Last Updated on July 20, 2023 by Editorial Team
Author(s): Limarc Ambalina
Originally published on Towards AI.
An Interview with iGreet’s Founder
With the holiday season quickly approaching, greeting card companies around the world are rolling up their sleeves and preparing for their busiest time of the year. However, the Bulgaria-based company iGreet hopes to disrupt the market.
With their augmented reality-based greeting cards, the company aims to appeal to modern consumers and offer a unique take on the traditional greeting card.
What started as CEO Vicho Dimitrov’s idea for a unique Valentine’s Day gift, developed into a startup that is still going strong over 4 years later.
What is iGreet and how is it different from any other greeting card on the market?
“The iGreet card is different in every aspect,” says Dimitrov. “We started with the idea of creating something totally new in the greeting card market by using augmented reality.”
Instead of just written messages, iGreet cards include holiday-themed graphics, a space to write a message, and a unique QR code in the middle of the card. The sender creates a personalized video message and links it to that QR code using iGreet’s app. There are holiday-themed graphics on each card, as well as for instructions on how to view the video message. Through computer vision processes, iGreet provides a modernization of the traditional greeting card.
“iGreet changed people’s perception of traditional greeting cards — which haven’t changed much in the 400 or so years they’ve existed — with its use of the latest printing, packaging, and software technologies.”
On one hand, traditional greeting cards have an appeal of their own. “Physical greeting cards will always have an element that e-cards or social messaging will not. The physical experience of holding a card in your hand, the thought put into purchasing and delivering it,” says Dimitrov. “But their messages have become bland and repetitive, the antithesis to sharing honest emotion.”
While iGreet is a greeting card at its core, the mix of digital and physical mediums through augmented reality is a novel approach. As technology develops, we’ve seen the loss of physical media and the rise of digital in the form of ebooks, online-only news publications, digital-only video games, and more.
Instead of completely getting rid of the physical, iGreet’s approach blends both. “Our cards give people the opportunity to see their loved ones’ emotions in their hands, every time they pick up the card and watch the video. The messages on it can be seen and heard, the card is felt and smelt — and as more senses are activated, the moment becomes more impactful and memorable. It’s a unique way of sharing emotions and cutting through the distance.”
What is wrong with the current greeting card market?
“The current, traditional market is declining due to constantly developing electronic communication such as social media, messengers, and e-mails,” says Dimitrov. “They allow users to send emotional messages with one click in a matter of seconds.”
“We’re seeing a growing demand for innovative products and services, like print-on-demand greeting cards, popup cards, handcrafted cards, and so on. But if you look at the overall picture, taking into account all greeting services, the market is increasing! So what did we do? We combined all of that! You can get your high-tech iGreet card from a brick & mortar store or purchase it online, you can personalize it and still, you can also write a traditional message.”
Is iGreet worth the cost?
On iGreet’s Kickstarter page, it says you can get a 5-pack of iGreet cards for $25 USD or $5 USD per card. A quick search on Hallmark’s website showed the cheapest Christmas cards were around $2 USD each. For those of us on the fence about whether to go with iGreet this year, what makes iGreet cards worth that extra cost?
“The iGreet card is a one-of-a-kind product that went through a lot of development work. We wouldn’t even think about comparing it to a regular $2 card,” says Dimitrov. ”Hallmark cards regurgitate the same hollow messages and worn-out images, without innovating or inspiring. If anything, they lack the Christmas spirit and are a purely consumerist and capitalist endeavor. Did you know that the markup on those $2 Hallmark cards is around 2,000%? They barely cost 10c per card!”
“iGreet is more comparable to the higher-end custom cards. Popup cards can cost anywhere between $10 and $15. These are also fairly simple when you break them down, but at least they offer something different. iGreet goes even further, depending on an ecosystem made up of unique surprise packaging, original designs and the software backend (iOS and Android apps, and servers). With this, they let users send a physical enactment of their honest Christmas spirit.”
Will the video message last forever?
For a holiday season that is increasingly commercialized, most consumers would want a more personal greeting card. There would likely be a decent demand for a product that allowed you to show your loved ones your appreciation in ways other than total money spent.
However, one redeeming aspect of the traditional greeting card is that they are physical. The message is usually handwritten onto the card. You can pick up a card from 10 years ago and read the words from a loved one that is forever imprinted on the card. While iGreet comes with a physical card, will the recorded video be available to watch indefinitely?
“Yes, of course! You can, and that’s the purpose of iGreet card. Your video is available to you indefinitely. So one day you’ll find an iGreet card in the drawer and see that video message that you might have already forgotten,” says Dimitrov. “We’re able to promise this due to constantly developing cloud services and our video compression algorithms.”
How has the public reception of iGreet been so far?
“There were many challenges, questions, and doubts in the beginning but luckily it picked up fast from the get-go and we started selling right on the first day the cards entered the stores!” says Dimitrov. “Since then, we increase our sales on a monthly basis. Currently, our main markets are Bulgaria & Germany. Recently, we also started selling on Amazon.”
iGreet is an ambitious and unique alternative to traditional greeting cards. The company has been around since 2015, and this year is looking to be a good year for them as well. Furthermore, their $20,000 goal on Kickstarter was achieved in less than one hour. For those who are interested in trying iGreet out this year, you can purchase them through iGreet’s Kickstarter page.
Looking for more reading on augmented reality and machine learning? Check out A Mixed Reality: How the Microsoft HoloLens Will Change the World, What is Image Annotation? and What is Facial Recognition?
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Published via Towards AI