Blippar is using AR to help customers find their way indoors

Startups

Remember the scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruz walks through the mall and thousands of holographic ads pop up around him? That reality may not be as far off as we thought.

Blippar, the augmented reality startup that launched back in 2011, is today announcing the launch of a new product that would let retailers, airports, commercial real estate owners, etc. place augmented reality content across their space.

The product is called the Blippar Indoor Positioning System, and it uses computer vision and augmented reality to help customers, tenants, etc. find their way through a large indoor space such as a grocery store, department store, or stadium.

This isn’t Blippar’s foray into AR navigation. The company launched the AR City app in the summer of 2017, which uses the camera of the phone to pinpoint a user’s location with better accuracy than GPS, according to the company. Blippar rolled out functionality for AR City in more than 300 cities.

But the indoor positioning system should prove more lucrative. Location services is one critical piece of our digital lifestyle that hasn’t been completely overwhelmed by advertisements. But it’s not hard to imagine advertisements popping up within a department store or sports stadium as a user looks for the beauty department or the closest hotdog, respectively of course.

Blippar sees an opportunity to use this for retail and shopping, entertainment and gamification, tourism, and even design, giving interior designers a chance to check out AR furniture, paint colors, etc.

But there’s also a huge play here around data. Facebook may know just about everything about you, but the advertising behemoth hasn’t made the most of leveraging a user’s location. Blippar might stand a chance at doing just that with the new indoor positioning system, giving retailers unprecedented information around the way that customers move through a store.

Because the system uses computer vision to determine a user’s location, the product can be used in offline mode.

Blippar uses blueprints, photography, and 3D models of buildings to build out the indoor visual positioning system, and can turn around the project almost immediately if they have access to CAD files of the building’s layout. Adding content, however, takes as long as designers and other project leaders need to figure out what that content should be and how it should look.

Blippar has been through a number of evolutions as a company. The startup first launched as a tool for brands and publishers, laying AR content on top of real-world objects that were tagged with a Blipp (a little sticker to trigger the AR content).

The company then moved into visual search, letting users point their phone at a car or a flower and learning more about what that real-world object is.

That has all laid the foundation for this latest B2B iteration around navigation. Blippar hasn’t yet disclosed the exact cost of using this new product, but did say that it will range between $300K and $1 million. Thus far, the company has signed on two major clients, one retailer and one commercial real estate owner, though Blippar didn’t disclose which companies it’s working with.

Blippar has raised more than $100 million since launch.

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