Sunday, July 26, 2009

Carl Freer ready to launch augmented-reality based apps for the iPhone

(Updated and corrected, July 27)
GetFugu – Carl Freer’s latest venture – will launch augmented-reality (AR) applications for powerful mobile phones, including Apples iPhone on 09/09/09 (September 9, 2009). Such AR-applications can be used as a mobile search tool, and allow users to connect to websites just by pointing their camera phones at a corporate logo on a product, poster or TV-screen. They may even allow users to access soap opera episodes, so called “mobisodes”.

“Getfugu will change the way marketers look at advertising,” says Michael Jay Solomon, a television and entertainment industry veteran who recently became chairman of the GetFugu board of directors.

GetFugu (whose origin can be traced back to Xero Mobile and Blowfish Works) promises to turn most mobile phones to location-aware devices that can help users navigate cities and museums, as well as distribute coupons to users who have opted to use its service. The technology lets a mobile phone, or software running on a remote server connected to the phone recognize objects visually or by voice, and locate services and products using information about the users location. It is also possible to tag photos and videos so that a user can tap on a touch screen to jump to a company’s website.

Carl Freer in December 2008.

Carl Freer and his team has worked on this technology for several years in parallel with his attempt to restore the Gizmondo, something that today looks unlikely even though he still insists that he wants to re-launch it (something he first promised to do in an interview with me in October 2007, and repeated in December 2008). GetFugu adds advanced augmented reality to Blowfish Works’ technology, which focused on smart targeted delivery of advertising and entertainment to mobile phones (the idea of targeting and tracking ad delivery actually goes back to a component of the original Gizmondo called SmartAds, which was later used in Xero Mobile’s “free phones" for students. Blowfish Works changed name to GetFugu, and was for a time part of Media Power USA, which Carl Freer started together with his partner Mikael Ljungman, who recently was sentenced in Sweden to prison for tax fraud, and later implicated in the IT Factory scandal. He has now been extradited to Denmark, where he had his first court hearing on Monday, July 27. Media Power shut down most of its activities earlier this year, and its website disappeared from cyberspace. This was most probably in order to sever any ties to Mikael Ljungman in case the Danish authorities would go after his U.S. assets, (the Danish journalist Dorte Toft recently suggested on her blog that the Danish investigators look into Media Power).

GetFugu has now been reborn as GetFugu, Inc, a company that is listed on the OTC Bulletin Board. (Carl Freer and his partners took over a shell company called Madero, Inc., which originally intended to open and operate children's themed restaurants in Mexico and renamed it GetFugu, Inc.) Freer, who owns about 35 percent of the company, stays in the background and has assembled a board and leadership team with long experience from the entertainment industry, including GetFugu’s CEO Bernard Stolar, a veteran from the electronic gaming industry, and formerly the Game Evangelist at Google.

"The mobile phone will be the principal methodology of content delivery worldwide," Solomon told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's the way people will get all of their information, content, entertainment, banking, social networking and more. What excites me is the opportunity to once again pioneer in content delivery.“ He told the trade paper that GetFugu plans to offer Chinese programming through a partnership with Shanghai Media Group and programming in Spanish through Iguana Studios in Peru.

Freer has been tightlipped about the launch on September 9 so it is not clear exactly what it will entail, but he obviously has high hopes for GetFugu, which has developed and demonstrated a whole new suite of applications for mobile phones, including Apple’s iPhone. The original launch was set for February, but it was delayed. Will September 9, 2009 finally let Carl Freer prove that he is a true entrepreneur?

Hans Sandberg

Read my previous reports about Carl Freer, Gizmondo etc.

Hubble Telescope Images