Local firm brings augmented reality

By Shamille Scott Business Reporter

Wednesday, September 05, 2012    

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Attention shoppers, Layar, a mobile application can get you details on products by holding your smarthphone camera over it.

It could be on a billboard, a newspaper, or a building, as long as it's printed. The application will feed you with information that can cover a product, company or an event.

Placing the Layar-enabled phone over an image of a patron dancing with a virtual Michael Jackson triggered a search and playback of video showing how Shift Interactive applied augmented reality at Reggae Sumfest for Pepsi Jamaica.

Shift, the company which is introducing the application in Jamaica, aims to help local businesses market their brand and boost relationship with customers.

The use of augmented reality, as it is called, allows smartphones and tablets to recognise objects that are in the real world, and provide detailed information about those objects.

IBM recently unveiled an augmented reality mobile application in the United States. It helps supermarket shoppers scan store shelves with their phones to receive personalised product tips, ingredients, recommendations and coupons.

If consumers opt in, information from their social networks can be integrated into the information stream, the multinational technology company said.

Though the application is not yet used by local businesses, Layar is operational.

"We have seen it (augmented reality), but it has not been used in commerce in Jamaica and the Caribbean," said Jamie Ranston, experience architect, Shift Interactive.

Using next generation software, the team created an augmented reality series that allowed visitors at the Pepsi Jamaica's booth to dance alongside a virtual Michael Jackson. Shift claims that this was the first instance in which augmented reality was used in Jamaica.

The agency partnered with Total Immersion, an international company which provides the world's most widely used commercial augmented reality platform, to use the software.

In the immediate future, as smartphones become a more common technology, augmented reality will become a normal way of communicating, said Ranston.

Though the application is not limited to supermarkets, Ranston said food distributors, banks and telecommunications companies, and pretty much any other business types can benefit from its use.

"While we can design and develop websites, our larger value lies in building and engaging online audiences to create conversions such as new customers or generating new sales," Shift Interactive said.

Layar also enables marketers to reduce the amount of information they have to provide consumers at once. The application can give potential customers information feedback as they desire.

For success, Ranston explained that careful planning is critical, and each project is tailored to suit individual clients, their target market and their business objectives.

Shift Interactive received training from Total Immersion, the provider of commercial augmented reality platform. Both compnies share software.

Increased brand visibility, increased interaction with customers which provide feedback through online platforms is said to positively impact Pepsi Jamaica's market leadership.

Additionally, the publicity has resulted in added value for the company, with online publicity transcending virtual borders.





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