Meet Blippar

It seems like we’ve been talking about augmented reality for years now. It’s perpetually the next big thing in mobile, and is still at the very beginning of the technology adoption curve. Honestly, I had kind of checked out of the AR conversation—unfairly—after waiting for it to move from flashy demos to actual utility. AR’s utility has only been realized in a few apps, like Yelp’s Monocle, but the wow factor has overshadowed the practical applications of this technology. And then I met the guys from Blippar at CES.

Ambarish MitraBlippar is an app from the UK that succeeds where most augmented reality fails—utility and ease of use. Blippar lets consumers interact with products, ads and media in really interesting ways. One of the best examples they showed me was their work with Heinz Tomato Ketchup, which overlays an interactive recipe book onto their products, as you can see in the picture above. Ambarish Mitra, their CEO and Founding Director, was kind enough to answer my questions for this blog post (which I’ve left in the original Queen’s English).

In what ways does Blippar deliver where other augmented reality apps do not?

Blippar is not a techie app, it’s a new behaviour which will change how we engage with the world around us.  To blipp is to hold your phone up to anything in the real world and enjoy an instantaneous interactive or content-rich experience.  We are the world’s first business model driving this new behaviour specifically out of traditional press, media and outdoor messages – and through a single “lens” on everyone’s smart phone.  Not only that, but our technology provides the quickest and most seamless interactive experience found anywhere today.

What adoption numbers can you share for the UK, and how do you plan on entering the US market?

In UK we have over 350,000 users in 5 months and growing every day. Exhibiting at CES was our first initiative of entering the US market where we showcased our platform to numerous leading brands. There is huge demand for blippar in the US market and we are taking all the relevant steps in terms of infrastructure and resource to accelerate fulfillment.

What is the number one suggestion you have for brands looking to explore the potential of augmented reality?

Content, content, content. They key ingredient to a successful campaign is to deliver what’s in it for the customer. Meaningful and useful content still holds the highest importance be it augmented reality, social media or any form of above the line marketing.  Secondly –brands reed to educate the consumer that a campaign is interactive and “blippable” by utilising specific and compelling calls-to-actions to create the awareness. We have seen examples where in spite of great content by brands using AR, the campaigns didn’t do well because of lack of communication of call to action to drive the user to engage with the chosen medium.

What would you tell a brand that’s skeptical of the value of creating an augmented reality experience? 

Many skeptics undermined check-ins, tweets, social sharing without realising that these behaviour patterns are inherent within us. All of the above have suddenly surrounded our lives in last 3 years because of mobile acting as the key enabler of this behaviour. In simple terms AR is nothing but visual interaction with real world and even this behaviour is innate to us. A large and growing user base is adopting and enjoying this behaviour via their mobiles. It’s a great opportunity for brands to deliver great content and allowing users to experience the brand straight from its posters, press ads, kiosks and the product itself.  They can also track how users are engaging with their ads and products by having a wealth of real time data which was never possible till blippar came along.  Finally – it doesn’t come with the price tag that brands might expect from such high-tech stuff!

I’ve been pigeonholing Blippar as an AR app, but how do you describe the space Blippar inhabits?

Blippar is not just a technology, it’s a brand new consumer behaviour – and a verb… “to blip”Blippar is well on its way to becoming the eponymous verb for this behaviour.   Newspapers, magazines, products, billboards, shop displays and pictures instantly jump to live with valuable, content – whether a game, recipe, coupon, video or interactive digital experience.  Applications are, in fact, limitless and limited only by our imagination.

It’s important to note that AR is just one of the formats in which content can be delivered by a blipp – it’s the fundamental image-recognition aspect of what the tech offers which is the key to this as a new channel for content delivery and interaction, not the manner in which the content is delivered.

Of all the projects you’ve worked on with Blippar clients, which did you personally find most interesting and why?

We love all the blipps we have created for brands and each one of them have delivered unique experiences for users driving more brand engagement. Heinz Tomato Ketchup blipp is one of the favourites as it extends the actual ketchup bottle into a recipe book with video content and also opportunities for consumers to win prizes every day. Cadburys blipp is also a classic where users could play a game of smacking ducks straight off a chocolate bar. Users required to buy the chocolates to play the game. Suddenly from a snack, a piece of chocolate bar becomes an entertainment medium where you compete for high scores.  Ask everyone here though, and they’ll probably give you a different answer!   Just like our consumers, we’re all drawn to different experiences…

What new device capabilities or trends are you most excited about from the perspective of a mobile startup?

Faster processors and better cameras are things we look forward to most as it continuously improves blippar user experience with improved tracking and image recognition.  More phones having HD screens which make the blipps look richer. Improved GPS for more precise location services – and more.  In addition, we’re watching the phone become more like an extension of our own human senses – audio recognition, image-recognition—and soon touch, with the integration of NFC into the phone hardware.  All are exciting, complimentary technologies – turning intuitive behaviour into innovative and life-enhancing experiences.

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