Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Innovid Preparing Technology for Placing Interactive Virtual Items into Videos


I had the chance today to chat with Zvika Netter, the CEO and co-founder of a new Israeli startup called Innovid that is working on technology that will empower video content producers to place interactive virtual items into their videos.

Innovid has remained in stealth mode up to this point and has only begun discussing its work now that it has raised $3M from Genesis Partners in a Series A round (previous angel funding came from Jeff Pulver).

The virtual items facilitated by Innovid are basically 3D objects that producers insert into videos post-production. They’re intended to look as realistic as possible so that they blend in with the real physical environment recorded by the video. And yet, they can’t go entirely unnoticed because users are encouraged to click and perform mouse gestures with them to derive additional functionality (for example, to view a popup description about the particular item with links to external resources).

The most obvious use of these items would be to simply drop branded items into user generated content. If you’re looking to monetize your video, you could, for example, sign a deal with a beverage company and place their product on the table during an indoors scene. The virtual item representing the beverage could then respond to camera movements; when the camera moves around to the left, you also see the left side of the beverage appear. This is possible because the 3D object has been mapped to its calculated surroundings.

But with Innovid’s object placement, you could also make it so that users who click on the beverage see a description of it and the stores in which it’s sold. Or you could allow the user to even move the beverage to another location within the video or have it perform a special effect when clicked on. Whatever the complexity, the object becomes a more effective advertisement through its interactivity.

Since these are virtual objects, they can also be served up differently depending on the intended audience. Certain countries or languages could see their own types of beverages. And of course, things could be tailored to the individual as well depending on their personal preferences.

Netter isn’t saying exactly when the company plans to debut its product or even show a demo to the public, but I had a chance to watch a video of these virtual objects and I must say it looks very compelling even at this early stage. The 3D items can be made to look realistic and their integration into video is quite seamless. This is a company that should be watched as the online video industry figures out how to monetize its content most effectively.

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