Interview with tagwhat CEO Dave Elchoness

Today I have the pleasure of publishing a chat I had with the CEO of tagwhat, Dave Elchoness. We decided to share some of his thoughts on AR and the mobile world with the augmented.org readers – you!

tagwhat

Tagwhat is a new mobile location based service for your smartphone, that allows you to tag the whole world and share it with your friends. It also combines the different social media platforms in one mobile augmented reality experience. They just launched a week ago (press release) and are now online under www.tagwhat.com. But I’ll just pass the word to Dave without further ado. Enjoy:

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augmented.org: Hi Dave, thanks for taking your time. […] To get us started: Could you shortly explain what does tagwhat do?

Dave: Thanks you, Tobias. […] Tagwhat essentially gives each user the world to augment. With an on-line map interface and robust mobile AR, users create their own AR tags and interact with each other inside of AR. Following other users inside of Tagwhat merges their AR into your world. Tagwhat is in essence a creation and distribution system for AR.

What is Iryss’ history? Since when are you around and when did you discover AR?

Iryss was among the first developers in the world on the Layar system and created layers for Wikipedia, Yelp, Flickr, Mazda, and several others. In the fall of 2009, Iryss developed its own proprietary AR system originally designed to display the outputs of sensor technologies (like active RFID) in the cameraview of the consumer mobile device. Iryss then moved into consumer apps and quickly decided to create a much larger product which is now Tagwhat.

So, with the new product tagwhat, could you explain what is unique about it? (Compared to other location based services with an Augmented Reality mode, like Wikitude or Junaio, …)

There is the on-line map interface that allows anyone to enjoy Tagwhat and participate in the discussion and opportunities presented by the system, including creating and placing AR anywhere in the world from their desk. Second, there is the discussion and commenting inside of the AR tags. Third, there is the social aspect, meaning that like Twitter you can follow others and merge their AR into your world. We also have robust filtering and search mechanisms to ensure a meaningful, personalized experience, integrations with Facebook, Twitter and Gmail and quite a bit more. I really think we have successfully combined a strong, future looking AR system with social dynamics that will appeal to people.

So, what does an AR system add for the user? Where do you see the potential for AR in location based services?

Augmented reality adds an “inside the web” perspective that will, increasingly over time, be the way we interact with our surroundings. What we call location based services today will gradually change, but the element of location will play a role in how we use the web from now on. Now that mobile devices are equipped to offer location services, there is no turning back. This means a contextual web for everyone.

Without a turning back option and “everywhere social media”: does tagwhat address privacy issues? Can I easily define who can see what (even among my friends)?

You can choose to have a private or public account in Tagwhat. In the case of a private account, only users you accept can see your tags. Tagwhat also has a direct tag option where you can send a direct “for your eyes only” tag to people who follow you.

Can I connect to new friends etc mobile? or (today?) only via web?

Tagwhat allows you to connect to friends via Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail. You can find new people to follow by searching inside Tagwhat or choosing public tags that appear in the front page. Very soon we’ll be announcing some new functionality that will make finding people and information even easier.

Great. How do you see the future of mobile AR?

The future is mobile AR. Location based services will become one and the same with AR. As the so-called “Internet of Things” emerges, mobile AR will be viewed as a necessary technology that no one can live without.

Talking about technology: what kind of interaction paradigms do you see for the future (mobile GUIs are tiny and sometimes annoying)? Today it’s sometimes hard to get to a fast result while on the run. Too many clicks or downloads delay.

Tablets and eyewear will bring mobile AR completely into the mainstream. The interaction will be entirely natural, like reaching to shake someone’s hand.

The business model for Apps is discussed all the time. Is only ads the answer? E.g. virtual goods are getting more and more popular. Can you imagine integrating these additional bonus services, and items into your product? What do you think about this virtual good development?

I think there are numerous compelling business models for apps including ads and virtual goods. I think how these are implemented is the critical question. But as mobile AR innovators we are prepared to invent new ways of applying these business models in our unique context. I expect to see lots of innovative business models coming out of Tagwhat.

Regarding business models: will it completely stay social networking based or do you consider cooperations from companies like coffee shops or restaurant chains to add special channels?

Tagwhat has existing channels like: Wikipedia, Eat, Drink, and Foursquare, and fully intends to integrate much more compelling content from companies and organizations in the near future. Some folks at IBM are already using Tagwhat to feature some of their work. Other companies and universities are as well. Tagwhat is about information delivery in a very compelling way. Lots of content is coming.

In general, can you project the social implications by everday-AR? When is the technology and the user ready? When do people dont ask for an off-switch anymore? ;-)

We know that mobile is about to explode. As this happens the uses of mobile AR will become extremely apparent and tools like Tagwhat will become the social medium of the future. Once hardware becomes better suited to AR, there will be any turning back. People will never want to turn their AR off because they won’t want to miss the great content and opportunity all around them.

Thanks a lot, Dave.

Tobias, thanks a lot for your interest and the interview.