Monthly Archives: March 2019
Should you still be implementing SKAGs in your PPC account? According to Hanapin’s Emma Franks, this answer is no. To find out the reasons behind this check out her post on Unbounce, Why SKAGs Are No Longer a PPC Best Practice (and How to Respond).
Read more at PPCHero.com
Ten years after the launch of Foursquare at SXSW, the company is laying its technology bare with a futuristic version of its old app that doesn’t require a check-in at all. The godfather of location apps is returning to the launchpad with Hypertrending, but this time it hopes to learn what developers might do with real-time info about where people are and where they aren’t.
Hypertrending uses Foursquare’s Pilgrim technology, which is baked into Foursquare’s apps and offered as a third-party enterprise tool, to show where phones are in real time over the course of SXSW in Austin, Texas.
This information is relayed through dots on a map. The size of those dots is a reflection of the number of devices in that place at a given time. Users can filter the map by All places, Food, Nightlife and Fun (events and parties).
Hypertrending also has a Top 100 list that is updated in real time to show which places are super popular, with arrows to show whether a place is trending up or down.
Before you throw up your hands in outrage, the information on Hypertrending is aggregated and anonymized (just like it is within Pilgrim), and there are no trails showing the phone’s route from one place to another. Dots only appear on the map when the phone arrives at a destination.
Hypertrending was cooked up in Foursquare’s skunkworks division, Foursquare Labs, led by the company’s co-founder Dennis Crowley .
The feature is only available during SXSW and in the Austin area, and thus far Foursquare has no plans to launch this publicly. So… what’s the deal?
First and foremost, Hypertrending is about showing off the technology. In many ways, Hypertrending isn’t new at all, in that it runs off the Pilgrim technology that has powered Foursquare since around 2014.
Pilgrim is the tech that recognizes you’ve just sat down at a restaurant and offers up a tip about the menu on Foursquare City Guide, and it’s the same tech that notices you’ve just touched down in a new city and makes some recommendations on places to go. In Swarm, it’s the tech that offers up a list of all the places you’ve been in case you want to retroactively check in to them.
That sounds rather simple, but a combination of Foursquare’s 10 years’ worth of location data and Pilgrim’s hyper-precision is unparalleled when it comes to accuracy, according to Crowley.
Whereas other location tech might not understand the difference between you being in the cafe on the first floor or the salon on the second floor, or the bar that shares a wall with both, Pilgrim does.
This is what led Foursquare to build out the Pilgrim SDK, which now sees more than 100 million user-confirmed visits per month. Apps that use the Pilgrim SDK offer users the ability to opt-in to Foursquare’s always-on location tracking for its mobile app panel in the U.S., which has grown to 10 million devices.
These 10 million phones provide the data that powers Hypertrending.
Now, the data itself might not be new, per se. But Foursquare has never visualized the information quite like this, even for enterprise customers.
Whereas customers of the Foursquare Place Insights, Pinpoint and Attribution get snapshots into their own respective audiences, Hypertrending represents on a large scale just what Foursquare’s tech is capable of in not only knowing where people are, but where people aren’t.
This brings us back to SXSW, which happens to be the place where Foursquare first launched back in 2009.
“This week has felt a little nostalgic as we try to get this thing ready to go,” said Crowley. “It’s not that dissimilar to when we went to SXSW in 2009 and showed off Foursquare 1.0. There is this curious uncertainty and my whole thing is to get a sense of what people think of it.”
Crowley recalled his first trip to SXSW with co-founder Naveen Selvadurai. They couldn’t afford an actual pass to the show so they just went from party to party showing people the app and hearing what they thought. Crowley said that he doesn’t expect Hypertrending to be some huge consumer app.
“I want to show off what we can do with the technology and the data and hopefully inspire developers to do interesting stuff with this raw visualization of where phones are at,” said Crowley. “What would you do if you had access to this? Would you make something cool and fun or make something obnoxious and creepy?”
