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Augment Your Valentine’s Day With New REAL​ cARds

HappyGiant, the independent Boston-based developer of the mobile AR app Hologrid: Moster Battle, is breaking into new ground today by being the first to introduce Augmented Reality Greeting Cards, REAL cARds, just in time to amaze your geeky sweetheart on Valentine’s Day.

It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without bears, hearts and flowers.

REAL cARds uses Apple’s tracking and depth-sensing abilities of ARKit to bring 3D Bears, flowers, and hearts to life in the recipient’s local physical space. Like the major 2D greeting card sites, AmericanGreetings.com and Hallmark.com, HappyGiant is offering its REAL cARds on a freemium basis. One’s free (so if you’ve only got one significant other you’re in luck) but subsequent cards cost $1.99 (or three for $2.99).

The app is iOs only right now, so Android users are able to send an unlimited number of video version of the cards for free. As you can see from the video, the cards allow users to customize and add text. A nice and surprising touch allows you to blow out the candles on a virtual birthday cake. The cards are less than 15 seconds long.

“I was talking with my friend about how cool pop-up cards have gotten and watching those LovePop commercials, and it hit me like a brick wall: AR Greeting Cards! They are such a great little bite-size way to experience mobile AR for the first time,” Happy Giant founder and CEO Mike Levine told me. “While we’re self-publishing, as we did with Hologrid Monster, we’d like to partner with other companies, either the big greeting cards companies, brands or agencies to turn REAL cARds into a platform where they can build them their own AR Greeting Card apps on top of the platform we built for this.” AR cards are not yet available on Hallmark, American Greetings or Blue Mountain, none of whom responded to email requests for comment.

Sally Schriner, former President of American Greetings Interactive, who is now President of Schriner Growth Partners, told me in an email that “timing might be everything, but technically they aren’t the first. AGI tried AR greeting cards quite a few years back (2010 I believe) that utilized webcams and allowed for blowing out candles, etc. It was offered on eGreetings first, then it was taken to paper where a QR code could activate the AR experience from a paper card. Never took off. Probably because of technical adoption of the typical greeting card consumer who is 50–60 and probably didn’t understand how it would work.”

There are six REAL cARds for Valentine’s Day and two for Birthday at the time of my review. To attract a robust following of repeat users after Valentine’s Day, much more content is needed, both from HappyGiant and its prospective partners. This is going to require extraordinary fortitude from Levine and HappyGiant. “If I was afraid of big challenges,” Levine said, “I would not be an independent AR app developer. We hope to partner with IP holders and really be able to grow this platform.

Turned based strategy game Hologrid Monster features characters developed by Phil Tippett.

HappyGiant ‘s Hologrid: Monster Battle, a turn-based riff on Star Wars’“Holochess” (featured in Disney’s own AR app, Jedi Challenges). Hologrid: Monster Battle started as a card game that used an early workaround for mobile AR, using the cards themselves to activate and ground animations in the real physical space on top of them. The game was quickly reconfigured to use ARKit instead of the paper card markers in fall 2017, as soon as the new tools become available. Hologrid: Moster Battle was Apple’s “Game of the Day” during the 2017 Christmas holiday. “We are finding there is a dedicated group of people who clearly love the game and AR. Our retention and conversion is holding up against typical “Free To Play” (F2P) standards, which is promising,” said Levine.

The REAL cARds app is available in the iTunes App Store.

This post was originally featured on Forbes.com on February 06, 2018

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