August 22, 2014

Playapp – AR Magazine – Playboy Augmented Reality

Playapp - AR Magazine - Playboy Augmented Reality

Playapp is an augmented reality project born thanks to the partnership between Esimple, Valore italia & Partners and Play Lifestyle Media, world’s first to enhance Playboy‘s cover (published by Play Lifestyle Media on its italian version) and first in a row of other famous italian editions of magazines like Gente MotoriT3, Yacht, PC World and many others.

Inside the app, freely downloadable for iOS and Android the reader can find a virtual newsstand which shows all the magazines of the publisher that feature interactive content.

The first virtual experience is for Playboy magazine (October 2013 issue) where the playmate Valentina Vignali, the most beautiful Italian basketball player, comes to life on the tablets and smartphones of the readers thanks to the augmented reality of Playapp.

Just frame the cover or the pages that bear the logo of interactivity through the camera of your smartphone or tablet to experience the special contents like 3D, pictures and video of the backstage.

The application is freely downloadable by the following links:

iPhone and iPad version: DOWNLOAD
Android version: DOWNLOAD

Flirting With Clients, And the Power of a “No”

Flirting With Clients, And the Power of a "No"

Through the years I came to the conclusion you can’t satisfy all clients, no matter what. On the contrary, it’s sometimes much better to just let a client go than to suffer consequences – beyond what you’d normally expect – because of your stubbornness.

Sometimes you end up under-delivering because, hey, shit happens, but let’s be honest for a moment, it’s not always 100% the company’s fault, and in some situations clients have their own responsibility.

True enough, the contrary can be said as well. Facts are rarely black or white, more often a comfortable shade of gray. We just have to navigate through them to try and understand where and how we fell.

So I end up thinking maybe it’s not the company’s fault, or the client’s fault per se, but more like a mix of the two elements, much like glycerol is harmless unless you nitrate it. Just as two people can date for a while and decide they are not made for each other, two companies can just stay friends without flirting any longer.
It’s no one’s fault, not entirely and not exactly anyway, and the world is full of fishes right?

I know, it doesn’t sound totally right in an economic moment like the one we’re living through, it’s not the best of choices to let go of a client, but it’s sometimes needed, because the mechanics started up by its presence can bring more harm to your company than benefit.
The way some businesses have to manage a consulting/marketing company working for them is just not what you would expect, and this can create malcontent and frustration among the people working for you.
As an entrepreneur, you cannot expect to absorb and be the safeguard of all the negativity of such cooperation, and your employees are in the first line of fire, they feel when something’s just not working right, from the first moment.
This is especially true in small businesses, where the personal touch is felt the most and one starts to wonder if the fault is his, entirely.

So what do you do? You confront the problem, you try to address it, to isolate it, to solve it. Sometimes it works, some other times it’s too much to handle, and you start thinking “why?”.
Well, truth is, there’s not always a why, and you shouldn’t focus too much energy in answering a question that, sometimes, has no reason to exist.

Try to learn from the experience, to learn to recognize the faint alerts signaling that a situation is building up. Try to learn to anticipate said situation, or if need be, to avoid the client entirely.

There’s no shame in that, and it’s perfectly fine to say “no”.

A Very Practical Trick For Using Gmail in Your Business

A Very Practical Trick For Using Gmail in Your Business

I am surprised to see how many people still don’t make use of IMAP for their mailing needs. It has several advantages over POP3, especially if you have several devices. I have a desktop, a laptop, an iPhone and an iPad, and if I  accessed my emails through a POP3 server, I would have to download my mail on all 4 devices and remember what I have read and what I haven’t.

With an IMAP access, messages are sync’d on all of your devices, so if you read a message, its status is saved on the server rather than on your computer and it will appear read everywhere you access it.

Google Mail

Since Google’s offer of Google Apps account to businesses, it’s almost been a no brainer to switch your corporate mail over and take advantage of all the functions Google offers, from automatic contacts and calendars syncing to all your computers and mobile devices, to Microsoft Exchange support, to the chance of using your corporate mail to access every Google service like Reader, Youtube and even external OpenID ones like Flickr.

That’s why, as a company, we use Google Apps as IMAP/Exchange server for our email. There’s one problem though, and that is how to manage contact addresses.