Beyond the common tie of SXSW, Hypertrending brings Foursquare’s story full circle in the fact that it’s potentially the most poignant example of what Crowley always wanted Foursquare to be. Location is one of the most powerful pieces of information about an individual. One’s physical location is, in many ways, the most purely truthful piece of information about them in a sea of digital clicks and scroll-bys.
If this data could be harnessed properly, without any work on the side of the consumer, what possibilities might open up?
“We’ve long talked about making ‘a check-in button you never had to press,’ ” said Crowley in the blog post. “Hypertrending is part of that vision realized, spread across multiple apps and services.”
Crowley also admits in the blog post that Hypertrending walks a fine line between creepy and cool, which is another reason for the ephemeral nature of the feature. It’s also the exact reason he wants to open it up to everyone.
From the blog post:
After 10 years, it’s clear that we (Foursquare!) are going to play a role in influencing how contextual-aware technologies shape the future – whether that’s apps that react to where you are and where you’ve been, smarter virtual assistants (e.g Alexa, Siri, Marsbot) that understand how you move through cities, or AR objects that need to appear at just the right time in just the right spot. We want to build a version of the future that we’re proud of, and we want your input as we get to work building it.
We made Hypertrending to show people how Foursquare’s panel works in terms of what it can do (and what it will not do), as well as to show people how we as a company think about navigating this space. We feel the general trend with internet and technology companies these days has been to keep giving users a more and more personalized (albeit opaquely personalized) view of the world, while the companies that create these feeds keep the broad “God View” to themselves. Hypertrending is one example of how we can take Foursquare’s aggregate view of the world and make it available to the users who make it what it is. This is what we mean when we talk about “transparency” – we want to be honest, in public, about what our technology can do, how it works, and the specific design decisions we made in creating it.
We asked Crowley what would happen if brands and marketers loved the idea of Hypertrending, but general consumers were freaked out?
“This is an easy question,” said Crowley. “If this freaks people out, we don’t build stuff with it. We’re not ready for it yet. But I’d go back to the drawing board and ask ‘What do we learn from people that are freaked out about it that would help us communicate to them,’ or ‘what are the changes we could make to this that would make people comfortable,’ or ‘what are the things we could build that would illustrate the value of this that this view didn’t communicate?’ ”
As mentioned above, Hypertrending is only available during the SXSW conference in the Austin area. Users can access Hypertrending through both the Foursquare City Guide app and Swarm by simply shaking their phone.
Facebook constantly expands its advertising offerings by introducing new features to accommodate advertisers in their effort to make the most out of their platform.
Whether it is creating ads that tell the brand’s story with carousel ads, immersing users in their brand’s world with Canvas or Stories ads, or cutting down the time to create creatives while at the same time tailoring the ad to the ad viewer with dynamic ads, Facebook wants to ensure that it gives advertisers the tools to drive results across its platforms.
In a world where personalization is vital to make experiences more engaging, Facebook Ads are no different. Advertisers need to customize their offering, ad copy and ad creative to ensure the best experience possible. A great experience tailored to the user’s needs hopefully equals higher engagement — or, in terms of Facebook advertising, conversions.
Tailoring your ads to your user, the manual and tedious way
One way you could promote your products to potential customers before dynamic ads were available was to create a single image or carousel image ad and guide people to specific product pages on your website.
But if you were a business with a large inventory to promote, you needed to create as many ads (creative and links to product pages) as your products. And if you wanted to tailor your ads based on where they are on the marketing funnel or the actions they performed (e.g. they viewed or added to the cart a particular product), then things could become really complicated really fast.
Dynamic ads (or dynamic product ads as they are formerly known) allow advertisers to not only automate this tedious process but also create highly personalized ads that promote products with up to date information.
Dynamic ads: The definition and requirements
Facebook dynamic ads help advertisers display the right product to the right people at the right time. Here is how this happens:
A potential customer visits your site and browses through your products. Facebook, through the Pixel, will pair products and users and ‘take notes’ on how they interacted with them. When you create a dynamic ad you can include everyone that exhibited the same behavior, bring them back to your website by displaying the very same products each user engaged with using accurate and updated information available in the product feed. This how dynamic ads can help your visitors to complete the transaction.
