Is your hologram the future of customer communication? This York tech firm thinks so

Rachael Hesno's picture
by Rachael Hesno
2mee platform

From the pings of push notifications to persistent marketing emails - brands are continuously trying to break down barriers online to connect with customers. But could a human hologram be all it takes? The founder of York-based tech firm 2mee seems to think so.

2mee, a direct hologram messaging platform, works with brands, businesses and agencies to boost customer engagement through the world of augmented reality (AR). 

“How do you break through the lock screen of a phone or a website? We've had 25 years of email marketing, websites, SMS, display ads and social algorithms bombarding us,” James Riley, CEO and co-founder of 2mee, told Prolific North.

As it is becoming increasingly difficult “to be heard in an extremely noisy world” in the evolving digital landscape, he said this is where 2mee aims to step in. 

Already working with the likes of Racing TV, Betfred and Queens Park Rangers football club, the firm’s patented technology is designed to allow businesses to send human hologram messages directly to customers, to connect on a “human level”.

“Sending people as messages to create and engage your audience and stakeholders is super powerful,” he said. “We're all evolved for that face-to-face communication, we look for a face, we find a face and we engage with a face.”

Originally from Birmingham, Riley has a background in web development, initially moving to study at university in Huddersfield then onwards to Italy to build a website for the European University Institute.

James Riley - 2mee co-founder
James Riley, 2mee co-founder and CEO

He later spent four and a half years in Vienna to work on the roll-out of a European e-learning platform, before returning back to the UK to set up his own digital agency - Ten54.

It was there that he stumbled across the concept of augmented reality in 2012, which was “beginning to blossom but it was very much in its infancy”. 

“We thought to ourselves, ‘what if we can actually send people as messages to engage audiences using augmented reality?’”

Holograms and how the platform works

Moving to the Catalyst Business Park, a business incubation facility at the University of York, he set up the company in 2012 to work on his vision. 

“Trying to find a product marketplace for holograms and augmented reality that was scalable was very difficult. We've done lots of trials and different projects but we thought to ourselves, ‘what if you could actually record yourself and propagate yourself as a hologram?’”

With a team that has grown to eight with an additional office in Australia, the company began working with global tech firm IBM, which is based in the same building, to create a “scalable, manageable platform”.  

While the days of the “Star Wars laser beams” seem like fantasy, he explained the modern version of the hologram within augmented reality is now “the transplant of an image from one environment to another”.

Credit: Becky Fantham via Unsplash
Credit: Becky Fantham via Unsplash

“The beauty of our technology is you pick up a phone, you record yourself and it cuts out the background and delivers the hologram to a central platform where it can be distributed to one person or millions of people instantaneously,” he said. 

2mee has developed algorithms for the platform to segment a user from their background and transmit the image in augmented reality, whether that be for a website or app, as a hologram message. 

Demonstrating how the platform works to me, he turned around to record a hologram of himself with his phone pretending to offer a betting tip for customers on Betfred. Within a few moments, his hologram popped up on the screen.

“There's a creator app where the client signs up and they can send the creator app to their people, footballers etc. There's a platform in the middle and there's a software development kit (SDK) on the other side which sits in the company's collateral, such as the Betfred app.

“What we do is we leverage the hardware within an iPhone to create the hologram, the face ID, the depth sensors, using our proprietary app. That hologram then gets uploaded to the platform and gets delivered to the customers website or app via iOS and Android,” he said.

A live human push notification can then be generated to drive customer engagement or act as a guidance tool, he explained, such as popping a brand ambassador up with a discount code for a customer on a retail site.

2mee platform
2mee platform.

Fan engagement and future plans

The company recently completed a £500,000 funding round, which it plans to use to work on its expansion plans as well as boosting its sales and marketing activity.

“It's an exciting phase for the business,” he said, “it's about ramping up and scaling out the product with a sales and marketing team and commercialising it.

“For me, we are one of the best kept secrets in Yorkshire. What we do and what we've got, now it's time to actually take it out to the world,” he said.

Working with gaming websites and football clubs, he said the platform is currently being trialed with the broadcaster RacingTV and is working with Queens Park Rangers as a “fan engagement tool”.

Through brand ambassadors or simply “having your hero talk to you” as a hologram can drive fan engagement, revenue and drive traffic to ecommerce and other sites, he emphasised.

The ability to “deliver to the audience at mass scale” means potential brand ambassadors don’t need to go to a green screen studio to film the content for a brand - they can film the hologram from the comfort of their own home. 

Recent partnerships with the likes of Barndoor, a brand ambassador platform, will help the platform to tap into a raft of athletes who can work for brands and organisations to deliver holograms.

Although 2mee is currently working in the sport and gaming industry, he is keen to stress that it can work across a range of sectors such as in the marketing world with the likes of Omnicom Group.

“We are just starting to create relationships with marketing agencies and advertising agencies, as we are there to provide their brands with this technology for emotive connectivity,” he said.

“We're only at the start of the journey.”

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