The Catchoom Revolution: Not Just Another Cute Disruption

Greg Bates
Jul. 25 2013, 10:00AM EDT

Step back almost 20 years. I was then CEO of a tiny publishing house at a group breakfast during what was then called the American Booksellers Association convention. The guest speaker was a guy with a clearly nutty idea: Jeff Bezos was selling books over the Internet. Every publisher in the room had the same question: who in their right mind would ever buy a book that you couldn't hold in your hands before paying for it?

Fast forward to today and things are reversed. I still buy books in bookstores. But who in their right mind would buy a book without first seeing all the information you can get off Amazon--the consumer reviews, the media reviews (like Publishers Weekly or Library Journal), author interviews, etc.? Standing in a bookstore and holding a book that I haven't previously seen on Amazon feels risky--shouldn't I know more before I buy? Even for the bookstore patron, Bezos has turned book buying upside down.

If Catchoom has its way, the entire world will be like that--you can get more information on a physical object by looking at its digital equivalent.

A player in the augmented reality arena, Catchoom has people take photos--while they are shopping, for example--that are then compared via a third party app to a database. Once the object is recognized a vast array of different types of information about it is instantly available. Their method is so much more convenient than messing with QR codes.

Suppose you are in a food store. You open up an app made by that store. The store has uploaded photos of its merchandise to the cloud, in a service managed by Catchoom. (That's all done through, you guessed it, the Catchoom API. Catchoom says in its documentation that  its API is best suited to recognize a variety of objects from CD and DVD covers to content in print media, as well as monuments, logos, and in our example, packaged goods. (It does not do facial recognition.) This RESTful API responds with an HTTP status code and a JSON document when available.

Let's go back to that shopping scenario. You take a picture of a can of soup with a smartphone or tablet. Within the blink of an eye the item is recognized and the retailer can offer you a discount, more information on it, a movie about it (like what the contents in the can look like), whatever the retailer wants to offer. You have much more information now because you can access the digital life of something you hold in your hands.

Every object can have a digital life--just like that book in the bookstore has a digital life on Amazon. The difference is that the app you look at it through belongs to the owner of the store you are in.

I had the great fortune to catch up with Catchoom's CMO, Richard Ferraro, via phone while he was at an airport. I zeroed in on a statement from Katie Ingram, writing in CMSwire. She pointed out that Catchoom isn't the only player in this space,

"In order to be a pioneer and leader in this movement, Catchoom has to make sure it's appealing to not only marketers, but publishers, media companies and retailers by finding something that separates it from competitors and makes its technology more accessible."

So I asked him, what's the answer? Ferraro was on it:

"We power the most important augmented reality browser available today, Layar, with 30m app downloads since 2011. This has given us unique insights into AR and allowed to build the most resilient image recognition technology available. We are in a unique position to capitalise on our knowledge of where we see the market developing.

We already offer a great all-round image recognition technology for both flat and 3D objects and have adapted it to work amazingly well for retail and print, where we see great growth potential. We will continue to build on this in order to deliver the best AR experience for our customer base.

In terms of your question, we are working hard to offer something unique and believe we have found it. While I cannot share the details, it will be something no-one else has. I hope to be able to share more details in September."

In other words, Catchoom understands the crowded nature of the space they occupy. Stay tuned for their plan to zoom ahead.

Greg Bates A writer for Programmableweb since 2012, Greg is a freelance writer and a maniacal editor of dissertations and term papers. - Follow me on Google+

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