Augmented Reality & Triggers to Transactions

Two of the big guns in the world of AR (Augmented Reality) are now one.

The Blippar purchase of Layar today is yet another step along the road to mobile commerce.

While Blippar is hardly a household name, it has served companies with names that are, including Domino’s, Heinz, Wrigley’s Gum, Stylist Magazine and Cadbury.

Though AR is still a distance away from mass usage, the combination of the two companies starts to somewhat simplify the market.

“This is a huge step forward,” Blippar CEO Ambarish Mitra told me from Layar’s headquarters in Amsterdam earlier today.

I visited Layar’s main office there about a year and a half ago and CEO Quintin Schevernels told me at the time of Layar’s focus on the print publishing world.

“There is a big urgency for publishers to do something,” he said. “It’s getting users and educating the market of those who can use a smartphone to buy stuff from a magazine or catalog.”



The commerce aspects of AR have always intrigued me, as in adding the capability to buy digitally from an analog starting point.

That was one of the keys that both Blipper and Layar tapped into with magazines, allowing readers to easily make a purchase right off the page without really leaving their magazine reading process.

I used Layar’s AR on the cover my latest book, Mobile Influence, so that after a quick scan, a consumer could see active buttons to email me, call my office, follow me on Twitter and, from a commerce standpoint, instantly purchase the book from Amazon.

(If you want to see an example of Blippar, download the app and point it at a Heinz ketchup container. For a Layar example, download the Layar app and point it to a picture of my book Mobile Influence.)

Anyone who sees AR for the first time is generally wowed by the experience, to which I can attest after having shown my book cover as an AR example in presentations in various parts of the world.

“At the end of the day, there are only about 4% of global smartphones have an AR app in them,” said Mitra. “It’s in its infancy, but those who see it are excited. The world is waking up to it.”

Layar was founded more than five years ago around the idea of using the compass in Android phones allowing the phone to know which direction the phone was pointed. The company then came up with the idea of plotting over the camera image the locations that were around the phone in the correct position since they could tell where the phone was pointed.

The initial use was real estate, with house shoppers in the Netherlands being able to point their phone at a building and get the house sale information displayed on their mobile device.

To say AR has advanced miles since those days would be a great understatement.

Commerce has been conducted via the Blippar app for well over a year, says Mitra, citing examples of purchases from the pages of Harper’s Magazine and flyers from Kohl’s, where consumers “blip-browse-buy.”

“Commerce is a key prerogative,” said Mitra. “It’s a trigger to a digital interaction, of which transaction is an element of it.”

That trigger to transactions just got a larger footprint.


(Triggers to transactions and engagement will be one of the major topics discussed at the upcoming MediaPost OMMA mCommerce Conference in New York on Aug. 7. Hope you can join us.)


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