On the back of a sharp increase in interest in augmented reality (AR) from local brands, NMPi Labs has renewed its strategic partnership with global visual discovery specialist, Blippar, launching new customisable offerings — all firsts for the South African market.
NMPi is also gearing up to meet a growing demand from companies in Australia and Asia.
“We have seen a sizeable jump in interest and uptake in our AR offering over the past 10 months. This has been driven in part by technologies becoming more mainstream, but also by massive investment from the phone manufacturers which see AR in particular as a strategic growth area,” explains NMPi head, Johan Walters.
What’s more, AR and VR are key technologies in what Gartner describes as ‘transparently immersive technologies’ and is pegged as one of three megatrends which will drive digital businesses over the next 10 years.
The company further predicts that, by 2019, AR, VR and mixed reality (MR) solutions will be evaluated and adopted in 20% of large-enterprise businesses.
NMPi Labs has been working with agencies, post-production houses and directly with brands to design and deliver AR campaigns. Particular interest has come from printing and packaging companies as well as the retail and financial services sector.
“Brands are intrigued by the technology, especially the events companies who are often looking for the next big thing to captivate clients and prove their own innovation. Financial services are also showing a keen interest. AR works particularly well for financial services which often struggle to sell and advertise non-tangible products. By tapping into your customers’ feelings and emotions you allow them to connect with your brand, making experiential marketing perfect for financial services,” says Walters.
Looking ahead, NMPi Labs will be working closely with Blippar to deliver some significant new product enhancements and new offerings.
Halos, Blippar’s new AR face profiling in-app feature builds on existing facial recognition technology and allows users to create and customise their own AR Face Profile, or ‘Halo’. This latest launch makes facial recognition technology directly accessible for all smartphone users for the first time.
The facial recognition technology is also available as an API for businesses looking to license and integrate it into their own applications or products. The possible uses of this technology range from mobile banking to smart networking and building access control.
SeeFood!, meanwhile, uses Blippar’s Computer Vision API and AR software development kit (SDK) allowing users to identify food, and serving up its nutritional information. A particular use case which can now be customised for local brands – which Walters says should have the retail sector very excited indeed.
As a Blippar Partner, NMPi Labs can now also offer the world’s first AI technology for consumers interested in cars. Users can blipp any car (built after the year 2000) whether in a magazine, on the streets or even in a video. The app will recognise the make, model and year and then unlock an AR experience. It shows average customer rating, price, a 360-degree view of the car’s interior and more – transforming the physical world into a virtual showroom. Currently only available in the US via the Blippar App, NMPi Labs can now also offer the South African market similar solutions using the new Automotive API.
Finally, NMPi Labs can now also offer the first-ever augmented reality digital ad unit. Blippar has developed technology that allows rich media units to leverage a user’s camera without the need for a separate app to be installed on the device. It can be launched from any rich media inventory on camera-equipped mobile or desktop devices. The unit uses a live camera feed to merge the physical and digital worlds and is designed to drive active engagement and interest in a brand’s product.
“The SDK and API integrations mean we are able to develop more customisable solutions in niche markets. We can now work with brands that already have an existing app to leverage their active audience. The SDK will allow brands to bring an entirely new way for their followers to engage with them and their products. These new enhancements and products take AR into every vertical market, giving credence to the analysts’ predictions that AR has the ability to help create a truly digital business.”
NMPi Labs will be rolling out the new offerings to local markets in the coming weeks. However, Walters says the company is also seeing a marked interest from the Australian and some Asian markets.
“The Asian and Australian markets are showing the same upswing in interest as South Africa. Our commitment to continue our Blippar partnership and identifying avenues to expand into other markets is testament to the potential in these markets and there is no doubt that consumers are more than willing to embrace experiential marketing. Digital professionals will need to include AR, VR and mixed realities into their channel mix soon or risk losing out to bolder competitors.”