The idea of using Augmented Reality to bring dead-tree media to life is arguably very 2010, and back then it often hugged the line of gimmickry. But with the hype being generated by Google Glass, AR technology seems destined to be brought back into focus. Meanwhile, companies like Layer and Metaio have built platforms to help brands create experiences that bring real-world objects to life, not least print campaigns, by overlaying digital content via the view finder of a smartphone.
Today UK startup VirtualMob is officially launching its own Augmented Reality self-service — Point-at-Me (PAM) — which mixes drag ‘n’ drop content creation, e-commerce, and analytics in a bid to make it even easier for companies to get in on the AR action.
Running in private Beta over the last month, PAM aims to lower the barriers for brands who want to build Augmented Reality-enabled mobile apps and campaigns. It combines a CMS platform to let them create AR experiences without the need to code, which can then be accessed by consumers through the accompanying PAM smartphone app or by being integrated into the brand’s own app. In that sense, one way to think of VirtualMob’s proposition might be a WordPress for AR — and certainly this is about democratising access to the technology for content creators through ease-of-use and reduced cost.
The PAM platform itself — which while in Beta has already been used by over 100 customers including The Trump Ocean Club Panama, Cartier, Victoria’s Secret, Time Inc., The Waldorf Astoria, Cartier, Hyundai, and Unilever — is designed to be self-service, requiring little to no technical knowledge by employing a drag ‘n’ drop UI. It’s particularly suited to bringing a print campaign (or other real-world static content) to life by augmenting it with digital content, such as images, video, links and, crucially, e-commerce functionality.
So, for example, you might see an advert for a watch in a dead-tree magazine prompting you to fire up the PAM app (or the brand’s own app with PAM integrated) and point your phone at the image. From here you’d see additional information like where to buy, features, cost etc., along with any relevant call to actions.
But what makes this especially useful for brands employing the technology is that all of these interactions are measurable, and indeed PAM comes with analytics. This includes things like click through rate, location/time, and source media, thus bringing a degree of accountability to print campaigns that isn’t normally possible, helping brands prioritise their marketing budgets.
“Brands love the analytics part, as they spend millions on printed media, but have difficulties turning that into something they can measure or convert into hits via print,” says VirtualMob co-founder Chaya Jadhav.
Founded in 2011, the company is self-funded to the tune of $500,000 and is in the process of raising an external round of funding. To that end, I’m also told that the PAM platform will be compatible with Google Glass.
Well, there’s a surprise.