Gizmo uses augmented reality to bring greeting cards into the 21st century


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Even in this digital age, there's something intimate about receiving an old-fashioned paper greeting card or a handwritten letter. As you might expect, greeting card companies are looking to bridge the gap between analog and digital with the likes of e-cards, and some are even experimenting with augmented reality (AR) cards. San Francisco-based designer John Littleboy wants to combine the best of both the digital and physical worlds.

Meet Gizmo: It's a selection of paper cards that come to life when you point a smartphone or tablet running a specialized app at them. Your recipient will get a nice handwritten card, but with the added bonus of an AR character—maybe a robot or a mermaid or even a bulldog—that will appear onscreen and make your greeting a little more interactive. 

After you pick out your card, you can choose to to make the character wave, dance, go skiing, or do anything you set it to do before you send it to a loved one. All your card recipient has to do is scan the card using an app on your Android- or iOS-based smartphone or tablet, tap a button, and watch the character come alive.

John first cooked up the idea when he attended CES with his company, Artiphany, in 2011. It was there he first met the team at Daqri, makers of the app you'll need in order to see the AR side of the greeting cards.

"I met the team from Daqri who were demoing some fabulous tools for artists," John said in an email interview with TechHive. "Since I'm always looking for new ways to present our content, I thought that this could put us in the forefront of this new medium of expression. I'd say we're out in front right now."

"Oh hello there!"

John believes there are two things that make Gizmo a more compelling sell than the AR attempts from big companies: The quirky AR characters and story lines, and that the technology can travel around with you.

"I think our narratives and characters are compelling and fresh," John explained. "That's certainly my intention when I'm creating. The big companies like Hallmark and American Greetings are still stuck on the desktop model to have an AR experience. Our app is more agile, interactive and you can have this experience anywhere you take your mobile device. That makes it really easy to share."

From John's perspective, both Gizmo and augmented reality have big futures ahead of them, and he feels that both will serve as tools we will use to tell stories to one another.

"AR will soon be part of mainstream media," John said,  "Self-publishing tools which we'll be using in the future are a great platform for artists to tell a compelling story."

Point your smartphone or tablet at the card, fire up the Daqri app, and your greeting card comes to life.

Meanwhile, Artiphany will work to develop extra Gizmo card collections, with more characters and narratives that get the card recipients more involved, as well as a Christmas collection that John has already cooked up.

"As with any start-up, we scratch and scramble for every inch of progress," John continued. "I often feel like I'm standing on top of gold mine with my one trusty shovel and a strong back. I'd like to get my hands on a back-hoe."

Gizmo is currently pitching on Kickstarter, and needs $20,000 to reach its goal. Take a look at the cards and consider a pledge over on the website.

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This story, "Gizmo uses augmented reality to bring greeting cards into the 21st century" was originally published by TechHive.

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