Thursday, July 24, 2014


Mountainview, Calif. Google tends to pack a punch at its annual I/O and this year was no exception. Last month, it announced a raft of innovations for Android, with contextual awareness big on the agenda (you may remember this theme from my blog about the AWE Keynote by Robert Scoble below).

What else is set to come?

In case you missed it, here are some of the bite-size highlights announced for Android 5.0 that are especially relevant for mobile app developers:

MATERIAL DESIGN:
  • A new UI Concept, giving more focus to meaningful transitions
ANDROID WEAR:
  • Expansion of "Android Wear" to include integration with Google Now and enhanced voice note taking. Also, support extended for round and square screens.
NOTIFICATIONS:
  • Enhanced Notifications including the option to respond from the device home screen
GOOGLE FIT:
  • Set of new APIs to develop apps and track stats using the health sensors
ANDROID AUTO:
  • Better support for communication, navigation and music through a new Android Auto SDK
GOOGLE ANALYTICS:
  • Enhancements to analytics, testing and distribution

You can find out more and see the keynote videos by clicking through to the official site here.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Layar-ing Blippar - Post-acquisition thoughts on major shake-up in AR browser market



BARCELONA - If you’re into AR and have played around with the many AR-enabled mobile apps published in iTunes and Google Play, you have probably heard by now about Blippar acquiring Layar. This means different things for everyone involved in the AR industry, for consumers, for professionals and for the future of the AR industry as a whole.

I first came into contact with Layar at a startup event in Barcelona in 2009 and was impressed with Layar's vision and ability to market AR's potential for immersive experiences on mobile to both techies and marketeers alike. I also described Layar's use of geo-location in my book on Location Aware Applications.

If you’re not entirely certain what those companies do, the rundown is that they both provide an app which enables consumers to scan printed media or packaged products that have an interactive campaign or digital content attached to them. Typically users know about that content because there is a call to action. Those apps compete with others like Junaio or Wikitude, alternative ‘AR browsers’.

The most prominent advantage of AR browsers is that users need only one app for multiple content. Once installed, it pulls new content on demand from the cloud.The disadvantage when comparing branded apps and browsers is for content creators. Brands and publishers have limited control of the whole experience (as well as the branding) and they share the same space with competitors.

Blippar has been doing a very good job of providing high quality experiences on their browser. Operating like an agency, they take care of the end to end solution but publish on Blippar’s app. Layar is probably the king in terms of volume of experiences inside their platform. But with volume and scale, comes some limitations on the versatility of the experiences as you cannot go one-by-one. It remains to be seen if a new Layar-Blippar browser app will lean more towards volume or towards curated content.


So what lies in store in the future? Beautifully crafted, branded AR-capable apps are more likely to win hearts-and-minds of mobile users.A foreseeable option is that, just as happened with location, AR and image recognition capabilities will increasingly be embedded within a multitude of apps in a seamless fashion. (Credit to D.Marimon for parts of this post).


Monday, June 30, 2014

AWE 2014 -Augmented World Expo Summary (how wearables came one step closer to a commodity product...)



SANTA CLARA, CALIF. - Now my second AWE in a row, there is plenty to be amazed at this one-of-a-kind augmented reality (AR) conference set in the midst of Silicon Valley.

As the AR industry evolves away from a niche to being a concept more and more consumers are exposed to and understand, so does AWE evolve from an enthusiast's playground to a showcase for multimillion dollar businesses and opportunities.

You know things are a-changing when companies like Bosch join the expo floor and when more than one exhibitor brings along a connected car to showroom cool tech with. To boot, AWE has almost doubled in size from last year and this maturity was also clear from the visitors to the event (and the questions they ask). While last year I got a fair amount of "How do I use your tech" type questions, this year is more along the lines of "QR codes are not right for my business, what do I need to do to use your image recognition and augmented reality software instead".

Yes, businesses are now more comfortable with technology that enhances their physical products and links these to digital content. In fact, many brands understand today that unless their brand is connected somehow to their Facebook page, mobile apps, m-commerce store etc, some other brand will and so steal their market share. Consumers are overwhelmingly digital today and image recognition is a great way to connect the real world to the digital one (in fact, add an image to an ad and let users interact with it and you can expect 40x greater engagement than without it -that's ROI for you!).