To be able to run dynamic ads you need to have the following in place:
- A business manager: This serves as a big folder where all of your assets (Facebook page, Ad account, Pixel, and Dynamic ads-related assets mentioned below) will be organized.
- Product feed(s): This is the file where all your products and product information will be stored.
- Product catalog(s): This is where your product feed is hosted.
How to get started with dynamic ads
Dynamic ads are a powerful offering that can be used across a variety of verticals. Currently, dynamic Facebook ads are available to businesses that sell products (ecommerce), hotel, flight, destination, and home listings.
Your business type will dictate the events (standard or custom) you need to implement. Here are the typical standard events needed for ecommerce businesses.
You can add as many events you need to align them to your funnel. Once you have the events implemented, you need to create the feed.
1. Creating a product feed
Facebook requires Facebook advertisers to list all of their products in a file following a specific format. This file is the product feed that will feed the products to your catalog. Depending on your ecommerce platform, you may need to create a data feed using a .csv, .tsv, or .xml file or a third-party feed provider to facilitate this process.
Download the data feed template and fill in the information. Here is what your feed needs to include:
Be sure to test your feed with Feed Debugger to ensure that your feed is set up correctly and fix any issues that may arise.
2. Creating a product catalog
Now, we can create a product catalog. Visit Catalog Manager in your business manager and choose the type that best describes your needs.
Name your product catalog and click on the ‘Add Products’ button to upload your product feed.
Next, choose how you will upload the data (schedule or a one-time upload) and insert the URL of your product feed.
When done, go to the ‘Diagnostics’ tab to check for any issues, if you have done so with Feed Debugger. Now, that your product catalog and product feed are all set up, we can move to the exciting part; creating the dynamic ads campaign.
3. Setting up a dynamic ads campaign
To create a dynamic ads campaign, head over to Ads Manager and choose ‘Catalog sales’ as the campaign’s objective.
At the ad set level, create a product set. The product set is a subset of your product catalog, and it contains the products that will be displayed through this campaign.
Next, in the audience section, choose ‘Define a broad audience and let Facebook optimize who sees your products’ so you can reach new people (prospecting campaign). To remarket to existing visitors, use the option “Use info from your Pixel or app to create a retargeting audience “.
Scroll down below the connections menu and click ‘Show Advanced Options’. Here are some options that let you refine your audience and exclude people who are less likely to take action, such as someone who has already visited your website or bought from you.
Next, you want to optimize for the right event type. Choose the event that you want to optimize for (View Content, Add To Cart, or Purchase) and set the conversion window to one that suits your needs.
Be sure to fill in any other information (i.e. targeting, budget, etc.) the way you usually do. Now, we will create the ad.
When choosing the ad format (single or carousel), take into account the type of images used in your product feed. Typically, landscape images will look great with the single image ad format while vertical images will look better with the carousel ad format.
Now for your ad copy, you don’t need to manually insert the product name, description, or any other product information. You can use the ‘+’ button inside each box to pull a catalog field from your product feed.
For instance, click the ‘+’ button in the text field, and select ‘Price’ from the drop-down list.
Using dynamic ads creatively
As mentioned previously, dynamic ads are currently available if you promote products, vehicle, flights, destination, or home listings. If you don’t see your business type here, don’t get discouraged as dynamic ads can be used for all verticals. Here are some examples of using dynamic ads creatively.
1. Using dynamic ads to promote your blog posts
When using dynamic ads to promote your articles, the articles serve as products, and all product info will be the article’s information. For example, the product id will be the article’s id; the product description will be the article’s description and so on. Have in mind that you don’t need to rename the product feed’s, only the contents of it.
Promoting your articles this way, allows you to save time and automate a tedious process. Plus, you can easily choose whom you will target; new or existing audience.
2. Using dynamic ads for a betting company
To use dynamic ads top promote betting services, we substitute the products for matches/games and take of advanced product feed offerings by changing product availability based on time. Since matches are time-sensitive, we need to ensure that no match would get advertised after the betting period has ended.
Although these are just two cases, dynamic ads can be used for the majority of the verticals out there.
