Right now, AR experiences are rather like paint. They can be applied to our physical reality to inform or entertain. The key difference is that if someone applies paint to, say, someone else’s storefront, it’s illegal. Because no one “owns” digital space, people can manipulate real images with AR effects in whatever way they want.
A unique partnership in the UK is exploring how physical property owners can also take ownership of the digital space.
About Location-Based AR Experiences
Before we talk about the solution any more, let’s make sure that we understand the problem.
Some AR experiences work anywhere. Camera filters are a good example. Other AR experiences, called “location-based AR“, only work in specific locations.
However, people don’t legally “own” locations in the way that they “own” property. That means that there is little property owners can do if someone else develops a location-based AR experience around their property. That’s even true if the location-based AR experience is making money off of its attachment to the physical location.
Darabase is a unique UK-based AR startup that launched just over a year ago. Their goal is to help the people who own properties claim ownership of the digital space as well.
“Basically, Darabase was founded to build a permission layer between the physical world and the digital world,” Darabase founder Dominic Collins told ARPost. “On the other side of the marketplace, we’ve got tools for people who want to serve these messages… and who want to know that the content that they serve has a property owner’s permission.”
The goal is that property owners can reserve their own locations for their own location-based AR experiences if they so wish. Alternatively, they could monetize their location to make money from the location-based AR experiences placed on their property by others. It’s kind of like the digital version of selling a billboard. After all, if you owned a billboard you probably wouldn’t expect other people to go about placing advertisements on it without compensating you.
“Conventional advertising is largely permission-based and self-regulated,” said Collins. “We wanted to take this thing that’s already happening and extend it to this new medium.”
The problem is that Darabase doesn’t really have any legal teeth. So how exactly do they get people to respect one another’s digital property?
Also based in the UK, Zappar is a world-leading XR app developer. Their platform’s users can both create and experience location-based AR. An update that they released last spring gives just about anyone access to advanced AR technology like face and location mapping.
The end result is that lots of developers use Zappar to create AR experiences. Further, lots of users use Zappar to access AR experiences created by a lot of different developers. By requiring permissions by property owners to allow location-based AR experiences on its platform, Zappar can make a significant impact.
“(A permissions layer) is something that has always been talked about but no one has really figured out how to do it,” said Caspar Thykier, CEO of Zappar. He also mentioned that he loves being a part of this from a Zappar perspective, “to see the next step in all of this… to not just talk about this but to actually make it happen.”
Zappar and Darabase announced their partnership in a joint press release they recently shared with ARPost.
“Through the tight integration with the Zappar platform, registered property owners can now use the Darabase Portal to manage and serve their own AR content experiences on their buildings and storefronts with confidence,” said the release. “Darabase and Zappar have collaborated to integrate the Zappar WebAR and marker recognition technology solution into Darabase’s Spatial Content Server and wider campaign management technology solution. The integration with the Darabase property portal now facilitates recognition of signage, building features and other anchor points.”
The Zappar-Darabase collaboration is important for a number of reasons.
In the first place, it’s a big first step toward creating a non-governmental solution to a problem that would potentially require legal intervention.
“There were people on the finance side kind of trying to sell virtual land, which – to me – seemed like a ponzi scheme,” said Collins. “This is not a competitive play. No matter who you are, this is to help you do what you’re doing better.”
In addition to potentially averting a crisis, this solution helps to give resources to property owners. Resources that they can take advantage of whether or not they actually produce AR experiences.
“What’s interesting is how [this solution] is expanding the idea of what owned media means… it’s all about how this new media landscape is being opened up,” said Thykier. “Turning passive real estate into an ‘always-on’ digital channel.”