Pinterest Updates Object-Recognizing Lens Feature With QR Code Support

What Happened
Pinterest launched an object-recognizing, image-search Lens feature earlier this year, which enables users to use their smartphone cameras to scan real-world items and get related results on Pinterest. On Tuesday, the company updated the in-app feature to include a Visual Guides function meant to help users narrow down the objects captured by their cameras and figure out what the users really want to search for. Moreover, the social scrapbooking site is also adding QR code support to the Lens feature, allowing users to use it to scan basic QR codes and be redirected to either a Pinterest page or any third-party webpage. A 3D-touch shortcut is also added to the iOS Pinterest app to allow for quick access to this Lens feature.

What Brands Need To Do
This update for the Pinterest Lens feature should give its search platform a much-needed boost and make it more useful for Pinterest’s over 175 million users, whose interests around specific topics such as fashion, design, home decor, and food have kept the social platform competitive against the likes of Facebook and Snap.

With the quick advancement of machine learning and AI-powered solutions, we are starting to see examples of brands primarily using the camera as an input source of the mobile user interface and leverage images to learn about user intent. Snapchat is a prime example of leveraging the camera to engage with mobile users. This trend should provide some inspiration to brands looking to update their digital user experience to be more intuitive and convenient for mobile users.

 


Source: TechCrunch

Home Design App Houzz Adds AR Preview Mode

What Happened
Home design and furniture shopping app Houzz is the latest ecommerce player to add an AR twist to its platform. The Palo Alto-based company updated its iOS app to add a new virtual preview mode that supports 3D objects. With this new feature, viewers can get a better idea of how the furniture items would look in their own space before making a purchase. As of now, only about 300,000 items out of the eight million products available on Houzz’s marketplace support this new AR preview mode, but Houzz says it will work to add more items.

What Brands Need To Do
Besides Houzz, other furniture sellers such as IKEA or Hutch have also been exploring AR as an online shopping aid for their products. This new feature provides yet another example of the ongoing shift in designing mobile user experience, where the camera becomes a prominent input source that enables virtual product sampling. As more and more companies start to realize the potential of augmented reality, more mobile-based AR use cases can be applied to enhance ecommerce and marketing. Brands looking to update their digital user experience should take note and start thinking about how to use AR to add value to the customer experience.


Source: The Verge

Images courtesy of Houzz

Amazon Adds Computer Vision To Alexa With New Echo Look Device

What Happened
On Wednesday, Amazon unveiled a new Echo device, and it is a big departure from the smart speakers introduced in the Echo lineup so far. Named Echo Look, the newest hardware product from Amazon looks more like a desktop security camera than a connected speaker. But Amazon is actually positioning the device as a hand-free selfie camera and style assistant that can help you take selfies hands-free. Equipped with built-in LED lighting and a computer vision-based background blur feature, it promised to capture the best full-length pictures and videos of you in different outfits for review, comparisons, and style recommendations.

Echo Look comes with a companion app that has a Style Check feature to compare two outfits and rate which is better based on machine learning algorithms. The feature was first added to the iOS Amazon app last month as Outfit Compare and does not require an Echo Look to work. And because it is powered by Alexa, you can ask Echo Look to read you news, play music, or access any of the over ten thousands third-party Alexa skills, just like you would with all the other Echo speakers. This product is available by invitation only for now, and Amazon did not announce it will become widely available.

What Brands Need To Do
By introducing computer vision into the Echo lineup, Amazon is making a strong push to enhance Alexa’s capabilities. Positioning this new device as a “hands-free camera and style assistant,” as Amazon’s product page reads, is a strong reformation of Amazon’s ambition in conquering the fashion industry. Echo Look will help Amazon gain access to millions of its customer’s wardrobes, thus allowing it to glean a huge amount of data from the user-generated pictures to gain great insights on what its customers like to wear and would most likely buy.

Besides, it seems safe to assume that this is merely the first step in Alexa’s evolution. By adding cameras to Alexa-powered devices, the voice assistant now has “eyes” and no longer has to solely rely on voice command for input. Using camera as an input source and combined with machine learning and object recognition, Alexa will grow much more powerful in time.

