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7 Startups Featured in 360iU’s New Technology Lab

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Contributing Authors: Mark Avnet, Layne Harris, Mike Levin & Kara Passarelli

Education is critical in a space marked by rapid change. One of the main functions of 360iU, our agency’s formal educational center, is to provide our clients and our people with exposure to the technologies poised to impact both brands and consumers in the years ahead.

360i recently showcased a curated selection of technologies at our annual Marketing Summit, held in New York last month. As part of the 360iU New Technology Lab, representatives from seven startups were invited to demo their products for the more than 300 marketers in attendance.

The following companies were measured against the evaluation criteria outlines in 360i’s Startup Scorecard (below). We use the Startup Scorecard to help brands better understand partnerships and opportunities with emerging companies within the context of their own business objectives and audiences.

Google Glass

 
*Value: Google Glass is an example of a wearable technology, or a computational device that extends the capabilities of the person wearing it. Glass provides the user a heads-up display, audio, video, a wide array of sensors (including GPS) and access to nearly any web-based API. Although there is some local processing power and storage, many Glass capabilities rely on WiFi connectivity. And while still officially for developers only, and priced in the low thousands and out of reach for the mainstream, many applications are being created for Glass that will engage consumers. Such applications currently include video recording, shopping applications, access to layers of web-based information that can be contextual (e.g. directions to, or information about a place) or convenient (e.g. reading a newspaper or accessing Facebook) and more.

*Applicability: For a short period of time, brands will be able to “borrow coolness” by developing apps for Glass and being perceived as an early adopter. But for continued use, there will be need of an actual benefit to both brand and consumer. Given the very limited market penetration and the high cost of Glass, brands will need to consider the cost of developing applications versus the largely perceptual benefits of being an early adopter. Brands that have strong location-based equity (e.g. multiple store locations or travel), or valuable contextual information (e.g. recipes and shopping lists) should place higher value on the opportunity to gain early experience in this type of wearable.

*Prominence: Glass provides an opportunity for marketers to claim credit for being innovative, though marketers should regard development as a learning experience more than a means to an end product. And there is great potential for the creation of completely new and interactive experiences that can become strongly associated with a fast moving brand.

*Ingenuity: Glass is a great example of what can be done today in lightweight heads-up displays. The first wave of Glass apps, while not overly sophisticated or ambitious, will become the foundation on which to develop completely new ideas that take advantage of the capabilities of Glass. Although other companies are developing similar wearables, Google is primed to remain a leader given its market position, operating system, existing APIs and overall commitment to mobile.

IMRSV/CARA


*Value: IMRSV’s Cara is a perceptive computing platform that “turns any web camera into an intelligent sensor.” By gathering anonymous real-time data from people within camera range, brands and facilities can trigger different content from the same displays, based on the audience that is there at that time. A control panel permits publishers or brands to tag and weigh content based on gender, age, number of people, attention time, distance and coming soon different emotions displayed. The analytics provide real-time anonymous information on age, gender, height, facial expression and even how many glances someone makes away from the camera location. In addition to dynamic content, the data can be gathered simply to research the makeup and actions of people in that area. Retailers are using Cara to test product locations in stores, to understand the makeup of the audience and to track activity in the room—without having any display.

*Applicability: Cara requires a physical location, so brands that do out-of-home or experiential installations—or provide content in public areas (hotels, airports, malls, etc.)—will want to explore the ability to customize content based on a growing number of audience and external attributes. Using weather as an example, if it is sunny and the audience is young adult females, a different type of content can be displayed than when it is cloudy and the audience is adult males. Additionally, brands with retail location or ones that want information on audiences in physical locations will find Cara’s perceptive platform useful as a data collection and analysis tool.

*Prominence: Cara makes customizing content easy through its simple control dashboard. Dynamic content to be shared can include video, audio and images, giving brands with a range of content the ability to make physical spaces dynamic. The SDK and API make it possible to integrate with existing and third-party applications as well.

