(Pocket-lint) - Personalised greetings card-specialist Moonpig has teamed up with augmented reality entertainment company Zappar to offer a range of cards that come to life when viewed through an iPhone or Android smartphone.
Called Video Cards on the Moonpig website and costing from £4.99, the landscape or portrait cards feature a still from a user-uploaded video clip and a trigger to play the actual moving content. All receivers of the cards have to do is download the free Moonpig UK application for their device - which is a modified version of the Zappar app - spark it up, point it at the front of the card and bingo, watch the personalised message.
This latest manifestation of augmented reality in the consumer market is typical of Zappar's approach to the technology. Although the British start-up has been in existence for only 10 months, it already manufactures T-shirts that can be brought to life through its AR application, featuring such big-brand names as WWE, Marvel Comics and Disney. It has also previously Zappar-ised the covers of magazines, including Cosmopolitan.
Pocket-lint caught up with Zappar's co-founder and creative director Kirk Ewing, who's no stranger to the entertainment biz himself, having been one of the co-presenters of Channel 4's Gamesmaster back in the mid-Nineties. And he told us how the Moonpig idea and deal came about.
"We approached them," he said. "We thought [after the T-shirts] that maybe there was something to be done with cards. And I thought it'd be really good to get involved with Moonpig.
"What's really good about Moonpig is the printing process. They've got a printing factory in Northern Ireland and when they take your order, they can basically print your card in 20 minutes. And then ship it out within a couple of hours. And that was really important."
Vital, in fact, considering how the AR card technology works.
"There's a little code on the front that tells the app what bit of video content to pull in, which is specific to that card," said Ewing. "So you go online and instead of uploading a picture, you upload a video. You choose a frame where you want the video to start, and when you run your [smartphone] camera over it, the video plays on the card as if it's sort-of stuck to the front of the card."
However, the Zappar founder was keen to emphasise that this deal isn't just about the technology itself. It's important these days for the company to find other ways to get its iPhone and Android software out there rather than just through iTunes or Google Play.
"The thing that really really makes me happy about it is that emotional connection people have with cards. It's quite hard to get people to download an app and run it. The app business is merciless, really. There's so many people developing, there's so much content and any idea you come up with, someone's done it before," he explained.
"But, because you get a card through the post, and because it has a hidden extra in it, people are compelled to download the app and go through the steps. And from the tests we've sent out, women love it.
"We've got all these digital images. We've got all this video on our computers, but this pinpoints to one piece of it and puts it in front of somebody in a quite magical way."
And the potential for augmented reality cards doesn't stop there. How about being given free video content to download from just a picture of a favoured character?
"One of the major studios came to us recently and said, 'This card thing, could we, like, gift somebody an episode of a cartoon?' So you would get a card with whatever character on the front of it, and when you zap it, you actually get an episode of the cartoon that plays on the front of the card or just download it straight to your phone," Ewing told us.
"So the card acts as a trigger for giving somebody a cartoon and they can take that away and watch it on their device whenever they want.
"It's all about drawing lines between the physical and virtual world."
Do you like the idea of AR greetings cards? Let us know in the comments below...