Wait until Amazon start allowing developers using Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to incorporate visual input into their Alexa-powered products, the new kind of smart home devices will become available as a result present an exciting opportunity that brands will be able to leverage to engage with customers. For example, when a smart fridge can see that you’re about to run out of milk and triggers Alexa to remind you that, it would mean that CPG brands and food retailers will have to rethink their marketing strategies and product design to accommodate this type of conversational smart home devices and new shopper behaviors they engender.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Barrett (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: Amazon

Images courtesy of Amazon’s product demo video

 

Facebook Rolled Out Special Camera Frame For Earth Day

What Happened
Facebook celebrated Earth Day this past Saturday with a themed camera frame, marking the latest seasonal frame to debut on the social network. The camera frames, which are static overlays for photos and videos taken in Facebook’s main app and Messenger app, are now open to third-party developers as part of the Camera Effects platform that the company launched last week at its annual developer conference F8. Facebook said the first batch of camera frames created by third-party developers will start to roll out in May, with more selfie lenses and face-tracking effects coming in June.

What Brands Need To Do
The arrival of new camera frames is but one result of Facebook’s launch of the new Camera Effects platform, which enables developers to create third-party mobile AR experiences inside its main apps. While static picture frames may not seem like the most high-tech thing as far as digital marketing experiences go, the fact that brands can use Facebook’s platform tools to easily create branded frames that could reach Facebook’s nearly 2 billion active users worldwide is a big deal. And that is just the starting point for brands to explore camera as the newest platform. In order to properly insert your brand into the media that Facebook users share to earn organic impressions., brands need to work with developers to create fun, interesting, and engaging camera effects that users will want to use and share.

For a more in-depth analysis on Facebook’s announcements at this year’s F8, check out our latest Fast Forward here.

 


Source: AdWeek

Snapchat Launches World Lenses As It Pushes Deeper Into Augmented Reality

What Happened
Snapchat has started rolling out new “world lenses,” a twist on its popular face-altering selfie lenses that you can now use to add some pizzazz to your surroundings. Starting today, tapping the camera screen while using the rear-facing camera will bring up the new lenses, which let you add 3-dimensional, animated objects to your snaps. At launch, the lineup includes a crying cloud, a smiling rainbow, blossoming flowers, and a colorful “OMG” sign. Snap says the lineup will change daily, presumably to encourage usage. Snap first started testing these new lenses in November.

What Brands Need To Do
This update comes at a time when Snap is facing mounting challenges from its major rival Facebook, whose aggressive tactics of cloning Snapchat’s camera-oriented features have seemingly started to take effects. The timing is even more deliberate considering today is the first day of Facebook’s annual developer event F8, where the social network is expected to double down on camera-powered mobile AR features similar to the “world lenses.”

As Facebook and Snap continue to duke it out over adding AR features to their apps, more and more mainstream consumers are starting to get accustomed to using these camera-powered AR features as a result. This is what is laying the groundwork for mobile-powered augmented reality to take off, which will allow brands to infiltrate their target audience’s photos and videos via sponsored Lens or branded AR objects.

Besides, this is a good time to think about ways for augmented reality to drive new opportunities for your brand. AR can, for example, be a great way for customers to envision your products in their lives and to launch digital experiences from signage or product packaging. What we can do now through a smartphone is just the beginning. As Microsoft’s HoloLens, Magic Leap, and the rumored Apple glasses roll out over the next few years, lots more will be possible.

 


Source: The Verge
Header image courtesy of Snap’s YouTube video

Samsung’s Bixby Assistant Comes With A Cool Image Search Feature

What Happened
Samsung officially unveiled its digital assistant service Bixby on Wednesday with the launch of the Galaxy S8 flagship handsets at its Unpacked 2017 event (check out this VentureBeat article on all Samsung’s announcements today). Positioned as the Siri for Samsung phones, Bixby is designed to facilitate hands-free interactions in Samsung apps via voice command. At launch, Bixby only supports a handful of apps, including Samsung’s native services, but Samsung plans to release an SDK soon for developers to integrate Bixby into their apps.

