Gravity Jack Inc. owners and executives spent a week in China last month with business owners who are looking to see how augmented reality can be used for their businesses.
And one opportunity immediately emerged from the trip.
“A Chinese business by the name of Orange Light wants us to develop the software for an interactive children’s book they are creating,” says Joshua Roe, president and CEO of RevolutionAR, a Gravity Jack partner. Both Roe and Jennifer Richey, Gravity Jack’s director of business development, say they are excited about this project, and future opportunities they believe exist in China.
Whereas virtual reality immerses a person in an environment like a digital scene, augmented reality is a view of a real scene with digital information imprinted on top of it. Last year, the company created an application for the band Maroon 5. It enables users to hold their phone’s camera over an image of the band’s album art, and a music video appears on the screen.
Richey credits Ryan Darbonne, Gravity Jack’s director of marketing and communications, for “putting the company on China’s map.” Darbonne used Gravity Jack’s social media presence and online analytics to boost Gravity Jack’s status in augmented reality database searches.
Darbonne’s effort, in turn, led to Dr. JianNing Zhou of Orange Light reaching out to Gravity Jack and inviting company representatives to China. Richey and Roe arrived in Shanghai before travelling to Hangzhou for an augmented reality convention. Richey says the convention revealed that many Chinese businesses are still learning best practices when it comes to the use of AR.
“Augmented reality is more than just a pink bunny bouncing in a car ad,” Richey says. “You can throw AR at anything. What we see is that there is a real need there to help businesses use it effectively.”
From Hangzhou, Zhou escorted the trio to Chengdu, home of Orange Light. Upon arrival, Richey characterized her mindset as that of a “typical American” on a business trip.
“I’m ready to roll up my sleeves, go to work, and get things done,” she says.
She learned, though, that’s not the way business is initially done in China.
“Instead of rolling up our sleeves, they sat us down, took off our shoes and gave us foot massages because it eases jet lag,” Richey says. “It was important for us to see that Chinese businesses want to have a personal connection with those who they interact and do business with. They first wanted to get to know us as people.”
Roe said it’s important for American businesses to understand the interactions of people in the most populous nation on the planet. “The trip evolved, and as it progressed we all had to let go of our American desire to have set expectations.”
The three arrived in China without an itinerary from their hosts.
“At first you’re wondering if this is legitimate,” Richey says of the decision to go to China. “In the end, though, it was just too big of an opportunity to turn away.” Richey says Gravity Jack executives were “extremely well hosted” while there.
In addition to providing software for the interactive children’s book, Roe says he sees an opportunity for Gravity Jack to serve as Orange Light’s “off-shore team.” The two businesses are in discussions about having Chinese students interested in the field of augmented reality serving in internship-like capacities during the summer months at Gravity Jack’s Liberty Lake office.
“There is massive growth in China,” Roe says. “I just have a feeling augmented reality is going to take off.”
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