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Augmented reality is making packaging sexy

Tech startup Immertia is using AR to build holographic packaging

Immertia showed off its holographic packaging prototype for Bayer, complete with a pint-sized holographic human (Photo: Immertia)

Usually, people pay more attention to the products they buy than to the packaging they came in. That makes sense – after all, a company’s goal is to sell its product, not its packaging. But what if packaging is the product? Making packaging sexy might seem like a tall task, but one company is making it a reality.

An augmented reality, that is. Australian technology startup Immertia recently unveiled a demonstration of its holographic packaging, which uses augmented reality (AR) technology to free packaging from its physical limitations. Immertia’s solution can bring packaging to life with any number of features. Scrolling walls of social media posts, like and comment buttons, talking holographic heads that can answer questions about the product – even AR minigames can be added to the packaging.

“Augmented reality produces some amazing, beautiful things. But there’s no real call to action, no next direct marketing action after that,” co-founder Luke Chaffey told Modern Shipper. “And so all these big brands are paying big money for something amazing and beautiful, but there’s no tangible sort of ROI. So what we did was we looked at, is there a way to incorporate data with augmented reality to allow for this sort of next evolution?”

As it turns out, there was.

Chaffey and a friend of his came across AR in late 2019 – 10 days later, that pair and two others founded Immertia.

“Packaging is pretty cool,” Chaffey laughed. “It does allow you to present some great information on it. But you can’t present your whole story on it – you can’t present everything. And what we’re trying to do is allow you to extend your packaging beyond just the package itself.”

Reality-bending technology

In its current state, Immertia’s packaging can provide a preview image of the product itself, along with things like product information, reviews, promotions and other products from the company. Users can ask a pint-sized holographic human preset questions about the product in both English and Spanish. The packaging can also display what Chaffey describes as a “social wall,” a carousel of images and social media posts from users of the product.

For the new video demonstration, Immertia built a prototype of the product for pharmaceutical giant Bayer (OCTUS: BAYRY), which Chaffey says took his team a measly two weeks.

Immertia puts its technology on full display for Bayer. (Video: Immertia)

“The first time they see it, it sort of blows them away a bit, which has been awesome to see,” he smiled.

Since the demonstration, Immertia has been getting calls from other pharmaceutical companies left and right, he says.

To boot, Immertia’s solution can be retrofitted to work with packaging that’s already in stores. Using a form of image recognition software, Immertia pulls image data from your phone’s camera and compares it with its database of stored images to match the packaging to the proper AR experience. That way, brands won’t need to alter their packaging to make the solution work.

“One of the key driving factors for this solution to work was that it had to work with preexisting labels, it had to work with preexisting artwork that’s out there,” Chaffey explained.

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Chaffey was kind enough to do a special demonstration for Modern Shipper, and the results were as advertised. He held up his phone to a can of beer, and within seconds, his phone’s camera had identified the label. Immediately, a set of icons popped up for liking, commenting and sharing to social media, as well as a rotation of content that ranged from photos of happy customers to product testimonials. With a swipe of his finger, Chaffey was able to cycle through different packaging concepts that wrapped themselves around the virtual can on his phone screen.

Limitless potential

While Immertia’s holographic packaging is plenty capable in its early stages, Chaffey doesn’t see a ceiling for what his product can do. Part of his vision is to connect the packaging to a database that links it with promotions, advertisements, reviews and other product information so that the product effectively becomes the source of its own data.

He’s also looking to build out more features that will boost user adoption. While Chaffey certainly doesn’t view Immertia’s product as a novelty, he believes there’s a chance that his customers do, so he wants to pack as much functionality into the product as humanly possible. 

Chaffey envisions customers using holographic packaging to vote on product designs, receive promotions and even play games – the company just rolled out a Space Invaders-style minigame that can be played by viewing the can through your phone and turning it with your hand.

Watch a user play the “Invaders” minigame on a can of Hub City beer. (Video: Immertia)

So far, Immertia has mainly focused on driving adoption in the alcohol industry with its two platforms, Swigr and Winerytale. The company was able to get its current brewery partners on board with just a prototype of its packaging.

“The fact that we’re able to get them on with little supporting information, to me, proves that we can now do another round, where we have an actual product in the market that they can go and try now,” said Chaffey.

Immertia is currently looking to bring a second round of breweries on board and has been shown interest from several pharmaceutical companies. Chaffey also told Modern Shipper that the company is looking to do a capital raise in the near future.

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Jack Daleo

Jack is a staff writer for FreightWaves and Modern Shipper covering topics like last mile delivery and e-commerce fulfillment. He studied at Northwestern University, majoring in journalism with a certificate in integrated marketing communications. Previously, Jack has written for Backpacker Magazine and enjoys travel, the outdoors, and all things basketball.