That said, Bixby does come with a cool feature that few other digital assistants in market is capable of – the ability to recognize objects via the phone’s camera and surface similar images via search. When users are taking a picture with a new Galaxy S8 phone, they can tap on a small button on the camera app to evoke Bixby’s visual search feature, which leverages image recognition technology developed by Pinterest to discern the physical objects in sight and presents either similar images of the objects or information about those objects found via search. Samsung is also planning to add a shopping angle to this feature, allowing Bixby to present search results of the objects among online retail sites. This feature essentially creates a mobile-based augmented reality experience where users can point their camera at certain things to learn more about them.

What Brands Need To Do
As digital assistant get smarter, they become a gateway to introduce mainstream consumers to some advanced AI-powered solutions such as visual search and computer vision. Earlier this year, Pinterest launched a similar computer vision feature that allows users to use their phone to identify objects and search for similar images. It will also present promoted Pins in the results if the object matches with what users are looking for.

This visual search feature of Bixby enables Samsung users to quickly access digital information about physical objects in front of them via an AR-like experience, which unlocks a new way for brand marketers to serve mobile customers with tailored messages. Imagine pointing your phone’s camera at a restaurant sign and immediately find out its Yelp rating, business hours, and signature dishes. Or pointing your camera at a snack bar and let Bixby tell you about its nutrition facts and where you can buy more of it. The possibilities to bridge the physical and the digital world are endless. Therefore, brand seeking to stay ahead of the innovational curve will need to pay attention to the development of artificial intelligence and experiment with the new marketing solutions it enables.

 


Source: The Verge

Header image courtesy of Samsung

 

Facebook Launches Snapchat Clone Features On Its Main App

What Happened
Facebook added new Snapchat-inspired features to its main app after launching them on Instagram, Messenger, and Whatsapp over the past year. Now users of Facebook’s flagship mobile app will be able to use 3D live camera filters, decorate their photos with drawings and stickers, sending disappearing private messages to each other, and share their photos and videos via a disappearing Story feature that works identically to Instagram Stories, which itself is a near copy of Snapchat Stories. Story updates from your Facebook friends will appear as circles atop your News Feed as in Instagram, and they will automatically vanish after 24 hours of posting.

What Brands Need To Do
As we noted when Facebook launched Messenger Day, the social network is doing everything in its power to curb Snapchat’s rapid growth and defend its ground in mobile messaging by mimicking Snapchat’s camera-first approach to app design. And so far it seems to be working, with reports claiming the popularity of Instagram Stories and Snapchat’s slowing user growth.

We are approaching an age where cameras are increasingly becoming one of the primary input sources of our digital life. Beyond the visual communication features pioneered by Snapchat, we are also seeing some brands get in on with the trend. For instance, Olay created a Skin Advisor platform that offers skin consultations and product recommendations by analyzing the selfies users took. The surging prominence of visual input is set to bring a new set of opportunities and challenges that brands will need to learn to navigate in order to adapt to the shifting consumer behaviors.

 


Source: Facebook

Header image courtesy of Facebook Newsroom

SXSW 2017: Camera-Enabled Interfaces Usher In New AR Possibilities

What Happened
One trend that is evident at this year’s SXSW festival is that camera-enabled interfaces – digital interfaces that rely on cameras to work – are being adopted by more and more tech companies to deliver an AR-powered user experience.

There’s the YouCam smart mirror that can apply virtual makeup to your face and switch between different looks as a preview tool. They are teaming up with e.l.f. Cosmetics to host a livestream event to showcase the makeup brand’s product aided by its AR magic. Equally fun is the Philm app, whose live art filters will turn your boring selfies into artfully rendered images several styles, such as French oil painting or comic book drawing.

On the more sophisticated side of the AR spectrum, Sony brought back its projector-based touchscreen technology to SXSW and combined it with some unique user interface design to allow users to control holographic objects by gesture. Similarly, there is Lampix, an AR startup whose motion-sensing technology and cloud-based platform can transform any surface into a touchscreen that people can interact with.