Making the most out of your dynamic ads
Dynamic ads are a powerful tool in Facebook advertiser’s arsenal. Since its launch, new possibilities are constantly being added. Here are some possibilities that you will find interesting:
1. Customizing the appearance of your Dynamic Ads
In an endless newsfeed where a majority of the ads look the same, you should create and apply custom templates to your dynamic ads to help stand out and grab your ad viewer’s attention. Depending on the period you are advertising in you can create Christmas, Valentine’s day, Black Friday inspired templates. You can also create “evergreen” templates that include your logo and your brand’s colors.
2. Multi-language and multi-country dynamic ads
Recently, Facebook released two new features that help you target your ideal audience within a country where many languages are spoken. Creating multi-language dynamic ads is very straight forward. Set up the dynamic ads campaign the way you normally would, and use the ‘Create in Different Languages’ option.
Have in mind that this will only change the ad’s copy, not the information that comes from your product feed.
If you are promoting your products across countries that have different currencies and you need to tailor product information to the language of your audience, then you need to create additional feeds that will include currency information (one feed) and country/language information (second feed).
Both secondary feeds can be set up in your Catalog Manager. If you are targeting an international audience consider tailoring your ads to match their language. The chances are that your ads will convert better.
A secondary feed that holds information on different languages will look something like the above screenshot. You need the product id which uniquely identifies your product, then state the overrides for each country-language combination and provide the all necessary product info for each language.
For currencies, you will work similarly. Provide the product id, the country and the price in the country’s currency.
3. Using animations in dynamic ads
The slideshow dynamic ads format helps display your products to users from different angles, including close-ups, without users having to click on the ad. This way, you bring the web experience straight in the users’ NewsFeed. To create Slideshow Dynamic Ads you only need to include multiple images of the same product in the feed as opposed to only one and check the box ‘show when available’ under ‘Catalog Assets’.
Facebook Dynamic ads are a great advertising solution and should be part of your online advertising strategy. They allow you to automate ad creative creation, tailor your offering to your ad viewer and optimize for success. When done correctly, Facebook dynamic ads can help achieve your KPIs and make more bang for your buck.
When I ask prospects or clients if they are tracking phone calls from their website, they often tell me they are not, never thought of it or “I guess we could look at our records from the phone company”. To make things worse, nowadays trying to make sense of attribution and storytelling to the client on performance has become an analytical nightmare. In this post, I will discuss the many benefits of Call Tracking and why it matters so much for both advertisers and agencies.
Let’s be clear, Call Tracking may not be beneficial for every business. In fact, some may not want to receive phone calls simply because they solely want to rely on online forms or digital transactions. But…. Here’s the problem. For those businesses that do rely on phone calls for their business’s success, it’s imperative that they know where the calls are coming from. This is not only a dilemma for the business, but also the agency or marketing director handling the marketing and advertising dollars.
Benefits of Call Tracking
For many years, I have managed everything from PPC, SEO, Email, Landing Pages, Social, etc…. In fact, even though they had extensive Google Analytics and platform pixels installed, tracking phone calls from the website was always the biggest obstacle because I could not verify that metric. With the addition of call tracking “into the mix”, it allows me as a marketer to identify which Ad platforms, campaigns and keywords generate phone calls. In addition, I can then correlate the Caller Id’s in the reporting to justify a valuable lead from a junk lead.
Learn more about Call Rail
While there are many call tracking companies available online, I have found that Call Rail provides the best features, easiest integration and frankly top-notch customer service around. Here are just some of the features of Call Rail:
Visitor & Keyword-Level Tracking
CallRail’s call tracking can reveal which keywords, campaigns, and landing pages are effectively driving phone conversions. See your visitor’s journey through your website before, during, and after the call.
Dynamic Number Insertion
Campaign-Level Call Tracking
Create trackable phone numbers to use in all of your online and offline marketing campaigns, including paid search, digital advertising, direct mail, television, radio, and print ads. Find out which ads are effective.
