All posts in “Augmented Reality”

InkHunter heads to YC to build a try-and-buy tattoo marketplace

InkHunter, an augmented reality tattoo try-on app that was born out of a 48-hour hackathon back in the altogether gentler days of 2014 has bagged a place in Y Combinator’s summer 2018 batch, scoring itself the seed accelerator’s standard $120,000 deal in exchange for 7% equity.

We first covered InkHunter in April 2016 when it had just launched an MVP on iOS and was toying with building a marketplace for tattoo artists. Several months and 2.5 million downloads later InkHunter launched its Android app, having spent summer 2016 going through the ERA accelerator program in New York.

At that time the team was considering a b2b business model pivot, based on licensing their core AR tech to ecommerce apps and other developers. Though they wanted to keep the tattoo try on app ticking over as a showcase.

Fast forward two years and it’s the SDK idea on ice after InkHunter’s app gained enough traction in the tattoo community for the team to revive their marketplace idea — having passed eight million users — so they’ve relocated to Mountain View and swung back around to the original concept of a try-before-you buy tattoo app, using AR to drive bookings for local tattoo artists.

“We are focusing on iterating from ‘try’ to ‘try and buy’ experience, based on feedback we got from our users. And this is our goal for the YC program, which places a lot of focus on growth and user interactions,” CTO Pavel Razumovskyi tells us.

“Last time we have talked, we did not expect such adoption on the tattoo market. But when we saw really strong usage and feedback from the tattoo community, we decided to double down on that audience.”

The newly added booking option is very much an MVP at this stage — with InkHunter using a Typeform interface to ask users who tap through with a booking request to input their details to be contacted later, via text message, with information about relevant local tattoo artists (starting with the US market).

But the team’s hope for the YC program is help to hone their approach.

Razumovskyi confirms they’ve started with a booking request concierge service in the US without onboarding any tattoo artists into the planned marketplace as yet, and are merely hand picking local tattoo artists to help users with bookings.

“While this approach doesn’t scale, it helps us to figure out problems and quickly iterate solutions,” he adds. “We are almost done with this stage, and close to launch an in-app search for tattoo artist into selected locations, listing only licensed artists with the large portfolio.”

InkHunter says close to half (45%) its users have expressed a desire to get a tattoo within the next few months, while it got more than 500 booking requests in the first week of the concierge feature.

Though you do have to wonder whether users’ desire to experiment with ink on their skin will also extend to a desire to experiment with different tattoo artists too — or whether many regular inkers might not prefer to stick with a tattooist they already know and trust, and whose style they like. (A scenario which may not require an app to sit in the middle to take repeat bookings.)

“We want to help them do this with as little regret as possible,” says CEO Oleksandra Rohachova of InkHunter’s tattoo hungry users — so presumably the team will also be carefully vetting the tattoo artists they list on their marketplace.

The main function of the app lets users browse thousands of tattoo designs and virtually try them on using its core AR feature — which requires people spill a little real-world ink to anchor the virtual design by making a few pen marks on their skin where they want the tattoo to live. As use-cases for AR go it’s a pretty pleasing one.

InkHunter also supports taking and sharing photos — to loop friends’ opinions into your skin-augmenting decision, and help the app’s fame spread.

The team’s hope for the next stage of building an app business is once an InkHunter user has settled on the design and placement of their next tat, they’ll get comfortable about relying on the app to find and book an artist. And the next time, for their next tattoo too.

Octi raises $7.5M to create augmented reality that understands human movement

The team at Octi says it’s building a crucial piece of the augmented reality puzzle — the ability to understand the human body and its movement.

Co-founder and CEO Justin Fuisz told me that most existing AR technologies (including Apple’s AR Kit) tend to be “plane-based” — in other words, while they can make something cool appear against a real-world background, it’s usually on a flat surface, like a table or the floor.

Octi, on the other hand, recognizes where people are in-camera, and it can use that understanding to apply a variety of different effects.

For example, Fuisz and his team showed me how they could dance around their office while bright, squiggly lines overlaid their bodies — and then they erased their bodies entirely. They also showed me how effects could be tied to different gestures, like how a “make it rain” motion could result in dollar bills flying out of thier hands.

To do this, Octi says it’s built sophisticated machine learning and computer vision technology. For starters, it looks at a human being and detects key points like your eyes, nose, hips and elbows, then uses those points to construct a model of your skeleton.

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Fuisz suggested that the technology could be applied to a number of different industries, including fashion, fitness, entertainment and gaming. In fact, the company is announcing a partnership and strategic investment from the OneTeam Collective, the accelerator of the NFL Players Association. As a result, Octi plans to create and distribute avatars of more than 2,000 active NFL players.