Multiple Access

Let’s say, for example, that I have my main corporate email – advertised on my website and all – as info@companyname.it. And let’s say 3 people have access to it, and can download its messages.

If they want IMAP access to it, you’re in some kind of a situation: the first person reading a message will mark it read for the other 2. Now this sucks, so how do you solve it?

I thought about it for a while, but I think I found a reasonably efficient way that you can setup in like 10 minutes of work.

The Solution

1. Go into your Google Apps administration panel, and click on the Groups tab

Google Apps Settings - Create Group tab

2. Add a group named, for example, multi.info@companyname.it, and put in it the email addresses of all the people that should have access to the email (the 3 people of my previous example)

Google Apps Settings - Create Group panel

3. Go into the email’s (info@companyname.it) settings on Google:

GMail Settings icon

4. In the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab, choose to forward a copy of incoming mail to the group email you just created, multi.info@companyname.it. Google will send a verification code to check you really have access to this email, just input the confirmation code you receive and you’re done. Also choose to keep the incoming mail in the original inbox as well, you never know

GMail Settings panel

5. Bam, you’re done!

What Happens Now?

Practically, email sent to info@companyname.it will be forwarded to multi.info@companyname.it, and to all the people inside the group. So if dude1 reads a message, it won’t be marked as read for dude2 and dude3.

The added advantage is that none of them will have physical access to the original email (info@), so no one will be able to send email on behalf of it, which I consider a good thing.

This really helped me solve several issues with out corporate email, and I hope it will help you too.

Why Google Plus Could Be The Real Last Chance to Beat Facebook

Why Google Plus Could Be The Real Last Chance to Beat Facebook

Google finally unveiled another big chunk of its social project, and judging by the initial feedback from early adopters, it’s hardly going to be another crashed Wave. It’s not surprising to see Google taking this step, as it desperately needed a social layer to add to their search powerhouse.

However, for once there are good chances early adopters aren’t gonna be wrong in believing in this project. First of all, Google has got a whole lot of mistakes to learn from, both from their own side (Buzz, Wave) and from their main competitor, Facebook. Judging by how they tackled privacy with their Circles implementation, it seems like this lesson has been very well learnt.

Several more considerations to make:

On Google’s Defense

- The design of Plus is much, much slicker than Facebook’s. What I mean is, it looks like something made efficiently from the ground-up rather than something adapted and upgraded from an earlier design;

- It’s a lot more privacy-friendly. It includes a feature like Data Liberation that’s aimed to people who really want to be on top of their private information. And Circles are a real killer feature, allowing you to perfectly segment what you share on the platform, and with whom;

- It’s built on a SEO infrastructure. That’s one of the major advantages over Facebook, everything that’s shared and “+1′d” on Google Plus will have added weight on their search engine result pages, expanding the simple “+1″ button feature that was released some months ago. They basically built a self-sustaining system in a single go.

- Its asynchronous approach reminds me of Twitter, you can just add someone to a Circle without the need for them to do the same, rather than a binary “friend/not friend” a la Facebook. Not everyone is a close friend, he can simply be someone you know from some forum community, or someone you simply want to follow. It’s a much more granular system and it just works;

On Facebook’s Defense

- Three words: massive user base. Facebook’s critical mass is long surpassed, and it’s not easy to attack something so huge, Google or not, especially because people, at this point, are just too used – or addicted? – to it. On the other side, if someone has a chance it’s Google;

- Facebook has got loads of partners, just think about the gaming sphere. Hundreds of millions of people play on Facebook daily, they won’t just swap to Google if they have to change their entertaining habits too much. They will have to address this, but talks of a gaming platform are already going. It’s just a beta still, after all;

- They have incredible amounts of money, and with incredible amounts of money you can react kinda fast. Especially the Circles feature can be implemented very fast simply because Facebook already has friends lists, they are just much more obscure and less user-friendly to use;

 

Plus could be the last way for anyone to tackle Facebook’s domain simply because if people will stop using it, they’ll flock back to Facebook more skeptical than before. They’ll hardly trust another potential competitor. I am not saying Facebook will crumple like a sand castle, it’s very very very much unlikely, but the long-term bleeding is nothing new in the history of social media (Myspace anyone?).

