Travel Tech

Despite the difficult beginning to its commercial life, augmented reality offers digital marketers a huge amount of opportunity and potential. However, augmented reality products which have been launched in the embryonic years of the technology have not really caught fire, as early developers have experienced barriers to their widespread adoption. But a recent innovation which provides brand-based interactive content is bucking this trend by proving popular with both companies and consumers.

Image Recognition Augmented Reality

Blippar is an image recognition augmented reality app, which enables customers to connect with a vast range of products and services. The Digital Tourism Think Tank has first hand experience of Blippar, having worked with them on blipping the events programmes for the Norwegian Digital Travel Conference and Digital Tourism Innovation Campus.

The app has already made a significant impact with businesses and consumers, but recently the company behind the software announced a new version of the Blippar app. This latest version of the software places a particular emphasis on non-brand visual searches. According to the CEO and founder of the company, Ambarish Mitra, this enables users to more rapidly delve into an even larger array of products and real-world objects than was possible previously.

Of course, Blippar remains a very much brand-oriented product, but the founder of the company is attempting to broaden the horizons of Blippar and build what will essentially be a visual search engine. This is a fascinating concept, and it is something in the future which could collaborate with and accompany market-leading products such as Google and Bing.

Effectively, this is a complete overhaul of the basic Blippar app. The new application will feature an entirely new interface, and also enables users to recognise new classifications of real world objects. This will enable consumers to research commonly purchased objects such as books, movies and DVDs via physical images. Eventually, it is intended for Blippar to expand this procedure into all manner of everyday objects; according to Mitra everything from apples to puppies.

A New World of Interactivity

This is intended to provide a whole new world of interactivity with regard to the perception of objects. The new application enables users to view any object on the app via the camera included in your mobile device. Once an image is selected, Blippar will initiate a digital search and automatically send relevant information directly from the local area. This aims to literally identify everything which is around you.

The new version of the Blippar app will initially be targeted at the English-speaking world, and the software will recognise all English-language album covers, DVD covers, fiction books and movie posters. In time, this will then be expanded to encompass other items in these categories, and then eventually all items within every conceivable category of objects.

When using the Blippar app, a range of contextual information will appear on the mobile device screen being utilised. For example, albums may provide access to videos of the artist involved, opportunities to purchase tickets, reviews, news, tweets and relevant photographs. This is an approach commonly used in other apps, but the Blippar software is the first example of an application which enables such identification and context to be gleaned from real world objects.

The Blippar AR engine drives this process, and the app’s location-based predictive computing uses both deep learning and artificial intelligence to personalise results for each user. This means that the app grows with you as you utilise it.

The Challenge for Augmented Reality

Previous reports from the Digital Tourism Think Tank have focused on augmented reality, and the potential for digital marketers provided by both this technology and wearable devices. However, it must be said in mitigation that this technology has yet to really capture the public imagination. We previously reported on Google Glass, and updated on this subject by reporting about the ability that the technology offered to book hotels. And there was certainly great optimism about this product in its early days.

However, Google has since removed its Glass project from the market, although it has stated publicly that it still remains committed to the concept. But clearly there are economic issues for augmented reality to tackle before the technology becomes mainstream.

It is therefore interesting to monitor the progress of Blippar, as this is one augmented reality device with travel-related potential which has already successfully attracted an audience. We know from our own personal experience that Blippar can be an extremely useful app, and the potential for it to expand into new horizons in the future is obviously quite large.

Blippar is also clearly be an application that is particularly compatible with wearable technology. With Apple having recently unveiled the Apple watch, which is set for an April release, this niche will achieve exponential growth during 2015. There are opportunities for travel marketers to attract consumers in both of these embryonic areas of technology. And even if companies and destinations are not ready to dip their toes in the water just yet, it is certainly worthwhile to keep a close eye on the development of this marketplace.

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