longer the forefront art medium for the rich, it still is an innovative art form. One of the biggest innovators is a woman named Collette Fu. She built a way to make real-life pop-up even bigger in person. Her pop-ups have made worldwide news her artwork reflects on Illuminate Cultures Depicts Myths and Reflects off of Legends. She has made the largest pop-up book in the world; its home location is the Photo Arts Center in Philadelphia.


As you get closer to it you can see the artwork and how well the pictures flow with each other. The pop-up book is so large that people are actually able to enter it. Going inside and looking at the different pieces that are connected and seeing how the story unfolds. Colette Fu has traveled quite a bit across the country, teaching younger generations how to create a pop-up book and how well to make it stand out on its own. 


Google's education advocacy has evolved from 2D to 3D. With the show Toontastic, they demonstrate 3D and how it’s created and transformed into different scenarios. The creators of Toontastic made it possible for children to learn about each scene and to learn how the story unfolds. So instead of just watching a show, children have a chance to learn from their show as well as create a world of their where they get to explore their imagination in 3D.


Facebook’s ins and outs have always been a part of social media, whether you go on for social events or interested in making new friends. Having photos makes the experience worthwhile but having the ability to engage in photos gives the audience more of a personal reason to be interested in a social media platform. The way Facebook has created 3D photography is best described as capturing subjects and creating a background to make it stand out more. Allowing the color of the picture in certain areas to stand out, making the object that is being focused on more in-depth, and allowing the photos to feel more lifelike. You as the viewer are able to see a photo of your friends or a dog and feel one step closer to that thing or person.


Pop-Up books were the beginning of AR and it provided us with the knowledge of what can happen if we tested certain types of technology. Using data to create more of a world opened the doors for creators to let the experience of VR unfold even more. VR has allowed the viewer to understand more of the story than just words, but active visual aids. Pop-up artists started with objects popping out of paper with a color that brought attention to our eyes very quickly, and VR has done the same. The difference is VR has allowed us to be surrounded with and interact in 3D with the stories we’ve formed.


Technology has grown so quickly and has become the newest way to improve our way to the future. Capturing more movement and better color only made the journey easier. Companies have shown the world that pop-up books were the ones who started the journey and with the proper equipment, can turn to success.

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