Level Up Those Braincells – Smartify Interview with Thanos Kokkiniotis

Mar 19, 2018

Leveling up your brain with augmented reality has never been easier than with Smartify. We sat down with one of the project leads, Thanos Kokkiniotis, to get all the details behind the ambitious project.

Appolicious: What inspired your team to craft Smartify?

Thanos Kokkiniotis: We have always loved visiting museums and galleries, and seeing art. We also found that we developed a much deeper understanding and connection with an artwork when we learned about its context while looking at it. Imagine having an enthusiastic and knowledgeable friend telling you more about a work of art, and the extra enjoyment or connection that it brings. Finally, we were aware that there is disagreement around the etiquette of using digital devices in art contexts, and we wanted to reframe the use of mobile phones as engagement rather than distraction.

Appolicious: Why did your team tackle the arts first?

TK:  Was there much debate about which subject to grapple with first? Since the beginning, the idea was focused on the arts. Our journey started from a human need to create meaningful connections with art. Instead of just taking a photo or selfie of an artwork, we offer a more memorable and immersive experience, opening art information to all audiences.


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We believe that engaging with art fosters new opinions and ideas. We believe creativity and flexibility in thinking will become the most important skill for humans as technology advances.

Appolicious: What sort of programming and design challenges do you face when trying to support and enhance media that in many cases existed before modern technology?

TK:  Our main focus was to create a user experience that balances the rich interpretation with the actual real life experience of looking at art in a gallery. The recognition is as fast and non-intrusive to the gallery experience as possible. Programmatically, we have a long journey ahead of us since we aspire to have every piece of art documented and recognised!

Appolicious: How do you think AR can be improved to further enhancement engagement with our cultural histories?

TK:  The cross-over of AR with rich interpretation and curatorial information can drive further engagement with our cultural histories. A subtle and seamless transition between the real world and AR served commentary can produce really immersive, almost magic like, experiences that drive a deeper emotional connection with art.

Appolicious: Finding joy in education was a big thing two decades ago, but then sort of slipped away. Why do you think edutainment is coming back?

TK:  What’s making learning fun again? Education has always been a very attractive sector for the use of technology over the past decade and there are some amazing startups in this space – for example the founder of Angry Birds has made an education game. However, there are challenges because the sector does not attract the same level of funding or does not present the same degree of commercial opportunities that most technology companies seek if we leave out the value of social impact. As technology becomes more ubiquitous and commoditized, it becomes increasingly easy to disseminate content and create fun experiences at scale without having high costs as a barrier.

Appolicious: Branching off of that – how do you market an app such as Smartify, both to the consumer and to the museums and galleries that it’s utilized in?

TK:  Smartify is a free app which helps people make meaningful connections with art. Through Smartify, users can unlock the stories behind the art, create a digital personal art collection, and share with the Smartify community. Through Smartify galleries and museums can better measure the impact of their collection or exhibitions. Through the analytics we collect, we can provide real insights around audience demographics, visiting patterns, behaviours, trends and accessibility which museums can use to optimize their audience engagement strategy, collection etc.

Appolicious: What was the guiding principle for your team, when it comes to educating your users?

TK:  As mentioned earlier, our journey started from a human need to create meaningful connections with art. We wished to reframe use of mobile phones in museums as engagement rather than distraction. Instead of taking a photo or selfie, we offer a more memorable and immersive experience, opening art information to all audiences. Our guiding principle was the right use of technology at the right level of engagement and at the right time, making sure that the actual artwork is the epicentre of the experience.

Appolicious: Where do you see AR headed, over the next few years?

TK:  As technology advances, devices and everyday objects (glasses, watches, clothes) become smarter and unlock new ways of interacting with our environment on a daily basis. Progressively, AR will become ubiquitous and very much an integrated part of our daily like. Imagine having smart-glasses that inform you on the weather conditions when you look at the sky or traffic or bring-up nutritional information when you look at the barcodes of food products. In the same way internet revolutionized the way information is disseminated and accessed around the world, AR has the potential of making all this information a far more integrated part of our daily life helping us make more informed decisions on the spot!

Appolicious: What’s something the Smartify team would like to explore in the future?

TK:  We seek to create a global platform that democratizes creative experiences and education by increasing accessibility to information about art while also supporting art venues and artists. The internet has made it easy to distribute creative work to millions of people, but no one has figured out how to help creatives make a sustainable living. In the arts, it is harder that other creative sectors to become discovered by audiences that may like your work. Smartify is working towards offering a more creator-friendly platform that make it easier for artists to raise funding, track reach of their work and prevent piracy.

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Elijah Beahm

Elijah is a man who can't stop talking about games, geeky things, and to the chagrin of his colleagues, horrible puns. He's been working as a game journalist for several years now, and in addition to Appolicious, His other work can be found at GameCritics.com, I Need Diverse Games, and The Unabridged Gamer on YouTube. When not reviewing games, you'll probably find him ranting on Twitter, writing, or replaying Dead Space 2 for the zillionth time.

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