Brothers Alex Hertel and Phillip Hertel, who co-founded Zetawire, a mobile payment system that was sold to Google in 2010, have come out of stealth with new venture-backed startup, Xperiel, a full stack AR Cloud solution that any designer can use. No programming skills needed.
Xperiel’s Real World Web platform will use the entire physical world as a marker to activate anchored contextual Augmented Reality experiences. Xperiel offers a “full stack” of technologies to developers, connecting real world object recognition with the AR Cloud directly. Importantly, they have also developed a graphical programming language called Rox so that non-programmers can build experiences on the platform that work on any device.
AR basketball in an basketball arena.
“We have turned the physical world into the AR and IoT Cloud operating system,” Alex Hertel explained to me on a Skype call last week. “We call this The Real World Web (RWW),” which allows anyone to choose a physical object, street, building, store, etc., turn it into a marker or a trigger, and activate Augmented Reality in the camera, blending that real world object with the digital. This very unique approach to the AR Cloud is distinct from geolocation, exemplified by Pokemon Go, where a user’s location activates the AR experience on a smartphone or other marker or pattern based recognition. Google Lens, complete with web search, and camera integration in popular Android phones like the Pixel, was announced at Google’s developer conference two weeks ago. Amazon’s Rekognition, and Facebook’s proprietary computer vision are remarkable and quickly being built into apps we use every day.
Alex Hertzel, and his brother, Phillip, co-founders of Xperiel.
Hertel explained the advantages of Xperiel through several use cases involving location based experiential marketing at professional sporting events. The company signed up The New York Jets football team, the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team and LA Kings basketball team as their pilot partners. Sports teams know that their spectators now time shift with social media, making their product and advertising less impactful and therefore less valuable. “In an attention economy, brands only have a few seconds to connect with consumers,” Hertel told me. “We allow brands to orchestrate experiences which persist for days.” In one campaign, the jumbotron at the NY Jets game activates an AR experience through the smartphone camera which allows users to catch cans of virtual bud light as if it was physical swag fired by a t-shirt cannon. In another example, users can make predictions about the real-time action on the court or field. During the week, fans can capture objects much like a player obtains a power-up in a video game in anticipation of the game next week.
“By using the Internet of Things,” Hertel explained, “Xperiel has created four new experiential mobile ad formats: in-game rewards, sponsorship for playing games, predictive gaming, and sponsored influencers. We’ll be able to make any part of the physical world digitally interactive -for instance, by adding an AR layer or dimension to any t.v. broadcast or commercial.”
According to Hertel, Xperiel’s results have been extraordinary. 20% conversion rates instead of the brutal industry average of 1%. Session times in excess of one hour. Retail sales increases of 300%. “Using Rox the entire RWW campaign was developed without any engineers. Two people built it in less than two weeks,” Hertel said. “All of our clients can create experiences for the RWW that are interactive, creative, gamified, bespoke, on-brand, that can result in dramatically higher conversion rates and session times.”
A few months ago Xperiel announced $7 million in Series A funding, which includes new investments from Scott Cook, Co-Founder of Intuit, Cyan Banister of Founders Fund and the National Basketball Association’s Sacramento Kings. The new investment will fuel the company’s growth and expansion into markets beyond sports technology. “Today’s consumers are rejecting traditional advertising while embracing AR, IoT and other interactive technologies,” said Cyan Banister, Partner at Founders Fund. “We believe that Xperiel’s approach of integrating these innovations into existing architecture creates endless opportunities for brands looking to stand out from increasingly sophisticated competition.”
Catching prizes from a virtual t-shirt gun.
Tucker Kain, CFO of the LA Dodgers baseball organization, says “Xperiel’s technology is designed to turn our ballpark into a giant digital ecosystem. Its Real World Web platform promises to deliver IoT-powered, mixed-reality experiences to fans that drive unprecedented levels of engagement and new revenue opportunities for our franchise.” Similarly, Kyle Eichman, formerly Sr. Director of Technology Solutions for the Sacramento Kings basketball team said “use of the platform and the associated capabilities delivers on our promise to make Golden 1 Center the most connected arena in the world, providing fans with the most personalized digital experience possible. Their platform will allow us to leverage the various sensors in a fan’s smartphone to deliver real-time, personalized promotional and sponsor-related content.”
The RWW gives a new meaning to IoT as every object does not need to be painted with data directly. Using Rox, anything the user chooses can be the input. A watch, a car, a poster, a jumbotron, a geolocation, a TV commercial, or a sound. Anything. The physical entity is recognized by the smartphone’s sensors such as its camera, microphone, NFC, or GPS, and then the system launches any program that the user created using Rox, such as an AR experience, a real-world game, or a service with no other programming needed. Hertel expects a self-serve system to be online in 2019. Like Unity, it will be free to students and amateurs, but commercial users would pay for the software as a service (Saas). Hertel describes Rox as “the mediating layer between the physical and virtual worlds.”