*Ingenuity: The ability to do local, real-time and anonymous analysis and tagging in order to dynamically alter content publishing in physical locations is a powerful innovation that separates IMRSV’s Cara from other visual analysis and computer vision platforms. And their easy-to-use content tagging system makes it possible to get the application up and running quickly, with already-existing content.

Leap Motion


*Value:  Leap Motion has released a small controller—about the size of a package of gum— designed to connect with devices such as laptops, to enable a gesture-controlled environment. It can change how people create content, play games and consume media. There is also a program for developers, so any marketer with a vision for how gesture could provide a richer experience for its content and products can submit an idea and request access. At an $80 price point for a device that can track individual finger movements down to a hundredth of a millimeter, it’s capturing the interest and imagination of many who have seen it virtually or live. Certain Asus notebooks and desktops will ship this year with Leap pre-installed, and this is likely a sign of the distribution partnerships to come.

*Applicability: Direct marketers can hold off if they’re looking for a hard return on investment. Leap Motion is primarily for brands that want to experiment with cutting edge technology with a relatively small but passionate community of early adopters and developers.

*Prominence: Marketers developing for Leap Motion will be able to create experiences that are truly their own, without many other brands competing for the limelight. It’s not clear exactly what Leap’s directory of applications will look like and how exactly brands will be able to promote their wares to Leap’s users, but there is a growing app store that indicates some palpable trends.

*Ingenuity: Gesture controls are hardly new; Microsoft has already sold tens of millions of motion-tracking Kinects. There are other gesture-controlled devices in development, such as Mauz, which plugs into a smartphone to control a connected computer; it’s now running a funding campaign on Kickstarter. Leap has a head start, generating glowing buzz in the media to attract both developers and customers, while working with manufacturers on distribution. It’s not yet clear whether gesture will become as pervasive an input as touch has in such a short span, but the technology itself is ready and the price point now makes it far more appealing.

MakerBot


*Value: MakerBot has developed some of the world’s best known 3D printers that print physical objects. It has become the leader in an increasingly competitive space, and is still the standard by which small 3D printers are judged. New features allow for more flexibility with the kind of plastics and colors used, catering to sophisticated hobbyists and businesses that engage in rapid prototyping. For marketers, at the most basic level, this is the next iteration of a product that should prove to be disruptive for fields such as product development, distribution and retail, and MakerBot remains at the center of the ‘maker’ movement of builders and do-it-yourselfers.

*Applicability: It’s still relatively early for marketers to explore ways to work directly with MakerBot. It could apply to just about any brand, though most will struggle to find an immediate fit. Two possible ways to do so today include setting up the printers at live events to print custom objects for select attendees, or sharing designs for product accessories with the Thingiverse – the community where makers upload their designs that others can print on the MakerBot.

*Prominence: Marketers that do find creative ways to use MakerBot or Thingiverse should be able to command attention from the press, as well as the early adopters in the maker community. Given that this is all about the maker movement, brands that decide to participate will invariably find a way to craft an experience that’s entirely ownable.

*Ingenuity: MakerBot continues to earn respect as a leader of the 3D printing field, and is continually innovating. There is increasing competition though. Rival Cubify launched the CubeX at the 2013 CES, triggering some comparisons of the two latest models, and there are a number of less expensive products launching on Kickstarter as well. While the immediate focus of these manufacturers is on improving the quality of their products, in the coming years, prices should start plummeting to reach casual hobbyists and then the mainstream market, following the trajectory of inkjet and laser printers in past decades.

MONTAJ


*Value: MONTAJ is a free iPhone app that enables easy and fast video capture, editing and sharing. MONTAJ follows the principle of brevity and enables users to shoot a series of five-second clips, and then assemble with a storyboard, music and filters. For a more adventurous approach, MONTAJ lets users shake their phone to mix up the video clips, music and filters. With its relative ease of use, creative tools and mobile platform, MONTAJ jumpstarts the creation of shareable and memorable moments that resonate with influencers and consumers.

*Applicability: While video creation has gotten much easier with the proliferation and maturation of the smartphone market, capturing and sharing quality video content still poses a challenge. By providing easy-to-use, brand specific content tools, MONTAJ allows brands to obtain the kind of content that truly represents them and aligns with their topline message.

