Augmented Reality Heating Up In The Nordics

    Smartphone cameras have long been used as simple inputs for photos and videos, but recently we’ve started to see a few local companies leverage the camera as much more of a smart sensor for advanced applications. We’ve only scratched the surface with augmented reality technologies. But with Sayduck launching their first co-branded app, with 13th Lab receiving funding, and with Guidepal in the mix, maybe we’re starting to see the signs of a new trend developing in the Nordics.

    Starting off the news, Sayduck recently announced the launch of their co-branded app with One Nordic Furniture Company, a Finnish-Swedish furniture brand. The app allows users to virtually test out products in their homes using accurately scaled virtual reality furniture viewed through their iOS device. The app lets you scroll through furniture, change colors of the furniture, and even read the description, price, and dimensions all virtually placed to float around the furniture.

    “Initial user experience indicates that we are definitely onto something – the wow and cool factor is obvious. People understand the potential and the benefits when they see and experience our solution”, says Mikko Martikainen, Sayduck CEO.

    I tested out the app in the office but came across one of Sayduck’s big hurdles to overcome. The app requires a “target marker,” or a specific sheet of paper that the app can recognize where and what size the furniture should be. You can download the target marker images off of their website to print it yourself, but the ArcticStartup office printer was doing that “we don’t have yellow so you can’t print black” thing.

    To get around this target marker delivery issue for those without printers (or ink), furniture retailers can distribute markers in advertisements or in their stores. Additionally, Sayduck tells us they’re considering a model where a target marker could be mailed to you after an in-app purchase. The target markers can also be anything, so a magazine cover, or whatever a manufacturer wants to use can be supported.

    “Even though our focus right now is on the furniture and home decoration markets, our underlying platform supports a wide variety of product categories. We believe that this technology will be the way people shop in the future”, says Martikainen.

    Sayduck is based in Helsinki, Finland, and is currently participating in the London-based Seedcamp accelerator. The app can be found for free in the app store.

    In other augmented reality news, 13th Lab, a Swedish mobile computer vision company, announced it has received a €550 000 seek round led by Creandum. Rather than focusing on one application of augmented reality, 13th Lab is now working on their Pointcloud browser, which is a standard web browser that also supports augmented reality applications.

    In this sense, 13th Lab is trying to become much more of a platform for internet-enabled augmented reality. Developers can connect the web to the physical world by letting ordinary web pages render a user interface on top of the physical world through standard HTML and JavaScript.

    As an example of this browser’s potential, Swedish readers of the Metro newspapers can use the Pointcloud browser’s camera to view their physical Metro newspaper. Through the smartphone’s screen, readers can view interactive graphs overlaid on top of the printed graph. Videos and slideshows can be overlaid on top of printed pictures, and 3D objects that stand out of the newspaper help things pop.

    This technology also gets Metro readers opening up an internet connection while reading the paper, which provides a conduit to encourage commenting on the articles and to sharing on social media.

    The Pointcloud Browser app is worth downloading even if just for the augmented reality games it comes with. It’s kind of fun to watch virtual reality objects bounce off your walls.

    GuidePal out of Sweden has also incorporated augmented reality into their travel apps. The application can recognize buildings and tourist attractions, so if you’re walking down some street you can see what that important looking building actually is, or find out the name of that monument.

    Around 0:50 of the following video, they go though how their virtual reality application works. I talked to GuidePal CEO Peter Schierenbeck a few months ago, and he told me while users have not really used the virtual reality features as much as they have hoped, they still see it as valuable technology worth developing further. The company also hinted at using advertisements in augmented reality as one method of monetization.