In the next several months, phone-based augmented reality is going to become quite a bit more visible for consumers as tech titans like Apple and Google launch new AR platforms, but startups won’t let the big public companies have all the fun.
Blippar has been in the augmented reality field since before Google Glass. “When we just started probably one out of a thousand people knew what augmented reality was,” CTO Omar Tayeb told TechCrunch. At this point, Blippar’s visual recognition tech can identify 5 million entities, including a database of 370,000 public figures.
Today, the company is launching “Halos,” a social feature built on facial recognition tech, that will be rolling out in beta to all users on iOS and Android. The feature allows users the ability to scan their face into the app and customize various bubbles around their noggin with some snippets that characterize their current mood, including through some animated emoji, photos, a recent Tweet, a YouTube video or a Spotify song.
It’s all about capturing where you are at the moment based on your “facial profile” which you calibrate in-app through a process that isn’t much more difficult than registering your fingerprint on your phone.
The “Halos” feature is, in itself, a pretty interesting one, but relies intensely on friends using the app together, something that may be a struggle for Blippar’s central app which reportedly doesn’t make up a significant percentage of the company’s 65 million registered users. In April, Business Insider reported the central Blippar app had around 500 thousand monthly active users.
It may not be there yet, but Blippar wants their app to eventually become a sort of augmented reality browser, putting an image recognition engine in consumers’ pockets that lets them identify and grab context at a moment’s notice.
The company tells TechCrunch that its mobile app is largely just a tool to “showcase” their technologies for other companies interested in adopting their “visual search engine” APIs, which in the case of facial recognition, may attract clients interested in designing identity verification systems.
The company says it won’t be giving advertisers access to user “facial profiles” for personally targeting ads due to the obvious user privacy implications. Users can designate whether their profile is visible to the public or not.
Nothing quite says creepy like facial recognition, but the technology may grow deeply important in the coming months if rumors of facial unlock on the next iPhone come true, as will other augmented reality features as consumer perception grows due to platforms like ARKit.
“Halos” launches on iOS and Android today in the Blippar app.