INTERVIEW - Augmented Reality in Asia by Philippe de Passorio, head of APAC


INTERVIEW - Augmented Reality in Asia by Philippe de Passorio, head of APAC


Have a look at Philippe de Passorio (Head of APAC) interview done by Damn Digital in China.


DM: Hey! Can you quickly introduce yourself and describe Total Immersion briefly to us?

Ph: Sure. As Head of Asia Pacific, I oversee the execution of Total Immersion’s market strategies and manage the Company’s P&L operations throughout the region. Total Immersion is a software company dedicated on Augmented Reality. We provide the largest AR platform software to developers and a fully integrated AR solution to the market.

DM: Let’s back to the year of 2006, you were working at Autodesk, and then you chose Total Immersion to be your new start point, what was the motivation? Or, to be more clearly, what is the attraction that Augmented Reality Technology has to you?

Ph: I was headhunted by a specialized recruiting company in order to take the position of Sales Director for a small and unknown company called Total Immersion. At this time, the company had 12 people onboard only. The headhunter convinces me to meet the two founders of the company. After half a day meeting with these 2 “thinking out of the box” guys, I had the vision of how big could be the AR market in the following 5 years. In 2006, you needed 2 big desktop PC and half an hour installation to run a simple demo today, a rich and fully interactive experience can be run onto your smartphone in few second. This half day meeting changed my life for the following 5 years.

DM: We keep hearing new inventions that are based by Augmented Reality Technology. From Games, Mobile apps to consumer products, and also many live experience shows in recent years.How do you see the value of AR In today’s marketing diagram? Do you think AR is already being the mainstream now? Or how far the distance will be?

Ph: 6 to 5 years ago, we used AR for military application (on site training) and manufacturing process (maintenance, assembly,…). Since 5 to 4 years, we are using AR in marketing campaign fir On Stage Show, exhibition, online campaign and mobile marketing activation. Thanks to the interactivty of AR, it lets user engage and interact directly with the brand, increasing emotional attachment to the product. A consumer has 90% chance to buy the product if he have it in his hand for more than 30 secondes. This is exactly what we are providing with AR in Store. We generate an uplift of 400% by using AR in Store.

People always want to be part of the story, and it’s what AR can bring. But it’s still not mainstream at that moment. To be mainstream, we need to create a B2C offer. , New devices with powerful features open new opportunity for AR on the B2C market. We are already working with some major hardware companies to implement AR into the mobile, so changing it from software to be embedded and ready-to-use in hardware.

DM: How far will AR go to in the future? New technology is coming to birth almost by daily basis. What if some day that AR become out-date fashion? How AR will influence everyone’s daily life?

Ph: Revolution will happen when it comes to the hardware. We can imagine in a near future to have light eyewear or lens which display information on top of it. This kind of hardware will definitely open the door to huge potential of usage like self navigation, get information on a product or a person as soon you look at it/him visualize the social profile of a person… AR is using the video camera as a sensor in order to recognize and track the environment. As soon as you add a new sensor to a device like a mobile phone, you open the way for new application using this new sensor. Look at the number of disruptive application using the compass of the iPhone today. Cameras are becoming as important as the compass or GPS in your smartphone. . Marketing usage of AR may fade out or become out-dated fashion later, but the e-commerce/m-commerce usage will be a new start. Involving to the purchasing process is a way to influence everyone’s daily life; user shopping experience may also changes in someday.

DM:As we know, you have grown up and manage the regional team, structuring the Total Immersion Asia Team Hong Kong 1999 (it should be 2009), Can you describe the marketing conditions of AR at that time? And how do you compare the picture of current marketing situation and the picture of 2 years ago?

Ph: I set up the APAC team in Hong Kong in 2009; the turnover of APAC was around 5% of the total turnover of Total Immersion at that time. 1 year later, it increase to 20% and last year 2011, we already hit to 31% of the total company turnover. AR starts earlier in European countries, not many people know about AR in Asia at the beginning. So most of the AR marketing project was following the previous project in other countries, but the market grew very fast and changes from a follower to become a contributors. People know more about AR and they can have many creative ideas on AR usage nowadays.

From your perspectives, what industries or areas that in use of AR application mostly? And which are the most potential industries in the near future? Can you also share some of your work showcases (say, event interactive experience, campaign site, or mobile app, e-commerce, etc.) to elaborate with us?

Around 50% of the projects are marketing-related, including some exhibition and mobile application. 20% is coming from ecommerce and 30% is product related. Product related means we add value on top of a physical product by using AR. For example, we can enhance a children book with interactive explanation and exercises or it can be simple Greeting Cards for Valentine with an interactive and emotional animation on it . We can even enhance the feature of toys thanks to AR animation. The e-commerce part is increasing and we can see a great demand on that. It is part of our strategy today. Besides AR, cooperate with some major operator for providing customized AR application is also our strategy. For example the cooperation with KDDI in Japan – providing an AR design solution (SATCH) for the content provider to produce customized AR mobile application. We will focus more on mobile too in the future.