Multi-Channel Call Attribution
See the full story on your PPC, organic, social, remarketing, and other campaigns. Understand how they influence your customer’s journey. Multi-channel call attribution goes beyond first- and last-click metrics.
Capture leads from forms instantly, and let CallRail alert you by phone, text message, or email. View detailed information about where your form completions are coming from and call customers back immediately.
The next phase of social media is about hanging out together while apart. Rather than performing on a live stream or engaging with a video chat, Instagram may allow you to chill and watch videos together with a friend. Facebook already has Watch Party for group co-viewing, and in November we broke the news that Facebook Messenger’s code contains an unreleased “Watch Videos Together” feature. Now Instagram’s code reveals a “co-watch content” feature hidden inside Instagram Direct Messaging.
It’s unclear what users might be able to watch simultaneously, but the feature could give IGTV a much-needed boost, or just let you laugh and cringe at Instagram feed videos and Stories. But either way, co-viewing could make you see more ads, drive more attention to creators that will win Instagram their favor or just make you rack up time spent on the app without forcing you to create anything.
The Instagram co-watch code was discovered by TechCrunch’s favorite tipster and reverse-engineering specialist Jane Manchun Wong, who previously spotted the Messenger Watch Together code. Her past findings include Instagram’s video calling, music soundtracks and Time Well Spent dashboard, months before they were officially released. The code mentions that you can “cowatch content” that comes from a “Playlist” similar to the queues of videos Facebook Watch Party admins can tee up. Users could also check out “Suggested” videos from Instagram, which would give it a new way to promote creators or spawn a zeitgeist moment around a video. It’s not certain whether users will be able to appear picture-in-picture while watching so friends can see their reactions, but that would surely be more fun.
Instagram declined to comment on the findings, which is typical of the company when a feature has been prototyped internally but hasn’t begun externally testing with users. At this stage, products can still get scrapped or take many months or even more than a year to launch. But given Facebook’s philosophical intention to demote mindless viewing and promote active conversation around videos, Instagram co-watching is a sensible direction.
Facebook launched Watch Party to this end back in July, and by November, 12 million had been started from Groups and they generated 8X more comments than non-synced or Live videos. That proves co-watching can make video feel less isolating. That’s important as startups like Houseparty group video chatrooms and Squad screenshare messaging try to nip at Insta’s heels.
It’s also another sign that following the departure of the Instagram founders, Facebook has been standardizing features across its apps, eroding their distinct identities. Mark Zuckerberg plans to unify the backend of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram to allow cross-app messaging. But Instagram has always been Facebook’s content-first app, so while Watch Party might have been built for Facebook Groups, Instagram could be where it hits its stride.
Speaking of the Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, this article’s author Josh Constine will be interviewing them on Monday 3/11 at SXSW. Come see them at 2 pm in the Austin Convention Center’s Ballroom D to hear about their thoughts on the creator economy, why they left Facebook and what they’ll do next. Check out the rest of TechCrunch’s SXSW panels here, and RSVP for our party on Sunday.
The lawsuit by Huawei faces long odds but could force the US to show any evidence around backdoors and spying.
Feed: All Latest
Imagine this: You’re browsing the internet on your phone, doing whatever it is you do on the internet. As you’re browsing, you find a page that catches your interest, which isn’t an easy thing to do, because attention spans! You click to navigate to the page. When you do, the page begins to load and […]
Read more at PPCHero.com
In a recent Twitter thread, comedian Miel Bredouw recounted some shady behavior by Barstool Sports’ legal team. In fact, even Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy isn’t trying to defend it, and instead reportedly described it as “moronic,” admitting it, “makes us look like assholes.”
According to Bredouw (who backed up her account with screenshots of key correspondence), Barstool Sports uploaded one of her videos — a performance of “Slob on my Knob” set to the tune of “Carol of the Bells” — without attribution. When her request for credit was ignored, she filed a DMCA complaint, and the video was taken down.
However, she said various members of the Barstool team then began contacting her asking her to retract the complaint. They offered her a $ 50 gift card to Barstool’s online store, which was eventually upped to an offer of a $ 500 payment, and then $ 2,000 — the last one made in an email from the company’s general counsel Mark Marin.
