If you were a subscriber to the print edition of the Toronto Star, what you got delivered to your doorstep back on September 19 was not just a print newspaper, but a unique interactive experience. Strewn throughout the paper were “hot spots,” images that, when scanned with a smartphone running the Layar augmented reality app, played a video or accessed some other type of interactive—and non-print-based—content. An aquarium’s shark exhibit bared its teeth. A hot-air balloon race took flight. And an ad for Nissan (one of the sponsors of the AR-enabled paper) put you in the driver seat. (Hopefully there was no coverage of Toronto mayor Rob Ford in that issue. Perhaps his reality is augmented enough.) You can view a video demo of the “augmented newspaper” here.

We’ve seen isolated examples and case studies of augmented reality going back at least a decade. Is it now ready for the mainstream? Is it just a fad, or is it the future of print? And how the heck do you create an AR-enabled newspaper anyway?

These are some of the questions to be posed at this year’s Graphics Canada exposition, taking place November 21–23 at the Toronto International Centre. Graphics Canada is held every two years and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To mark this milestone, says Dan Mustata, show manager for Graphics Canada, “we’ve brought together more features, more conferences, and more colocated events than ever.”

Mustata is also buoyed by very good preregistration numbers. A week before the show, he says, “it’s about 20% higher than where we were [in 2011].”

This year’s event includes three colocated conferences, three pavilions, and close to 75 educational sessions.

Graphics Canada is Canada’s largest printing show, and one of this year’s colocated events is the brand new Cross Media Conference, a two-day marathon “about print working in tandem with digital,” says Mustata. “Social media, online, Web-to-print, augmented reality, and all the other integrated, multichannel ways of communication to generate successful marketing campaigns.” Presenters and panelists represent some of Canada’s and North America’s leading ad agencies and marketing firms, discussing strategies and components of cross-media campaigns and offering ample case studies. Scott Pinkney, creative director of BBDO/Proximity, will talk about how direct mail can be expanded and enhanced to appeal to “all five senses”; Michael Oliver, senior VP and creative director of The Marketing Store Worldwide, will run through a recent cross-media campaign for Nissan North America; and Layar’s Nigel Newton will take an in-depth look at print applications for augmented reality, focusing on the Toronto Star’s “AR issue.” The Cross Media Conference will also look at “the future of print from the print buyers point of view,” says Mustata. “It’s not something I have seen as part of a normal North American printing show.”

Graphics Canada is not just about cross media, and there will be many other pavilions and partners to explore. Wide-format printing—one of the “shining stars” of the printing industry—is already, says Mustata, “now one of the traditional features of Graphics Canada.” Graphics Canada has partnered with SGIA and Sign Media magazine to offer two days (Thursday and Friday) of intensive seminars and training sessions on wide-format technology, sales, and marketing. Speakers will include SGIA VP for markets and technologies—and frequent WhatTheyThink contributor—Dan Marx. Sessions will be held at the Wide-Format Theatre on the show floor. Those interested in pursuing opportunities in wide-format will also want to check out the Wide-Format & Sign Pavilion.

Among other destinations for expo attendees are:

  • Print Executive Forum—An invitation-only venue for C-level industry executives to share insights and discussion strategic issues.
  • Adobe Software Theatre—A series of expert discussions of all aspects of the latest Adobe products for print and e-book production, as well as the design-centric aspects of the Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • Canadian Printing Awards—On Thursday, PrintAction magazine recognizes excellence in print quality, environmental sustainability, and contribution to the industry. Tickets are available here.

There are also the PacPrint Canada Showcase, PromoProducts Pavilion, the 3D Printing Pavilion, and more.

Educational and keynote sessions cover the waterfront of topics, from production and technology challenges to sales and marketing strategies, with a heavy emphasis on what to expect in the future. “The conference program at Graphics Canada is just unparalleled,” says Mustata. Thursday morning’s keynote presentation is provocatively titled “Will Nanography Change Your Future?” Kristof Dekeukelaere, North American Regional Sales Manager for Landa Digital Printing, will look at the past, present, and future of the Landa Nanographic Printing Technology, and what impact it will have on commercial printing, folding carton, flexible packaging, and label applications. Friday’s keynote will feature NAPL’s Andrew Papparozzi explaining how you can “Create Your Own Recovery.” The full gamut of sessions can be found here.

Finally, the show floor features more than 200 exhibitors, “innovative supportive exhibitors who still believe in the value of shows and the power of face-to-face interaction,” says Mustata.

“There’s three halls, 200+ exhibits, and we’re looking forward to a successful event.”

More information about the show can be found at http://www.graphicscanada.com.