Interview with Eoghan O Sullivan @ CEO at Von Bismark @ pioneers of physical eCommerce. Working with Microsoft and Xbox to bring the next generation of eCommerce to your living room TV. Von Bismark just announced passing £200k Sterling funding target on UK high net worth funding platform Crowdbnk. We met Eoghan at the AR marketing event in Dublin earlier this year, and caught up with him to get his view on the growing opportunities for this sector.
How was 2014, wins? Anything differently?
Yes 2014 was a breakthrough year for us. One of the biggest problems in commercializing AR technology is getting away from the gimmicky aspect of it. You can get some early wins and some great early PR but you need always think ‘is this idea scalable’. A lot of AR projects are for agencies for one off marketing exercises. So with this in mind we had been trying to transition away from purely the AR/ virtual wardrobe side of things to a scalable ‘physical’ eCommerce platform where AR was just one of a number of features that would open up new channels and give us better conversion rates than more traditional ecommerce. We had been chasing a deal with Microsoft for a while, where we could build out an ecommerce platform for the Xbox and with the help of Microsoft Ventures we were able to secure that deal in mid 2014.
— Von Bismark (@thevonbismark) August 6, 2015
Where do you hope to be by year end / moving into future?
It’s a huge couple of months for us now coming into the tail end of 2015. By signing the deal for The Mall on Xbox One ( The name of our ecom app ) in 2014 we took on the mammoth task of building a completely new marketplace technology, that would allow Xbox One users to purchase physical goods straight from their TV, via their Xbox, for the first time ever. It’s been an incredible journey and as I answer this question we are about to put in our app for certification with Microsoft to launch in late September/ early October. It’s then a huge push for sales into the 13 million Xbox One users in the US & UK who our retailers will be selling to.
Has the technology moved as fast as you’d expected / liked it to?
I think AR in general is still in its infancy and it will be at least 5 years before we really start to see its full potential. Camera tracking and computer vision, as well as smaller faster chips have all made great strides in the last few years but there is still a huge disconnect between the quality of content and the quality of the real world. Unlike virtual reality where there is no disparity, as the whole world is created on a level playing field ( i.e. all in 3D ) with AR you have the real world, which cannot be improved upon in terms of visual quality and then you have the virtual world overlaid on top of this. This is the main barrier as we see it at the moment to mass adoption. How do you create suitable content of a high quality, ideally in 3D in a scalable way for users to be able to interact with everything they see seamlessly.
What we can expect to see become common place soonest?
In our specific sector the main drive is for more immersive virtual try on. We currently use 2D augments based on existing photography. These look perfect when you are facing the camera straight on but when you turn to see the garment from different angles they have limitations. The advantage for us with this method is that it’s scalable – the content exists, looks good and we can have thousands of products on our platform that you can use. The next step is to have multiple angles of each garment for 360’ try on and from there to actually create full 3D objects with deformable meshes. Each step will need more content, more computing and more work but that is the journey we are on now. The tech exists right now to do this but the content, or a way to quickly and cost effectively create the 3D content does not.
How soon till we will have everything and more that was presented to Tom Cruise in the famous Minority Report scene?
I think everything covered in Minority Report ( bar the ability to tell the future!) has at least reached a physical, demonstrable proof of concept stage as of 2015. The hard part is how we tie all of these elements together into a seamless user journey. I think the scariest thing in Minority Report was the tracking and use of a person’s data and that is probably going to be the biggest barrier to the mass adoption of some of the technologies we saw. That said, people willingly give up more and more of their personal data every day to corporations so those barriers are eroding every year.
— Von Bismark (@thevonbismark) July 28, 2015
Could AR create a future where more humans prefer the company of AR devices to other humans? Should we be concerned by this or not?
I’m not sure if this is more of a concern for AR than what we already have with social media and virtual worlds on our existing electronic devices. AR will probably take on more of a role in helping visualize the person on the end of our social media interactions, so in this way it will add more of a personal level to the interaction as it brings us one step closer to the real, physical thing. I guess that could be a double edged sword in terms of not having to do the real thing any more though!
The skynet / singularity question, will machines achieve consciousness anytime soon, as this could have potentially negative consequences, are we contributing to our own downfall?
I am not currently too concerned about the Skynet possibility from the perspective of a machine mind or hive mind of machines taking over. What does concern me is the human element to taking over a world that is increasingly more networked across the daily devices we use. Just a week ago Chrysler had to recall 1.4 million cars because a hacker was able to take over steering, transmission and brakes. This is insane! As everything moves towards the internet of things the world will become more and more vulnerable to networked ‘smart’ machines. I don’t’ believe these machines are a threat to us but their vulnerability is a huge threat to us because of the nefarious humans that will undoubtedly take advantage.