Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Dive Into Mobile App Marketplace: Zappar Augmented-Reality Hats Turn Anyone Into Obama or Romney (Video)

Part of the challenge of augmented reality is getting people to use it. You can create a fabulous world where virtual treasure boxes are hidden in the street and price tags hover above every item in a store — but you need people to actually pick up their phones, turn on a special app, and see all of this stuff overlaid on their lives.

Zappar co-founder Connell Gauld as Barack Obama, via an augmented reality hat

A Scottish start-up called Zappar is tackling this problem by selling fun items that people can appreciate in both the real and the virtual world. So, for instance, it has a deal to power T-shirts at stores including Walmart, with characters from brands like Disney that come to life when seen through the Zappar mobile app.

One of Zappar’s latest tricks is a set of two trucker hats — one says “I’m Barack Obama,” and the other, “I’m Mitt Romney” — that turn the wearer’s head into a live animated version of the two U.S. presidential candidates. Users can record their own stump speeches or debate answers on video and send them to their friends.

Zappar co-founder Connell Gauld flew to New York this week to show off the election hats and other goodies at our Dive Into Mobile conference. He was to be part of our App Marketplace, a selection of highly interactive apps from around the world that would give in-person demos to attendees.

Below is a video of me and Ina trying out the hats and some other features at the midtown hotel where our staff and some of the demonstrators, including Gauld, were holed up during the storm.

We hadn’t written much about the App Marketplace online in advance of Dive Into Mobile, because it was more of a show-and-tell section that would come to life on the spot. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Other participants were to include Boom, a mobile remittance service; Delta Air Lines, which has developed some cool new mobile features; Fresh Paint, one of the neater Windows 8 apps;, a finger-tracking analytics tool for app developers; Lark and Larklife, the new personal tracking device and training app; Snapchat, the picture-messaging app that’s already quite popular with teens; and Ubersense, a sports-training app with slow-motion video and side-by-side comparisons. Would have been fun!

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald