French Chamber in HK interviewed Philippe de Passorio, Head of Total Immersion in APAC

Philippe de Passorio is Head of APAC at Total Immersion, a French software company that recently became the French Chamber’s 700th member. Mr de Passorio tells us more about the concept of Augmented Reality (AR) and about his company’s pioneering role in the development of this innovative technology as a powerful marketing tool.

I read that your company specializes in Augmented Reality. Can you tell me more about this technology and about its impact on business?

Each baseball card has its own game playing experience

Augmented Reality (AR) is a new technology that blurs the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear and feel. It adds graphics, images, sounds and tactile feedback to the natural world as it exists. But I think the best way to understand AR is to click on any one of the links below to get an actual demonstration of our technology:

Alstom Convention:

Mattel Avatar Toys:

We believe that AR’s impact on business and on the way companies market their products can be huge. For example, studies have shown that touching a product in-store is very important when it comes to building brand awareness and brand relationships. We also know that consumers usually make their final decision in the store. So the potential for in-store stimuli to influence that ultimate purchasing decision is definitely there.

Our AR solutions are in line with this logic, as we enable shoppers to touch the product and we engage them in a fun, captivating experience. Let’s say for example that you are undecided in your choice between two products, let’s say some sort of toy. One of the products allows you to pick it up, view the toy fully assembled on top of the box, giving you real-time movies of the product, compared to just another brand sitting next to it…which one would you buy? We’re essentially adding value to products.
So what is your target market?  

I don’t know a single business today that does not want to significantly alter its business model. I mean, the Internet is changing everything. Besides, since our technology can be used as a platform to communicate for B2B or B2C, it can be applied for various purposes: POS/retail, promotions, theme parks, gaming, training, advertising, marketing, etc. But while the market potential is mind-blowing, it is easy to become distracted about all the potential uses for AR. Total Immersion must remain focused on applications that add significant value. We find that this technology is enabling more traditional business models to bridge over to the digital world and this has been a core focus of our company. For instance, we have recently been working with Mattel by embedding our technology into some of its Avatar figurines and with Coca-Cola and McDonald’s for movie cross-promotions. Another prime example is the work we did for TOPPS in the USA, where each baseball card had its own game playing experience.How do you handle the increasing demand for AR solutions? You must be on a hiring spree!

Total Immersion employs 70 people worldwide at present. Given the fact that there were only  twelve of us in 2006, we’ve been growing very quickly! We opened an office in Los Angeles  three years ago and now over 40% of our revenues come from the U.S. That said, all of our R&D is still conducted in France. The value of our company obviously rests on our technology and we currently have about 30 patents including one commonly referred to as an “umbrella patent” which is very strong.

AR blurs the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated

In 2008, we completed about 100 projects, in 2009, about 280. And in 2010? We are the point where we no longer speak in terms of projects, but rather in terms of users. Thanks to our recent business with Mattel, Coke and McDonald’s, we have been able to reach millions of consumers worldwide. Our revenues are increasing accordingly:.

So yes, we need to hire more people and we also see our network of resellers (we currently have 70 worldwide) as an important part of our expansion strategy. Our reseller partners – mostly media agencies – are trained in AR and can therefore deliver different types of projects to our clients.

Our team is, as you would expect, very young. The average is around 32 years and we really encourage our employees to think “out of the box”. Our technology is so new that you don’t find it in textbooks at school! Recruiting the right people is actually one of our main challenges: We sure get a lot of resumes because we have a strong reputation especially in Europe and in the US, but finding the right person for the job is another story…For one, we need people who really embrace change as I can tell you everything evolves very quickly at Total Immersion! We are very consumer-driven which means that we are constantly pushing new boundaries to meet our customers’ increasingly sophisticated needs and requirements. More to read here !

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