DM: You are being successfully selling and marketing the AR to business clients these years. From your experiences, what was the biggest challenge you’ve been face with when selling and marketing AR technology to the business clients?

Ph: There are a number of challenges we got so far for selling AR to the china market.
1) Still many people don’t really understand AR, so we need to explain a lot on that.
2) It’s difficult to recruit the right talent to work on an AR project.. AR is new and not many records can trace back.
3) Asia market is too big and very different. We need to work a lot on localization, make it adopts to different local market
4) Corporate company sometimes is scared to try new thing, but following something which is already existed.

DM: As a worldwide leader in Augmented Reality solutions, what do you think that set Total Immersion apart from other AR technology companies?

Ph: Today we are the leader in Augmented Reality; we are the largest in term of number of people, number of project delivered (2 projects was delivered every day in 2011), amount of revenue. We also got the biggest team on R&D focusing on AR only. We have 6 offices around the world, more than 135 officials Value Added Reseller which are present in 35 countries. We are doing 85% of our revenue in international. Our software platform is the biggest actually on the market which can handle PC/Mac, iPhone, Android, all kind of internet browsers which represent 160 different hardware/software platform. This is unique on the market to have 1 player handling 90% of the digital platform in the world. When a company becomes a partner of TI, he can execute a project for an exhibition with High Definition camera AND an iPhone application AND a PC/Mac based experience with the same DFusion platform from TI. This is amazing! These are all the competitive advantages for us toward other companies. We are now in a process to acquire new dynamic and innovative companies which are working in the AR market. Our competitors may become our friends!

DM: How is Total Immersion Asia Company now? How is the scale of your team? Would you share some of your latest projects in digital marketing and e-commerce fields?

Ph: We have office in Tokyo and Hong Kong, also a subcontractor team in Shanghai. Our team is composing of marketing, sales and professional services people.

DM: Do you have a team working on scientifically research and innovation? What is the percentage ratio that technique professions to others? How do you motivates your team being innovative always?

Ph: Innovation is a day to day process in our company and is part of our DNA. The talent we are recruiting already have this will of innovation in themselves. So, we don’t need to motivate them. But, in the meantime, we need to capture innovative ideas within the company and bring the bests ones to the market. To do so, we organize every month an “Innovation Sharing Session” in which anybody in the company, from the technical engineer to the sales manager, come with his idea and present it to the management team for 20mn. It can be a new feature in the product, a new usage of an existing application or any kind of idea which can bring AR to an other level.

DM: How do you recruit stuff? Is it difficult to find talents in AR-Tech related professions ? Do you accept layman or green hand and grow them up being a professional AR professionals? Share some of your experience/opinions with us please.

Ph: We use specialized headhunter to recruit people, and it takes around 3 months with intensive search to find the right person. We definitely prefer to hire a green hand which has potential and passion in his work than an experienced guy with no growth potential and no passion. We are looking for people who are able to go out of their comfort zone. You know, we have done 600% growth in 2 years in APAC. Only a high potential team can support this huge growth and grow with the company. As an example, we hired a fresh grad engineer 9 months ago to work on different projects. He has done a great job during these 9 months and now, we gave him more responsibility. He is in charge of managing a network of subcontractor which represents the equivalent of 20 engineers.

DM: What’s your plan for Total Immersion Asia in the near future? What will be the biggest challenge you are going to face by your prospective?

Ph: In our 2 years plan, we will expand the China team, open office in Korea and hope to achieve 50% of Total Immersion overall revenue. In order to do that, we will need to strengthen our Strategic Alliances in local region. For example, we have signed a strategic Alliance with KDDI in Japan; Texas Instrument in Italy, Intel, Adobe and eBay in the US. We will probably follow this path in Asian region too.

DM: How about your business in China? As far as we know, Total immersion is working close with China frequently, especially the mainland China Market. How do you see its marketing potentiality?

Ph: The business in China is growing; it represents 30% of the APAC revenue now. We hope it can increase to 50% in the future. China got a lot of potential as e-commerce and mobile ecommerce is also very strong in the market, we already contacting with the major ecommerce players for introducing AR.

DM: Do you have further plan for China? Will you start offices in mainland area?

Ph: Sure, we already got a subcontractor team in Shanghai and we are planning to open our own office there within this year.

DM: Last one, anything or pearls of wisdom would like to share with DamnDigital readers? Please

True innovation changes the way we live. Juniper research estimates that by 2012 there will be 197 million AR capable smartphone on the global market. I believe they didn’t consider the Chinese market in their estimation. This is a call for action to DamnDigital readers to start to work on this promising AR market and find new ideas usage of AR in China. There are rooms for everybody.

DM: It has been a privilege, thanks very much.

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