*Prominence: MONTAJ is a rising star in the startup community, and the company has already partnered with high-profile brands such as 360i client Oscar Mayer. While the mobile app space is certainly crowded, MONTAJ has managed to catch the eye of Hollywood with backers like Adrian Grenier (star of HBO’s hit show “Entourage”), and continues to be recommended by tech media outlets for providing top-of-the-line mobile app-based video content creation and editing.

*Ingenuity: MONTAJ provides a simple user experience for any level of content creator. With features like shaking to randomize clips, the ability to pull soundtracks from the user’s own music library, Instagram-style filters and a simple to use interface, MONTAJ makes it not only easy, but fun to generate quality video content that anyone would be proud to share on their social networks.

NewAer


*Value: NewAer has developed “machine-to-machine” aware applications that sense when certain devices are nearby through radio signals— without needing to log in to any system. Based on the device detected, NewAer technology is able to serve dynamic and personalized content and interactions, which enable marketers to offer immediate, one-to-one experiences in various contexts—e.g. point of purchase, geo-fencing, events and other moments of potential engagement and influence.

*Applicability: Proximity-based solutions are a new frontier for in-store shopper marketing efforts, and NewAer is at the front of the pack as far as delivering cutting-edge, affordable near-field technology. The challenge of engaging consumers where they shop, rewarding loyalty, providing local offers and personalizing the shopping experience becomes much easier with technologies such as NewAer.

*Prominence: NewAer is providing solutions that are quite possibly ahead of their time, but for brands that want to lead the way as far as innovation is concerned, NewAer technology should be something to consider. With partners and investors such as Alcatel-Lucent (the original Bell Labs), Deutsche Telekom (operating worldwide as T-Mobile) and Intel Capital, we expect that they will continue to be leaders in proximity-based solutions.

*Ingenuity: NewAer is special in that instead of relying on ‘the next big thing’ in proximity technology (such as the overdue adoption of NFC chips in devices like the iPhone), they are building their proximity platform around existing technologies such as Bluetooth and WiFi which both have mass consumer adoption already. In this sense, brands can provide consumers with never seen before local experiences using tools they already use.

VUACT


*Value: Video viewers want to get to the good parts fast. They want to know what other people think, and they often want a way of giving their opinion as well. Marketers want to know what viewers think, and to make video viewing a more engaging experience. Vuact’s technology provides a means to enrich the viewing experience and deliver on these needs. With Vuact, marketers and publishers can choose any video source and add an interactive display layer around the video with which viewers can interact. Customized buttons, determined by what the marketer decides is important in the video, allow viewers to rate any part of the video in real-time as they’re watching. For example, ratings might consist of “interesting,” “exciting,” “funny,” “I don’t get it” or any other appropriate options. While watching the video, viewers can click on the button that best expresses what they’re feeling and seeing at that time. They also are provided with a timeline of how other people responded, and can choose to jump to any section of the video that is of interest. For example, they can forward to the part of the video that has the greatest number of “funny” responses. They can also insert text comments in the timeline. On the backend, sophisticated analytics provide data on viewership.

*Applicability: Any brand with video that would benefit from participation beyond passive viewing will find Vuact applicable. Additionally, Vuact can be used as a tool to measure opinion for content testing.

*Prominence: Vuact provides a different way to engage video viewers, providing easy tools for encouraging commentary and interaction. The video can be sourced from most video platforms, including YouTube, Vimeo and Brightcove, making this an easy tool to activate.

*Ingenuity: Vuact’s data shows that interaction with its videos is 10 to 15 times higher than videos on traditional platforms. Although all processing occurs on the Vuact servers, simple embed codes allow the interaction to take place on branded properties as well, with no need for viewer accounts. The ease of integration and participation, as well as strong analytics, makes Vuact a good adjunct to more traditional video platforms.

*****

From wearables to 3D printing, motion control to consumer detection, there are many new and existing opportunities for brands on the horizon. And most important when vetting new opportunities is to weigh the potential investment with your marketing or business objectives and audience in order to determine if and how a first-mover status might benefit your brand.