AWE also marked a shift away from the Google Glass "geek-factor" to a point where Glass is cooler (though privacy still remains a concern). So much cooler, that Glass is no longer alone, and Epson want to give Google a run-for-their money with the BT-200 Moverio. These are clearly not commodity products yet, but we're a lot closer to this happening.

At last year's AWE, the audience loved actual case studies of consumer brands using AR -this year, it was more about wearables and how different industries can use AR to become more efficient.

It was great to see Robert Scoble on stage and his message of contextual awareness (as endorsed by Google at Le Web in 2010) is still relevant today and in fact, as AWE proved, we are one step closer to seeing that vision come true.



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mobile World Congress 2014 -Summary & Conclusions


BARCELONA- Yes, it has been almost a month now since the end of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona so this post rationalizes a great deal on my thoughts about the event. As an exhibitor at the show this year, it takes that long to digest all the information and business leads!

As this is a short post, I will provide bit-sized thoughts only:

BEST DEVICE: No doubt, the device that impressed me the most was the LG Flex mobile phone with an ergonomic curved screen that maintains a great resolution and is an indication of things to come. We will eventually all want our tech to blend in unobtrusively with our environment and life, and being able to curve displays so as to fit our "round" world makes a great deal of sense to me. I hope we see more of this type of device and screen tech soon...

KEY TREND: This is not so much news, but more of a confirmation. It is here. "Connected everywhere" is no longer just a marketing slogan, but the presence of a whole range of companies that are not actually "mobile" is proof that connectivity is coming to a "thing" near you very soon (and this thing may include your iRoomba vacuum cleaner). This year, car manufacturers and connected cars on display have mushroomed at the show. This makes sense- the more expensive the "thing", the more justified is the investment in connectivity. Hacker attacks on Smart Fridges aside, this trend will continue and the MWC is likely to horizontally integrate more with a wide range of industries and products that will have nothing to do with the traditional mobile phone.

PRODUCT LAUNCHES: I was disappointed by Samsung's launch of the Galaxy S5 for two key reasons. One -we are at a Mobile show so please do not restrict access to your new device exclusively for the press. 74,000 other visitors wanted to get their grubby mitts on the device and couldn't. Annoying at best. Second- I'm not against natural evolutions of devices and agree that it is not necessary to re-invent the wheel at every product launch. However, do not make such a big song-and-dance over a product launch when in reality there are only gradual enhancements in the new product. This is just a way to raise expectations and then disappoint. And copying Apple is not an excuse to repeat this error.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mobile World Congress 2014-WIPJam set to be leading developer conference again!


BARCELONA -as the big event approaches (and a frantic scram for free tickets reaches its peak), WIP has announced that the annual WIPJam developer conference will now be a 4-day long event taking place in the old Fira site of Plaza Espanya.

In fact, developers attending WIP get a whole building this year with, in the words of WIP, "More developers. More tshirts. More code. More swag! ".

Tuesday morning will feature Genevieve Bell from Intel, billed as one of the most creative persons in tech as well as "Intel's secret weapon".

Tuesday afternoon will continue with the heavy guns blazing, as Tommy Palm from King takes the stage. Tommy is known for his successful game dynamics creation and ability to draw millions of users to game productions (and not just Candy Crush).

Wednesday afternoon is Mark Murphy's turn, with a raft of wisdom around Android development.

But, be sure that there will be plenty more at WipJam. In fact, review the program and pick wisely to make sure you attend the sessions you car most about and make sure to network! If you are at MWC, you find it far easier to hob nob with the decision makers from mobile at WipJam than anywhere else in the show. You can register for WipJam here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mobile World Congress 2014 Agenda: MWC14 Expectations and Preview

BARCELONA- A record-breaking 72,000 visitors are expected at the Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona according to the GSMA. So many visitors, in fact, that the show will be spread out over both the original Fira expo area AND the new Fira site (also known as Fira2) in the Hospitalet neighbourhood.

This won’t be the only change for this year under the theme of “Creating What’s Next”-in fact, the GSMA has announced a series of new events, themes and activities. One of them is mPowered Industries programme designed to gauge the interest in mobile of different industries.

Several key figures (including John Matonis and Rich Riley) will be attending the show and giving talks on current trending topics, from bitcoins, to mobile media, mHealth and mobile advertising.

