Sci & Tech

AR Solutions Set to Overtake Iran

Auto & Tech Desk
AR Solutions Set to Overtake Iran
AR Solutions Set to Overtake Iran

A remake of a game originally from the 90s has recently taken the world by storm.

In only a matter of days, Pokemon GO surpassed the popularity of other top smartphone games such as Candy Crush Saga and Clash Royale. Days after its launch in the United States, Pokemon Go had over 21 million active users at its peak, according to SurveyMonkey.

Following the success of the game, shares in Japan's Nintendo Company soared on Monday, bringing market-value gains to $7.5 billion in just two days, Reuters reported.

With Pokemon Go, players walk around, sometimes for several hours, in real-life neighborhoods using their smartphone cameras to seek virtual characters on their smartphone screen. The game is based on augmented reality and the characters one see depend on the time of day, the location and geological environment one is in.

The soaring popularity of the game also increased the world's interest in the technology of the game: Augmented Reality or AR.   

AR is a live direct view of a physical, real world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

The technology is believed to be the next big thing in computer industry and it is estimated that AR revenues will reach $120 billion by 2020.

AR is a technology that fills the gap between the digital and physical world and its uses are limitless.

"Some believe it will be even larger than the web itself," Mojtaba Tabatabaie, CEO at PendAR augmented reality solutions, told Financial Tribune.

Tabatabeie, 28, has a BSc in software engineering. He did a thesis on AR for his bachelors five years ago and his interest grew from there.

"The field got me so interested that I decided to build my career around it and try to monetize it," he said.

Tabatabaie explains that AR can be used in several areas, including industries, advertising, education, entertainment, gaming and architecture.

"When I first launched PendAR, the technology had not been introduced in Iran and was little known in the world," he said.

"As part of our marketing strategy at that time, we wanted to make a name for the company and decided to take a viral concept and recreate it in the AR mode."

The young entrepreneur noted that since Angry Birds was the most popular virtual game in the world, the company decided to make its AR version.

In the summer of 2010, the PendAR team finished developing a version of the game and published a teaser on YouTube.

"With Angry Birds' AR, you could shoot the birds, see the explosion and view the levels right on your desk," he said.

The creators of Angry Birds, Rovio, immediately took action and tried to remove the video from YouTube because of their copyright on the characters.

"But we had emailed the video to some of the tech blogs and they had featured our game Angry Birds' AR on their websites. It received many positive reviews," he said.  

After the success of Angry Birds' AR, the team was prepared to make a move in Iran.

Starting in the field of advertising, PendAR teamed up with Iran's largest carmaker Iran Khodro Company to use AR in making an ad for IKCO's Runna model in 2011.

"After that, we did many projects in different fields such as the food industry, education, oil and gas among many more. We developed the world’s first AR application in the oil and gas industry to demonstrate Phase 12 of South Pars called Petropars AR," PendAR's CEO said.

According to Tabatabaie, PendAR has been profitable from day one.

"Being registered as a knowledge-based company has helped us in our tax plans, but we have never asked for government funding. We believe receiving loans are bad for startups and make them suffer more in future. But we are always looking for new partnerships and opportunities," he said.

PendAR started off with two co-founders and has grown to what is now an 11-person team. There are two main teams of technical and sales people. It now also has branches in Japan and Luxembourg, and hopes to grow further.

The founder said that in the five years since the startup's launch, they have seen several rival companies come and go in Iran, because startups usually don’t have long-term vision for their business.

"We hope as AR gets bigger in the world, there will be more companies in this field in the future so that we can help each other grow," he said.

The PendAR team decided to develop its own product with the aim of creating a platform to make the technology more mainstream.

They did this first with Matlab+. This app was aimed to let publishers, newspapers and magazines have Augmented Reality on their pages.

"For example, a magazine can have a recipe on their page and with Matlab+, they can also link it to a video showing how to prepare that meal. Or a magazine, which has an interview with a celebrity, can now augment its value by linking it with the recorded video of that interview," he said.

PendAR's bigger plan is to have a platform to augment everything.

"This platform was called 'PendAR Plus', which we launched in Jan. 2015 and it is now our main focus," he said.

"With this application, everyone will be able to build their own augmented reality experience without having any programming knowledge and at a very affordable price, so AR would no longer be only a luxurious tool for big brands."

Tabatabaie said this application can be used to put digital augmentation on every physical object like business cards, restaurant menus, catalogs and brochures, CD/DVD covers, etc. and Matlab+ now is a part of it.

The main challenge, the young CEO, says "is to introduce this technology to the people".

"As PendAR Plus is a universal platform, we are working on marketing it in other countries as well," he said.