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Is IR (Image Recognition) irrational for commercial printing?

{there is an ir in print when you spell it Backwards: tnirp}

I was asked to lunch last autumn by two supremely talented professional photographers. They are in the image business. Some months previously, we had also had a meal so they could pick my bald noggin on which Augmented Reality platform might be most useful in terms of making their photographic images interactive.

They got the SDK (software developer kit) for one of the very well-known #AR platforms in the space, one that many print companies have ‘partnered with’ - and made a few images interactive to show clients (current and prospective).

And then they hit a roadblock, their clients loved the interactive photos and asked what platform they were built in and several clients said – “so we will just go direct to the #AR platform provider and get our own SDK” and left my photogs fuming.

{Historical aside – remember in days of yore, like the very early 1980’s when the printing firm still had control of the creative process and employed graphic designers and camera folks and (film) strippers and retouchers and more to create the menu art for the printing of the menu for the local restaurant client? And then came Pagemaker and control of content moved upstream out of the hands of the print company and into the hands of the customer. Could the experience of the photographers happen to a print company? – “thanks, but I’ll just do the interactive creative myself”}

Our discussion was wide ranging and we talked about how niche photo specialties like boudoir and graduation and weddings and pin-up were all experimenting with making the photos interactive.

So I thought I might see what I could find today for pinup photos on Tumblr and Pinterest (wowza!) and then I thought to search Tumblr and Pinterest for “interactive photos.” Bingo.

Tru Confession – I have wondered if my worrying that commercial printers partnering with IR based AR platforms for their interactive print projects (not good for print long term was my oft-stated opinion, I Kev-Kvetched konstantly: ‘IR doesn’t need print eventually’) was misplaced. Maybe I was being a purist, or quixotically tilting at the windmills of Layar (as an example of an #AR platform that avidly has embraced #InterActivePrint so much so that Blippar bought the firm last year, but like its new parent, both are #IR based, the interaction is triggered by an image uploaded to the cloud – classic image recognition.)

There are folks around who still think that Betamax was a superior technology in the video cassette wars of forty years ago, but the VHS mode won out. In the retail arena I love so much, I have done verbal jousting with colleagues who are colour scientists in orientation – my view is that the customer decides what kind of colour fidelity is important, in some cases, perhaps many cases, “Good enuff” colour is good enough.

Is my relentless fretting over IR not being a friend to commercial printing over the long term simply wrong?

Well this lovely website abjures me to not abandon the bully pulpit, don’t stop sounding the #IR alarums you ould bald barrister of balderdash and bonhomie, you might just be right!

The video is not relevant to our examination, but the four exemplars of #IR based interaction lay the case out plainly – in each example, retail, event marketing (or tourism or real estate), photography, and education print is clearly not needed long term. { You can scroll down the home page to see 4 interactive photos from the four market segments.

Let’s examine just the retail image example. The lady holding a clutch purse.

In March of 2015, Comscore reported that the penetration of mobile devices has reached 77% in the US, up from 75.8 in January 2015. The figure was 78.6 % by the end of November 2015.

If you are reading this post on a computer screen, or, more likely on your mobile phone, you can hover on the image of the clutch the woman is holding and learn the provenance of who sells it and its price. Ample technology already exists for the next step - #ecommerce or #mcommerce driven by your mobile device recognizing the image of the Vince Camuto leather ‘Julia’ clutch which has been uploaded to the cloud and has been tagged with various interactions.

Here is another example from ThingLink’s excellent blog, this post from 13 October 2015:

Right now of course, a lot of dollars are spent on print advertising for retail, catalogues, magazines and newspapers ads, but all you have to do this fine Sunday morning is to heft your own local Sunday paper and realize the number of ad inserts compared to 10 years ago, has declined precipitously.

Informational print and promotional print is declining. It’s moved to the Internet, and image recognition platforms which currently use print (because it is the most democratic, widely available channel at present) will not need print long term when the leather clutch itself, or the bike racer togs, is the image that triggers the mobile retail experience, not a printed ad showing the clutch, or the bike racing togs.

Has this leprechaun lawyer gone all backwards Luddite on progress such as #IR? Maybe.

But the suite of four highly interactive images on the ThingLink website suggests my concerns are not far-fetched. In a few words (never easily done for this printz of prolixity, this viscount of verbosity):

Eventually, #IR does not need print.

Print companies can certainly learn about augmented reality and #InterActivePrint by using one of the Image Recognition platforms, but do so with your eyes wide open, you may very well be cutting off your nose to spite your face.

The ThingLink approach has been around since 2008, it’s based in Helsinki Finland, and until my search of pin-ups ended, I had never heard of it, and yet it is the best example yet, of a fear that appears to not be misplaced.

Eventually, #IR does not need print.

And please: Be careful out there, Because #RiskcanRuin !!!

Kevin Keane #printprotagonist
Chief Legal Officer and Social Media Magistrate
Security Group Inc.
[email protected]
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