UK Startup Uses Augmented Reality ECHO Tech for Skyscraper-Sized Ads

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Lightvert ECHO AR

UK start-up Lightvert is taking augmented reality to the skies, set to produce skyscraper-sized ads visible only to individual viewers’ eyes. Made possible by ECHO technology, ads as high as 656 feet could disrupt digital out of home and leverage huge spaces unusable by traditional advertising.

ECHO uses a narrow strip of reflective material affixed to the side of a building, along with a high-speed light scanner that projects light off the reflector and toward an intended viewer. Images appear for approximately 1/10th to 1/4 of a second, thus the name comes from the effect that can be described as a “visual echo.”

“This creates large-scale images that are ‘captured’ for a brief moment in the viewer’s eye through a ‘persistence of vision’ effect,” said ECHO. “While only visible for a moment, the idea is that the tech will cause such an impact that the viewer is compelled to stop.” And because the images are targeted toward pedestrians rather than drivers or bicyclists, “it will be possible for you to capture the experience with your phone and share it to social media.”

The project has been funded by Innovate UK and seed funders and having delivered proof-of-concept. Lightvert is now completing a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube to scale the concept commercially.

Lightvert explains that ECHO is not a billboard. “It is a wholly new display medium for the digital out of home advertising industry, an industry which has not seen disruption since the invention of the LED screen. ECHO is a game changer.”

At its heart, a patent-protected persistence of vision (PoV) display technology prints a temporary image onto the viewers’ retina. “ECHO imagery is generated using only a single vertical line of light and as such the image does not exist in reality, but only in the viewer’s eye.”

“Traditional billboards and large scale LED screens in built-up environments are expensive and it is increasingly challenging to leverage new real estate in crowded urban spaces such as New York’s Times Square and London’s Piccadilly Circus,” Daniel Siden, CEO of Lightvert told FactorTech. “ECHO provides a new way for brands to rise above the noise of street level advertising and engage with audiences on an unprecedented scale.”

ECHO works best with iconic content and short words, symbols or images. The tech can display moving images, but at present, one frame at a time.

As for making money, Lightvert said it will own and operate a portfolio of ECHO units across Europe, North America, the Middle East and North Africa and license the technology into other regional markets. The company plans to produce the first commercial units within the next 12 months.

Using the PoV effect, Siden added, “ECHO hardware has virtually no physical footprint. It introduces new audience behaviour and is a powerful opportunity for advertisers and property owners, which could dramatically change the game in terms of capital costs and planning permissions for premium outdoor media.”

While a smorgasbord of promise for advertisers, there are also potential concerns for consumers. “The laser projector can be dangerous,” notes Lightvert. “But as it is mounted at height, away from the general public, it poses no threat to the general public.”