The Times of India Group, has launched an Augmented Reality application, christened Times Alive, it’s second augmented reality app launch this year.

Alive allows readers of the newspaper to interact with a print medium, and get access to rich media content, such as videos, photos, and polls. The company claims that the app has been downloaded 250,000 times leading to 300,000 leads on a single day.

The app is available on smartphone platforms such as Symbian, BlackBerry, Android and Apple’s iOS. When one scans an image/content with alive logo, the app looks for feature points within the image and match those against a backend database and pulls up the multimedia content on their screen.

Switched From TELIBrahma

Alive has been launched by Times Internet in partnership with Adstuck Consulting, which has deployed its image recognition technology, but MediaNama readers might recall that, in June, Times Internet had also launched Times Intaract, an Augmented Reality app, in partnership with TELIBrahma. We noticed that the Times Intaract application has been pulled from the Android Store.

In response to our query, Times Internet CEO Satyan Gajwani said that the earlier implementation of augmented reality was a pilot for advertisers only and not editorial teams, and “it was a smaller implementation with a simpler product. Since then we have invested into building a full editorial oriented platform with better functionality. ”

Using The App

Once an user downloads the app on their smartphone, s/he can hold it up in camera mode to the image with the alive logo from any print media. Once the app recognizes the content that needs to pull in, it loads the multimedia content on the screen. Users can share the multimedia content to social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook or email it their friends and family. The content scanned can be saved for future views.

We tried the app by scanning the alive logo from today’s TOI newspaper on our iPhone 4 and found that the app worked as expected. Apparently the app links to multimedia content from YouTube user TimesAlive.


Views Via Apps Don’t Count?

The app tries to promote online medium to its existing large base of print media readers, but at the same time, providing interactivity to offline users. However, when we analysed TimesAlive’s YouTube page, we noticed that the videos uploaded by them have hardly received any user views. The Ranbir-Anushka video uploaded  about 21 hours ago has managed to get only 12 views. And this does not include the YouTube’s flawed views count logic as it does not occur before the view count hits 301. Gajwani claims that the YouTube view count increases only when someone shares it and it is viewed on the web, and when someone views a video from within the app, the views aren’t counted.

Tricky Start (Nikhil adds)

The launch of Alive, featuring video clips of nurse Jacintha Saldanha’s funeral, was the subject of much outrage on Twitter and Facebook yesterday, with users criticizing Times for using a tragedy to promote an app (image via Bijoy Venugopal on Facebook)

. Perhaps a little sensitivity might help.

That said, this is an interesting product to be launched, especially since it doesn’t necessarily draw users away from Print (which, say, a “web special” might do), and only enhances the users experience in print, especially since the focus is on enhancing content consumption, and not advertising. With increasing smart phone penetration in India and growing mobile Internet base, usage can only grow.