In addition, Octi is announcing that it has raised $7.5 million in seed funding from Shasta Ventures, I2BF Ventures, Bold Capital Partners, Day One Ventures, Human Ventures Live Nation and AB InBev, plus individuals including former Pandora and Snap executive Tom Conrad, WeWork Chief Product Officer of Technology Shiva Rajaraman, Adobe Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky, A&D Networks Chairman Abbe Raven and Joshua Kushner.

If you want to try this out for yourself, the startup has its own iOS app — Fuisz described the app as a technology showcase for potential partners, but he added, “The app is available to the public and is totally awesome.”

At long last, Magic Leap’s headset finally has a ship date

After almost four years of hype and billions of dollars in funding, Magic Leap finally has a ship date for the first version of its augmented reality headset. 

The Magic Leap One will begin shipping to developers later this summer, the company announced Wednesday. 

Following news of a fresh round of funding and an exclusive deal with AT&T,  the headset’s creators hosted a live stream to announce that the long awaited ship date would be coming soon. And while there’s still no word on an exact time frame, knowing it’s coming this summer is better than nothing — especially since the company had previously promised an “early 2018” release.

Magic Leap also used the live stream as an opportunity to show off a new AR demo of the technology. Though the pre-recorded demo didn’t show the actual headset, we did see some mixed reality content coupled with a few hand gestures.

Not all viewers were impressed with the demo, though. After flashy concept videos that promised mind-blowing immersive AR, these demos looked a little more like other augmented reality experiences.

Still, these are early demos and the Magic Leap Creator noted they don’t convey the full experience of using the headset. Regardless, shipping to developers will be an important milestone for the secretive startup, which has had a tumultuous couple of years. 

After generating lots of early hype thanks to flashy concept videos and a multibillion-dollar valuation, excitement began to falter. A report in the Information claimed some employees were concerned the company had oversold its technology. Then, Business Insider published a photo of an early prototype that showed a junky-looking backpack-mounted system. 

By the time the company showed off images of the final design last year, it was mocked for its ugly steampunk-meets-spider-eyes look.

That criticism may not end up mattering, assuming the developer release goes well and Magic Leap can keep the hype train going long enough for a consumer-ready product (a big if). But that fact that real life humans and non-Magic Leap employees will soon be able to hold and use their own headsets is certainly a step in the right direction.

Now we just have to wait to find out if the hype is real.

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Google Measure app is available (but glitchy) on even more phones

Even more Android users can now measure things with their phones.

Google Measure — or what is essentially a virtual measuring tape in an app — is now compatible with any device that runs ARCore, Google’s platform for building augmented reality tools. 

The Measure app was previously only compatible with devices that supported Project Tango, Google’s now-defunct augmented reality computing platform. But an update today makes the Measure app compatible with various Samsung Galaxy, Sony, and Pixel devices.

Google has recently unveiled a lot of consumer AR apps, but they don’t really function that well in practice. Google Lens, for example, was supposed to identify objects when you pointed your smartphone’s camera at them, but it often performs poorly in real world settings. The Google Translations app, it’s worth mentioning, has an AR feature that is actually pretty accurate, but the feature was enabled through Google’s acquisition of WordLens and was not built by Google from the ground up.

Although Google Measure boasts greater compatibility after today’s update, the augmented reality app is still clunky and impractical, especially compared to its iOS counterpart — also called Measure — which is built into iOS 12.

Unlike Apple’s competing app, Google Measure cannot detect objects very well and has poor depth perception. The app says it’s best used on a well-lit, patterned platform, but it barely discerns patterns regardless of the lighting and is unusable on patternless surfaces, like a plastic table.

Dots will appear to indicate where you can start the measurement. You then drag and drop either the length or height options at the bottom to the dotted area.

Dots will appear to indicate where you can start the measurement. You then drag and drop either the length or height options at the bottom to the dotted area.

Once you drag the desired tool past  the dots, however, your measurement will not register even if it is on the same plane and pattern.

Once you drag the desired tool past  the dots, however, your measurement will not register even if it is on the same plane and pattern.

The measurements are also easy to botch. For example, if the phone doesn’t scan the surface you’re measuring properly, or if you don’t place the end point in exactly the right spot — you wind up with wildly wrong measurements. Of course, in most situations where you’re recording the distance or length of something — it’s best to be as exact as possible. It’s hard to imagine trusting this app with any major construction projects, but it should be enough to get the job done for most basic measuring tasks.

You can try out this app for yourself if you own any one of these devices. You may find that it’s frustrating or a waste of time, but at least it’s free.

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