Updated: April 7, 2021 10:53:27 am
“We have been printing photos for over a hundred years, but would you like to print a video?”
It is this question that BITS Pilani alumni Shourya Agarwal, Rajat Gupta and Malhar Patil are trying to answer with Homingos, their augmented reality app which also seems to be nurturing some social media aspirations for the future.
The trio has created a unique “Smartphotos” product that utilises augmented reality (AR) technology to offer a new experience. “When I say you can print a video, it could be the first frame of the video or any other part. When you scan this printed photo through the Homingos camera, the entire video plays in front of you,” the 26-year-old Agarwal explains to indianexpress.com.
Agarwal says while you can watch a video on WhatsApp or Instagram, it’s difficult to revisit that video after some time. However, if you somehow store videos in a printed form and put that smart photo on a wall, you can experience those memories in a special way. “The idea is to convert a video into a smart photo so that your friend will always remember your birthday because that smart photo will be on his wall,” he explains.
Users can generate and order smartphotos on the Homingos website for about $7 ( approx Rs 696) a piece and get it delivered in 600 cities across India. Agarwal says the cost of owning a smart photo is drastically reduced through distribution partners like Flipkart and CRED. Last month over 300,000 smart photo (up from 10,000 in October) scans were done, a significant number for a new app.
But the Bengaluru-based startup, has more in store. “We are not creating media for extreme sharing, we are creating a social network for a very close-knit circle,” explains Agarwal, who is CEO of Homingos. For them, the smartphotos are just the first step towards a new social experience with a “decluttered” way of experiencing media and connecting with friends.
Agarwal says they are now building interactions on top of the smart photos and expect to see the first elements of this come up in the next three months. “The interaction elements on the smart photo will be the next phase of product growth,” he says, adding that the camera interface will be fundamental to the interactions going forward. “I will be able to change the video from the camera app itself. I will be able to send you a message or get a notification on the same camera. I can apply more AR filters on the same camera.”
Augmented reality, or AR, is among the biggest trends in tech right now. Even though AR is in its early stages, big tech companies including Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are looking at augmented reality more seriously than ever.
Agarwal is optimistic that this tech will emerge as the next major user interface in the consumer tech space. “We are creating a very new habit,” he says, adding that he believes three years down the line, “every company will be an AR company and users will completely switch to the AR interfaces”. Agarwal claims the camera interface that powers their product is completely scalable and “hardware independent”.
Without getting into comparisons with Facebook and Instagram, Agarwal envisions a new type of AR-powered social network where users have a completely decluttered way of experiencing media and connecting with friends. “Unlike any other social network, which might be there for five or 10 years, this will exist forever, because this has tangible aspect and has the element of a close-knit network,” he said.
In fact, so bullish is the company that it is targeting 100 million interface users on the platform in the coming years. Agarwal says that level of growth is needed to expand any social network. Homingos has recently raised an undisclosed round of funding led by BITS Spark Angel Network members. The investment will be used to further develop the AR platform and the camera interface.
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