I honestly thought it was finally over after two weeks of silence. Until this morning, I get another email from legal guy now offering me $ 2000. Which I would never take (10000% fuck barstool sports) but EVEN IF I wanted to… extortion? Like in what world. pic.twitter.com/s561QpZBPX
— miel (@miel) March 4, 2019
What was going on? Bredouw theorized, “If they get too many DMCA copyright strikes, Twitter has to legally delete their account. I believe they get six. How much you want to bet mine was their fifth?”
Barstool founder Dave Portnoy seemed to confirm this in an email to Business Insider, where he said Barstool had to file a counter-notice in order to avoid getting shut down on Twitter.
“Unfortunately Barstool Sports has idiots in our company much like many other companies and those idiots acted like idiots,” Portnoy said. “I regret our lawyer offering a 50 dollar gift card to our store not because it’s illegal in any manner but it’s just so moronic and makes us look like assholes. That’s why lawyers should not be on social media.”
Speaking of the counter-notice — Twitter has apparently told Bredouw that as a result, she needs to file for a court order, or the company will “cease disabling access to the materials within 10 business days.”
When asked for comment, a Twitter spokesperson just pointed to the site’s copyright policy, which says that accounts facing copyright takedowns can file a counter-notice “if you believe that materials reported in the copyright complaints were misidentified or removed in error.” When that happens, Twitter says:
If the copyright owner disagrees that the content was removed in error or misidentification, they may pursue legal action against you. If we do not receive notice within 10 business days that the original reporter is seeking a court order to prevent further infringement of the material at issue, we may replace or cease disabling access to the material that was removed.
We’ve also reached out to Barstool Sports for comment and will update if we hear back.
As you may have gathered from our review of Samsung’s Galaxy S10, it’s a very solid phone with lots of advanced features. But one thing that’s especially difficult to test is the absolute quality of the display — which is why we leave that part to the experts. And this expert says the S10’s screen is the best ever on a smartphone.
Ray Soneira has tested every major phone, tablet and laptop series for many a year, using all the cool color calibration, reflectance and brightness measurement and other gear that goes with the job. So when he says the S10’s display is “absolutely stunning and Beautiful,” with a capital B at that, it’s worth taking note.
OLED technology has advanced a great deal since the first one I encountered, on the Zune HD — which still works and looks great, by the way, thank you. But originally it had quite a few trade-offs compared with LCD panels, such as weird color casts or pixel layout issues. Samsung has progressed well beyond that and OLED has come into its own with a vengeance. As Ray puts it:
The Absolute Color Accuracy on the Galaxy S10 is the Most Color Accurate Display we have ever measured. It is Visually Indistinguishable From Perfect, and almost certainly considerably better than your existing Smartphone, living room HDTV, Tablet, Laptop, and computer monitor, as demonstrated in our extensive Absolute Color Accuracy Lab Measurements.
The very challenging set of DisplayMate Test and Calibration Photos that we use to evaluate picture quality looked absolutely stunning and Beautiful, even to my experienced hyper-critical eyes.
Make sure you switch the phone’s display to “natural mode,” which makes subtle changes to the color space depending on the content and ambient light.
And although he has enthused many times before about the quality of various displays and the advances they made over their predecessors, the above is certainly very different language from, for example, how he described the reigning champ until today — the iPhone X:
Apple has produced an impressive Smartphone display with excellent performance and accuracy, which we cover in extensive detail below. What makes the iPhone X the Best Smartphone Display is the impressive Precision Display Calibration Apple developed, which transforms the OLED hardware into a superbly accurate, high performance, and gorgeous display, with close to Text Book Perfect Calibration and Performance!!
High praise, but not quite falling all over himself, as he did with the S10. As you can see, I rate smartphone displays chiefly by the emotional response they evoke from Ray Soneira.
At this point, naturally, the gains from improving displays are fairly few, because, to be honest, not many people care or can even tell today’s flagship displays apart. But little touches like front and back sensors for ambient light detection, automatic calibration and brightness that take user preferences into account — these also improve the experience, and phone makers have been adding them at a good clip, as well.