The future is bound to be kinda exciting.

The Number 1 Rule of Any Meeting

The Number 1 Rule of Any Meeting

It seems like weeks since I last wrote something on here. Oh wait, it HAS been weeks. Work has gotten hectic and I’ve been running meeting over meeting, to the point I started to notice where is that most meetings fail, and how to improve them to a whole new level with focus on just getting things done. Time and task management is a real, solid need in my company so we can’t really waste any time with meetings which are less than straight to the point and time-efficient.

So, picture this in your mind: you’re sitting in a meeting which, on paper, makes totally sense, but sooner than later you notice how things start going off track, things fall into chit-chatting and you suddenly find yourself sitting back at your desk with the same doubts you had at the beginning of the meeting.

You do remember the reasons of the meeting, but you’re not so sure all the answers have been given. Who’s to blame? Well, not sure about that, I believe it’s a mistake which is very common in startups or generally unexperienced entrepreneurs / managers. One thing though worked for me and my company, and that’s the #1 rule of each of our meetings since several months:

Before the start of every meeting, decide what problem you want to address

I strongly believe a meeting should be focused around one single subject, even if you “attack” several sides of it. For example, we had a meeting just today about an eLearning platform we are developing and even though we discussed many aspects of it, the main subject remained the same. If you include too many things to talk about in a single meeting you’ll end up sitting for hours and having your head fuzzy when you’re done. Is it really useful to do it like this? I don’t think so and this way proved itself much more time-efficient.

With this approach, it’s not uncommon to have 2-3 meetings in a single day, but when they are all 20-minutes meetings you really don’t feel them as a burden.

In our eLearning meeting the “problem” was deciding how to do things, in what timeframes and who to assign each task to.

Before the end of every meeting, ask yourself: has the problem been addressed?

This is the key point! Too many times we used to get back to work with a sense of “vagueness” (not sure that’s even a word) and uncertainty. Now I ask this question, and if the answer is “yes”, we can go back to work, otherwise, something’s wrong and we address it immediately.

In the eLearning example, the answer was an enthusiastic “yes”, and everyone’s merry and happy.

Mind you, this is a very practical suggestion which I am sure many of you won’t agree with (especially the “one-meeting-one-subject” part) but I can assure you it works.

Just give it a go and let me know.

Making Things Too Dumb (and Why It Sucks)

Making Things Too Dumb (and Why It Sucks)

There is a common problem I often find in software I use or web applications (that I won’t name not to be an ass), and I am sure it’s a problem that many others have as well. They are either too complicated to use or too dumbed down to appeal to a so called “power user”.

I was thinking about this a few days ago while I was being frustrated for the lack of some features in a web application which I personally considered pretty basic. I thought “heck, this could be a bit more ‘advanced’, so I could do this and that”. But then I stopped for a moment and thought “ok, IF it was really this advanced probably I would be the only happy about it”, and I suddenly remembered that probably it’s better to have 10’000 happy users than 1.

Question is, is there an equilibrium in this dilemma?

The Right Platform for the Right People

One of the first things I learnt in web developing (but it’s true for application developing in general) is that you shouldn’t develop for your own taste. What developers (and often entrepreneurs) fail to realize is that they are a pretty freaking peculiar kind of users. They have needs most people don’t, they have obsessions most people don’t, in the end they have tastes most people don’t. We often think something is THE right choice simply because it’s right for us, at that particular moment (it may not be tomorrow, or a year from now, as well).

Hence, we develop – applications, businesses – not around potential users, but around us. Which is a deadly mistake.

Classic example: when we started developing our 3D virtual mall, we initially finalized deals with express couriers in order to give individual accesses to shop owners to manager their own shipping. However, we soon realized they didn’t want to be bothered at all because they found the system too complicated (it was perfectly fine for us, of course). So we switched it to a solution managed by our staff instead. Later on, we developed a master editor (stand-alone application for Windows and Mac) to let shop owners edit their 3D shop appearance in a “simple way”. This was far too complicated as well and we switched to a really simple web-based solution without stand-alone applications involved apart from our web browser.

See where I am heading to?

Not One Solutions, but Many Solutions

The key here is not to pick one kind of users over another, but to try and satisfy both of them.

