June 7, 2014

Interview with the CEO of Merchlar, Awane Jones


As the border between our digital and real lives are ever fading, augmented reality is soon to be a large part of our daily lives. One of the companies at the forefront of the augmented reality revolution is Merchlar. We sat down and talked to their Founder and C.E.O., Awane Jones.

What is Merchlar and tell us about augmented reality.

Merchlar stands for Merchandizing loves Augmented Reality. Augmented reality is overlaying the digital to the real world via a smartphone, glasses, or tablet.

What about augmented reality enticed you to build your company around it?

Around four years ago, I used to be a record producer and I was producing an album. I thought to myself, what am I going to do, so that people care about the CDs? By time of 2009, people were still buying CDs. They were in rapid decline, but people were still buying them. I had friend who coincidentally came back from Japan and she saw this wonderful technology called augmented reality. I checked it out and thought this was amazing. However, it was on webcam and it wasn't working for mobile at that time. I knew that the iPhone 4 was just about to come out and it had a processor that was powerful enough to make augmented reality. As soon as the iPhone 4 came out, we looked at it and yes, it has worked. So we created the world's first augmented reality app for an artist, and then the app had thousands and thousands of downloads. The album sold I don't know how many thousands of records, and it was a success and I saw that as augmented reality being the next big thing. At that time, augmented reality was a one million dollar worldwide industry, and today it grew to a 300 million dollar industry, and over the next three to five years, it's going to grow to a 5.1 billion dollar industry.

Why is augmented reality superior to traditional advertising mediums?

With the amount of advertisement around us, we don't care about the billboards anymore. We see it, we pass by it, and we don't even record it in our minds anymore. It's the same thing as watching the television, you get tuned off unless there is something funny. Why I love augmented reality? Because you can make anything turn into an experience. It can be a two way thing at that point. It's passive, which means if I know that this poster has this wonderful augmented reality, I have to pull out my phone and point at it. I turn it from passive to active. When it's active, I'm getting this wonderful experience. Let's say you look up a chair you want on Google, you type in the chair, hopefully you know the model number and you get the accurate information, but you have to look around. What I see is we're going to move from the information age to the augmented age. Now why is that cool? If you have chair next to you, and you pull out your phone and you're able to look at the chair with your smartphone, and it said this chair is from IKEA, model number 7356, would you like to purchase it, sir? How are you driving to your destination to purchase it? By car? Click here and now you have your map to pick up your chair. In one click, I have all the relevant information that I want.

Which companies have Merchlar developed augmented reality campaigns for?

J.P. Morgan, Montreal Canadiens, metro system in Montreal, Django, Universal, Sony, Ubisoft, from Assassin's Creed to Far Cry and many more.

I can see that Google Glass is a great platform for augmented reality applications. Have you developed or thinking about developing any applications for Google Glass?

We have our relationship with Google Glass, we've started, but we haven't gotten anything released yet.

What are some new developments in augmented reality?

Right now, the new development that we're doing is object recognition. A client wanted to reduce his IT costs, because people didn't understand how to use speed dial or conference call. What we did was we created an app where you could just use the app, point it towards the phone and ask it what you want the information for. Let's say it's how to use the conference call, click on the app, and it will show you exactly how to use conference call. No more videos, instruction manuals, just point and it will show you step by step.

If you would like to see some of Merchlar’s past projects, watch this.

Jack Lin is a writer at [blank]'s Universe. He is interested in variety of technological products and events. Jack also enjoys live audio production. He also likes to watch movies and play Badminton during his free time.