With Cinematique’s ‘Touch-Enabled’, Shoppable Videos, Product Placement Might Not Be So Bad

In time, we’re all going to want to interact and shop from our favorite online — at least, that’s what
Randy Ross, co-founder and CEO of startup called Cinematique, argues, and he’s hoping to enable those interactions with Cinematique’s new MTEVideo platform.

When you watch content enriched by Cinematique, small dots appear on the screen, signaling items that you can click on with your mouse or just tap with your finger (depending on the device). The screen will be overlaid with some basic information about whatever you tapped, and when you’re done with the video, you can tap on the Cinematique icon below the video and bring up more details about everything you selected. You can also share the listing with friends or buy the product in question.

There’s obvious e-commerce potential here, similar to services like Stipple, which tags products in images and make images shoppable. In some ways, Cinematique is just bringing that idea to video. (Ross said that Cinematique videos can be embedded on other sites, so this is an obvious way to monetize videos that go viral.) And even if a company isn’t trying to drive an immediate purchase, Cinematique can provide unique, detailed data about who’s interested in your products and how they interacted with your content.

At the same time, the technology doesn’t have to be used for commercial purposes. Ross said that it’s entirely up to the filmmaker (or whoever owns the video) to determine which items to tag, and that the tags can also be used in many different ways to provide more information.

For example, in the video currently featured on the Cinematique front page, you can tap on the name of the video (“Sleepwalking in the Rift”) when it comes on-screen and you’ll get a basic description of why the video was made (it was commissioned by fashion brand Maiyet). Or you can tap on the actor’s face to learn about his career.

Ross said that Cinematique’s content can be updated over time, so the documentary filmmaker, for example, could use the annotations to keep the audience up-to-date about the subject matter.

This might all sound obtrusive or annoying, but Ross said it was important to protect the video watching experience, particularly he and his co-founders Kyle Heller and Chayse Irvin have all worked in filmmaking. So the dots are relatively subtle, and the more in-depth content is saved for after the video. Plus, if you really don’t like them, you can hide the dots or the overlays entirely.

In fact, if I have a criticism, it’s that the experience can be a bit too subtle, at least with videos that weren’t specifically designed for the Cinematique experience. Tappable items might only flash across the screen for a few seconds — so by the time I decided to tap on something, it had often disappeared from the screen. (Maybe I’ll get better at it.)

So there’s still room for improvement, but I’m impressed by what Cinematique has achieved so far. Ross also noted that there’s a real technical achievement here, because under-the-hood, the platform is able to recognize an object throughout a video — so that the user doesn’t have to tag it in frame after frame.

Ultimately, Ross predicted that with the proliferation of touch interfaces, “It will become commonplace. People will just expect that they can touch things in a video, whether it’s a video with models showing off dresses or a car video or an architecture video or a real estate video where the furniture and the building are touchable.”