- Published on Friday, 12 October 2012 08:23
- Written by Des King
JAPAN – Whilst application of augmented reality software to packaging solutions is still relatively in its infancy, there were clear indications at Tokyo Pack 2012 that this technology won’t be long in developing way beyond its baby stage. Furthermore, it is already showing the early promise of facilitating a fundamental change in mindset that will extend throughout the supply chain; not least in altering consumer habits at point of purchase.
AR is basically an indirect glimpse of a real-world environment whose elements are augmented via remote and computer-generated input. In simple terms and with specific reference to retail packaging, the prospective consumer directs their smart ‘phone or tablet to a pre-determined point of the product’s pack, with the resulting connection taking them to wherever the brand owner might want them to be; invariably, a website or to a video gallery.
Belying its entertainment and novelty value is the very real benefit of being able to communicate far more information than could ever be possible within the constraints of a pack surface; particularly relevant to the Japanese market, where smaller size formats are so prevalent.
“Whilst there can only be a handful of AR-enabled packs currently on the market – mainly being used for lower-value products in the food and beverages categories, it’s very clear that this approach is going to grow rapidly,” notes Richard Broadhead of Toppan Printing Co Ltd’s international division, which had a commercialised example on its stand at Tokyo Pack : an aluminium Budweiser can, whose logo printed vertically on the pack provided the AR connectivity.
Also new into the ‘ARena’ is that other Japanese colossus Dai Nippon Printing Co Ltd(DNP), whose application for local brand Milky is its first to market, and who like Toppan is taking its early steps along the augmented reality route.
“Introducing an AR dimension was on our own initiative rather than at the request of brand owners. It clearly adds value to the brand proposition, and some customers – the ones who can see the potential - have responded positively and instantly,” says Kiyo Fujimoto of DNP's Digital & Information Network systems department (packaging operations).
“We just started on AR this year – and it was our initiative rather than at the request of brand owners. It clearly adds value to the brand proposition, and some customers – the ones who can see the potential - have responded positively and instantly.
“Whilst it obviously adds considerable value it doesn’t actually add cost on to the packaging itself, nor is it necessary to integrate some sort of special effect or enabling mechanism, which means that existing application formats don’t need any kind of revision,” explains Fujimoto.
“The entire pack acts as the conduit to take the consumer online, so the smart phone or tablet can be pointed anywhere on the outer surface rather than inconveniencing the shopper in searching out a particular spot at which the connection can be made.
“Designers welcome it as no restrictions are placed on their creativity. Everyone wins as a result of this total pack approach
Fujimoto adds, “We sell the packaging at its normal price, but then on top of that we charge an additional fee for the software application that creates the link between the phone and the product. There is a separate fee for each generic pack format.”
In addition to providing a brand owner with a pack that has superior multi-level capability to that of his direct competition, an interesting implication for the converter is the development of a completely new revenue stream through selling software capability at a margin without incurring production or material cost to realise it.
Tokyo Pack 2012 took place between 2 - 5 October at Tokyo Big Sight. The next show will be held from 7 - 10 October 2014.