From AR Filters to the Metaverse. A Conversation with AR leaders Sid Pierucci and Jamie Kritharas
(Photo : From AR Filters to the Metaverse. A Conversation with AR leaders Sid Pierucci and Jamie Kritharas )

Ever wonder how so-and-so got from zero to hero and now everyone in their field is talking about them? It's easy to discount effort and say they knew people or got lucky. The truth is that in almost every circumstance luck has very little to do with success - especially in the digital realm, where only the disruptors emerge.

Covid-19 has supercharged all things virtual, propelling industries like retail well and truly into the future. And If you've seen Instagram pictures of your friends with bright lips, neon frames, or funky sunglasses, you've undoubtedly seen your fair share of Instagram AR filters. 

Augmented Reality is an interactive experience that enhances real-world environment through computer-generated images. Social media AR Filters are a layer of that and they alter through the lens of what the camera sees, whether it is selfie or regular mode. These filters can be as simple as augmenting one's facial features, or as complex as transporting you into the world of The Matrix. 

Today we interview millennial entrepreneurs Sid Pierucci and Jamie Kritharas who, over the past 16 months, have cemented themselves at the forefront of AR innovations in Australia. With their seo agency Defiant Digital they have achieved the number 1 Google ranking for 'AR Filters' searches in Australia. 

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few years, augmented reality (AR) is well and truly here now! As AR technology becomes omnipresent and consumers demand 'always-on' marketing opportunities, Sidney Pierucci Co-Founder & creative Director, argues that AR is the in changing the way businesses advertise online and believes AR to be the very-first-step toward a Metaverse world.

Forbesindia spoke to the two founders about their journey, from starting an agency out of Jamie's parents kitchen to creating a multi-million dollar business in just over a year - they talk about the virtues of failing to innovate and the importance of subcultures in stimulating your marketing message.

So how did it all start?

"It was a rainy July morning in 2020, and Sid and I made the decision to go all-in on our vision for Defiant which up until that point had only been a side-hustle. That decision lead us to renting a bare, converted shipping facility with minimal furniture in Alexandria [Sydney] which we called "office" for a little while. We outgrew the space from 2 to 8 staff in a matter of months and suddenly we realized that the leap we had taken to kick-start our very own digital marketing agency was rapidly paying off".

"We have never come across a company that's had overnight success. For Jamie and I, it was half a-decade of separate hustle in music and brand partnerships which got us to what many would refer to as an accelerated growth". 

Was AR something Defiant was always planning to include in its array of Digital services?

"To be honest... NO! We saw AR more as an early opportunity. An additional service we could offer as part of an end-to-end solutions for our clients. But in hindsight it was definitely the right play. I believe that as social media platforms evolve, and new AR hardware is introduced to consumers, businesses should make innovative technologies, like AR, an integral part of their social media marketing strategy".

"While it is important to understand that social media content is crucial for instigating strong connections and brand recall, you also need to consider that your audience wants to participate". Jamie adds

What are your thoughts about the recent announcement of the Facebook Ray-ban partnership and how do you see it evolve into AR?

"There are 2 major players which have both made huge announcements this month alone: Facebook introducing its partnership with Ray-bans through Oculus and making a strong play on AR hardware - which I think is absolutely genius!" Sid answers. "And Tiktok rolling out its beta version of Effect House a creator's platform which aims to allow users to design in-app AR experiences". 

"As it was announced, The Ray-Ban Stories don't pack any AR features just yet - the features of the product include a mix of what we've already seen on Snap's Spectacles in 2017, and a host of audio sunglasses that have surfaced over the last few years. Is that exciting? Mmmm... I guess it's another attempt at a first step. 

Zuckerberg has however mentioned that the Ray-Ban partnership is destined to evolve into AR specs in the future, as part of Project Aria which is currently a research project from FRL (Facebook Reality Labs) that aims to develop wearable augmented devices. That, I believe is exciting!!"

"Imagine this... You are walking down the Bondi Beach promenade. All of a sudden, you see someone wearing a product you really like. Immediately next to you, a vending machine appears, filled with that specific product and all the colourways and variations you were thinking of. You stop, select the item of your choice, pay with the blink of an eye, and in a matter of hours maybe minutes it is shipped to your apartment. You then continue your merry way! Those will be the inevitable capabilities of these AR/VR wearables as we move closer toward a Metaverse world". Sid responds

The two Sydney Co-founders went on to highlight these 3 factors as being the pillars of success within the realm of social media AR filters.

1. User Experience is everything

Augmented reality has been able to enter the consciousness of the mass market by showcasing its potential via social media. AR allows for new layers of storytelling and creative expression to be possible with experiences unfolding at the simple click of a button. The introduction of these alternate perspectives and new models of engagement, changes the way we tell, capture, share and even remember stories. 

2. Design to provide solutions and entertain

Covid-19 has changed the world in the way that it made working from home and shopping online a norm. AR has now become a powerful visualisation tool which It allows users to bring an object or idea into a reality that is otherwise intangible, inaccessible or difficult to grasp, and can even help to make the invisible visible. The subjectivity of AR makes the experience about the customer and gives them a chance to make their own story with brands. As haptic feedback and more sensors are integrated into our devices, smartwatches and eventually clothing, augmented reality won't just show what something looks like but how it feels.

3. Built around Cult-Like movements

If brands want to stay relevant and be experienced through the digital world early and contextual adoption is key. When building for the AR space, you must intrinsically be familiar with the subcultures and movements that will drive your message without just plastering 'brand' and advertising everywhere. The successful brands of the next decade will be ones that do not only opt to replicate their product rage and service but instead think more creatively about what experiential value they can offer. 

As a final thought the two added:

Seeing, hearing, and touching possible realities through the power of AR can stir people's willingness to welcome and activate positive change in the world. Let's make it our collective goal and commitment to design for the best of humanity. 

As much as marketing is about conversation between customers and brands, we believe that the next frontier for businesses will be building a voice that identify 'who' their brand is 'what it stands for' and how it could and should be embodied.

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