What Brands Need To Do
All these serve as the latest examples of how brands can leverage the advanced capabilities of smartphones, especially the ease of image input via the phone’s camera, to bring the user experience to the next level. Such camera-enabled advanced interfaces are a great way to introduce AR technology to your brand’s digital assets and deliver an engaging customer experience. Brands should take advantage of this trend to experiment with camera-enabled AR interfaces and interactive experiences.

If you’d like to get some help to figure out how augmented reality can enhance your customer experience and drive new opportunities for your brand, or simply to try out the HoloLens demo we have to experience the transformative power of AR, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Holland (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Sources: as linked in the article

Facebook Launches Its Latest Snapchat Stories Clone Messenger Day

What Happened
After months of testing in select markets such as Poland and Australia, Facebook today started to globally roll out its latest Snapchat Stories-inspired feature in Messenger. Dubbed Messenger Day, the new visual communication feature works in a similar way to the Instagram Stories, as a slew of disappearing photos and videos shared by your Facebook friends sit atop your chat threads. Users can embellish the photos and videos with filters, drawings, and stickers, just like in Snapchat. They can also reply privately to a friend’s Messenger Day with one tap.

One original feature Facebook added for Messenger Day, however, is the “call-to-action” stickers that people can add to their Messenger Day, which includes “who is up for dinner?” or “let’s grab a drink.” According to Facebook, this feature is designed to facilitate real-world meetups between friends by making it easier to communicate the desire for company and see who is free to hang out. Facebook says it will also insert ads in between Messenger Day content down the road.

What Brands Need To Do
This marks Facebook’s latest effort in curbing Snapchat’s growth and copying its camera-focused features. If proven popular, this feature could become a viable new ad channel for brands to reach Facebook Messenger’s one billion active users worldwide, a welcome addition for brands looking to reach mobile customers.  

We are approaching an age where cameras are increasingly becoming one of the primary input sources of our digital life. Beyond the visual communication features pioneered by Snapchat, we are also seeing some brands get in on with the trend. Mastercard is now allowing app users in Europe to authenticate their payments with a selfie, for instance. The surging prominence of visual input is set to bring a new set of opportunities and challenges that brands will need to learn to navigate in order to adapt to the shifting consumer behaviors.

 


Source: TechCrunch

Header image courtesy of Facebook Newsroom

MWC 2017: Olay Debuts AI-Powered Skin Adviser Platform

What Happened
P&G’s skincare brand Olay made their debut at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier today to celebrate the global launch of its Olay Skin Advisor platform. Available via Olay’s mini-site, the web-based skin analytics platform leverages artificial intelligence and deep learning to provide skin analysis and personalized product recommendations delivered right on their mobile phones or tablets.

With just one selfie, Skin Advisor can analyze a woman’s face to determine her skin age and the main areas she needs to focus on. The platform will also prompt her to answer a short series of questions on personal skin concerns and product preferences before offering a personalized recommendation on suitable products and skincare regimen based on their needs and preferences.

The global launch of Olay Skin Advisor also means a series of upgrades to the platform in the United States, where a 1.0 beta version has been live since late 2016. The upgraded Olay Skin Advisor 2.0, will launch in the US in mid-March.

What Brands Need To Do
More and more beauty brands are incorporating mobile touchpoints into their customer journey. On the mobile AR front, L’Oreal’s Makeup Genius app and Covergirl’s BeautyU app are both good examples of how beauty brands can leverage the advanced capabilities of smartphones, especially the ease of image input via the phone’s camera, to provide extra utility for the customers. In addition, the kind of personalized user experience and product recommendations that AI can offer based on data and user input is also valuable for brands. Brand marketers need to consider how they can use their customer data to provide personalized experiences with the help of an AI engine.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience working with beauty brands to create and implement digitally enhanced retail experiences. The recently-opened NYX Cosmetics store at Union Square is a proud showcase of our team’s work in this space and elevated NYX as one of the most innovative digital beauty brands of 2016 named by WWD. If you’d like to learn more about how your brand can develop and implement digital-driven solutions to modernize your beauty retail experience, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Holland (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: Business Wire

Header images are promotional image from Olay’s press release