Even though the usual raft of product announcements will still dominate the news and are set to capture the attention of the public, the 2014 promises to broaden the appeal of the show way beyond hardware. The play by the GSMA is to bring into play key industries and key content owners that are expected to drive demand for mobility services in the next decade.


More coverage on the MWC14 in subsequent blog posts and on my Twitter stream (handle:ricferr_mobile).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

AdTech London -Summary & thoughts for traditional media



LONDON- Time waits for no man, and AdTech London has come and gone though I realise I never got a chance to summarise my experience there.

One of my objectives was to see how deeply augmented reality capabilities are being integrated into advertising experiences, especially those that cross over different media i.e. print to web.

It was clear to me that the effectiveness of augmented reality has been proven -a large newspaper group quoted some interesting stats on the effectiveness of recent ad campaigns that linked to digital content, with a clear route to monetization of those ads.

This made me think however that many publishers are still to fully grasp the opportunity to monetise with AR. Layar published a great article recently with some useful pointers:

1. Use AR to upsell print ads -that's right, AR can be used to turn those now standard ads into premium ads. Im fact, in Canada Glacier Media (a local publisher) plans to make an exra $7.5m thanks to their up-selling efforts for Layar-enhanced ads.

2. Sponsored Editorial Content. Special editorial features can be linked to video interviews and sponsored for anything from $1,000 to upwards of $10,000

3. Print to e-commerce. Mobile commerce is booming, with some web portals taking over 25% of sales via their mobile channel. What better way to find the stuff you want than by scanning your favourite magazines? Adding items in this way to a wishlist or shopping cart will soon be the most convenient way to discover and shop.

There is still a lot of way to go before traditional media grasps the augmented reality bull by the horns but the paradigm of visual search is already here. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Not Sci-Fi anymore...why Augmented Reality is more real than you think


MUNICH- Guest post from David Marimon, Catchoom CEO

There are two things I want you remember after you read this blog:
·       AR is here and it has practical, everyday uses with sound technology
·       The market is accepting using it faster than you think
I want to show you why these things are true through an example, Audi.
Not long ago, we were hearing many skeptical voices talking about Augmented Reality (AR). Let me share a couple of anecdotes.
I remember in particular an attendee telling a panel formed by Layar, Metaio, Qualcomm executives and myself how nerdy we would look like with AR glasses. This was at Mobile World Congress in 2011.
Last month, I was speaking with the Head of Future Technologies at Pearson, a global publishing firm. She told me that AR is ready for the market and not something for the future, but they just need to figure out the best business model for everyone to make real money.
I could not agree more.
So what is she and others referring to when they say AR is ready? Let’s take a couple of recent examples.
The Audi eKurzinfo app (demoed by Metaio for the first time at insideAR 2012) lets drivers have intuitive access to pages of the driver’s manual simply by pointing at the space in the car they’re interested in.
Is this new? Not exactly, one of the first implementations of AR was actually in car maintenance with mechanics – using big goggles connected to a laptop to make access to information so they could perform maintenance on the luxury cars. Does that surprise you to know that some of AR’s first uses weren’t even for games, to view an ad or other entertainment based things we have come to associate it with – it was utilitarian, functional and gave people access to information to do their jobs.
The changes are more subtle and at the same time more bold. Mobile has made a huge difference, but uses have too. Audi has been bold enough to deliver this application not only to their certified garages for skilled maintenance teams, but now into the hands of their prized end-users. And, this is the real change  - AR is not for techies anymore but for any user armed with a smart phone which is about 1 billion peoplearound the world today.
And, what about wearables?
Museums in Barcelona like the MACBA or MNAC have been using AR recently in their expos to showcase art or special exhibitions. Users equipped with an iPad and the Layar app can access alternative views or get detailed explanations about art pieces in the collection. Visitors of these museums aren’t necessarily art experts, so a little help from AR, makes the whole experience much more interactive and memorable.
In the last AR Meetup in Barcelona on October 3, I had the opportunity to talk to the different agencies who prepared those AR experiences. When asked what people thought about holding their arms with an iPad, the response was the same for all of them: we need glasses. Wow!
Just looking at the amount of wearables at AWE last June, this comes as no surprise, companies in this area have been around for a while but Google Glass has opened the door for a discussion around end consumers using them for AR, and not being a nerdy thing, which today is quite cool.