No matter which flagship phone you buy today, it’s going to have a fantastic camera and screen — but if you like to see it all in black and white, read through the review and you’ll find your hopes justified.
The growth of augmented and virtual reality applications and hardware is ushering in a new age of digital media and imaging technologies, and startups that are putting themselves at the center of that are attracting interest.
TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that Matterport, which started out making cameras but has since diversified into a wider platform to capture, create, search and utilise 3D imagery of interior and enclosed spaces in immersive real estate, design, insurance and other B2C and B2B applications, has raised $ 48 million. Sources tell us the money came at a pre-money valuation of around $ 325 million, although the company is not commenting on that.
From what we understand, the funding is coming ahead of a larger growth round from existing and new investors, to tap into what they see as a big opportunity for building and providing (as a service) highly accurate 3D images of enclosed spaces.
The company in December appointed a new CEO, RJ Pittman — who had been the chief product officer at eBay, and before that held executive roles at Apple and Google — also to help fill out that bigger strategy.
Matterport had raised just under $ 63 million prior to this and had been valued at around $ 207 million, according to PitchBook estimates.This current round is coming from existing backers, which include Lux Capital, DCM, Qualcomm Ventures and more.
Matterport’s roots are in high-end cameras built to capture multiple images to create 3D interior imagery for a variety of applications from interior design and real estate to gaming. Changing tides in the worlds of industry and hardware have somewhat shifted its course.
On the hardware side, we’ve seen a rise in the functionality of smartphone cameras, as well as a proliferation of specialised 3D cameras at lower price points. So while Matterport still sells its own high-end cameras, it is also starting to work with less expensive devices with spherical lenses — such as the Ricoh Theta, which is nearly 10 times less expensive than Matterport’s Pro2 camera — and smartphones.
Using an AI engine — which it has been building for some time — packaged into a service it calls Matterport Cloud 3.0, it converts 2D panoramic and 360-degree images into 3D ones. (Matterport Cloud 3.0 is currently in beta and will be launching fully on the 18th of March, initially supporting the Ricoh Theta V, the Theta Z1, the Insta360 ONE X, and the Leica Geosystems BLK360 laser scanner.)
Matterport is further using this technology to grow its wider database of images. It already has racked up 1.6 million 3D images and millions of 2D images, and at its current growth rate, the aim is to expand its library to 100 million in the coming years, positioning it as a Getty for 3D enclosed images.
These, in turn, will be used in two ways: to feed Matterport’s machine learning to train it to create better and faster 3D images; and to become part of a wider library, accessible to other businesses by way of a set of APIs.
And, from what I understand, the object will not just to be use images as they are: people would be able to manipulate the images to, for example, remove all the furniture in a room and re-stage it completely without needing to physically do that work ahead of listing a house for sale. Another is adding immersive interior shots into mapping applications like Google’s Street View.
“We are a data company,” RJ Pittman told me when I met him for coffee last month.
The ability to convert 2D into 3D images using artificial intelligence to help automate the process is a potentially big area that Matterport, and its investors, believe will be in increasing demand. That’s not just because people still think there will one day be a bigger market for virtual reality headsets, which will need more interesting content; but because we as consumers already have come to expect more realistic and immersive experiences today, even when viewing things on regular screens; and because B2B and enterprise services (for example design or insurance applications) have also grown in sophistication and now require these kinds of images.
(That demand is driving the creation of other kinds of 3D imaging startups, too. Threedy.ai launched last week with a seed round from a number of angels and VCs to perform a similar kind of 2D-to-3D mapping technique for objects rather than interior spaces. It is already working with a number of e-commerce sites to bypass some of the costs and inefficiencies of more established, manual methods of 3D rendering.)
While Matterport is doubling down on its cloud services strategy, it’s also been making some hires to take the business to its next steps. In addition to Pittman, they have included adding Dave Lippman, formerly design head at eBay, as its chief design officer; and engineering veteran Lou Marzano as its VP of hardware, R&D and manufacturing, with more hires to come.