We (developers, entrepreneurs) are just a sub-set of “people”. If we develop for us, we fail hard. However, it’s not good to just go for the simple way not caring for the power-user as well.

My solution is: develop for the basic user but please the advanced user with little gems.

If you offer an ecommerce system with a custom-made CMS, it’s good to make the product management panels as simple to use as possible. But it’s also good to include a CSV/XML importer for the advanced user who doesn’t want to spend a month manually loading products from a web page.

We do offer a light 3D editor, but the advanced stand-alone option is still there.

If your web service is user-friendly and awesome as I hope it is, offer an API interface in case people want to do things their way, rather than your way.

And so on.

Why Would You Even Bother?

The basic answer is: for your own good. Chances are that the “advanced” solutions will be the ones you already use internally, so if you implement them you’ll encourage your team to use your own tools, which is always good. Additionally, you will appeal to the kind of user who think like you, even if you are just a sub-set of people this sub-set isn’t made of you only, remember.

It’s also realistic to think that these additional advanced features won’t be too hard to add if you plan them from day 1.

Sometimes I feel like the potential of some application is totally wasted because the developers tried to dumb it down far too much. Maybe I would like to use it but there is at least one change that would make things SO much faster and more efficient at the cost of sacrificing some ease of use.  So, if this addition is just some sort of “plug-in” which won’t affect any other user than the ones who are actually interested in it… that’s what I call a brilliant win-win solution.

Am I really the only one thinking like this?

The Importance of Being an Intern

The Importance of Being an Intern

During the years we have been particularly lucky with our interns, even if we didn’t really have many due to how things work here in Italy.

I have read a lot about how it is like in the US and the “traps” many entrepreneurs fall into when dealing when internship, and thanks to that I always managed to be quite ok at it.

The big occasion to write about this is the successful graduation (with top grades, I add) of our latest intern, Giulia Borri, who I also featured in a previous video we released (and she did much better than the other guys, too!). And since her final dissertation is about one of our projects, it was actually pretty nice to attend to.

When talking about internship, there are several keypoints to consider and quite some pitfalls to avoid in order to make the whole experience profitable for both ends. It’s far too easy to fall in the temptation of abusing your interns for the stupidest tasks or just end up giving them far too much responsibility, ending up in a huge mess.

Learn to Recognize the Value

It’s essential to understand what kind of advantage your business can have from interns in first place, beyond the simple concept of having 1 more person. In fact, if you don’t know how to use this new person, it will be exactly like not having him/her in first place.

Since most interns we had came from universities, we learnt to put the emphasis on what they know rather than assuming they are clueless, which is a typical mistake many managers do. Interns aren’t some mass of clay you can shape, but they come with a luggage of knowledge you might find useful, especially if you – as you should – get your internship deals done with university courses compatible with your niche of business and if you have your ideas very clear about what you want.

They are a valuable external opinion on your business, and believe me, if you run your company since year like we do, you kinda lose track of what it looks like from the outside. Entrepreneurs often commit the capital sin of believing everyone think like them, so external eyes are extremely valuable in order to overcome this common mistake.

Additionally, interns can become your best evangelists, if they learn to understand, appreciate and love what your company does, trust me, it’ll show in what they do, and every additional person talking awesome about you and your business helps a lot nowadays.

Don’t Be Shy

Especially, don’t be shy about using your interns. Don’t underestimate them or assume they won’t be up to the task, and don’t assume they don’t care and they just want to get it done to get their course credits.

This of course doesn’t mean they are good for ALL tasks. You should evaluate carefully how much responsibility they can take, and in what context. Don’t exaggerate, but also, if they do screw up or severely underperform, hold them responsible and don’t just go like it doesn’t matter – it’s not kindergarten anymore.

This is the best advice I can give you: an intern is never going to be a substitute for an employee. Don’t give them tasks they have to complete on their own just because they are employee-class tasks no one wanted to get done, in order to do it they will need to be supervised at least initially, something that’s too often forgotten. Interns shouldn’t be recipient for boring tasks, so to say.

Last but not Least, Help Them Out!

After all, they need your help in order to succeed, so by all means, give it to them. If they choose to base their final dissertation on something related to your business, all the better, that can really be an important marketing tool for your company.

Eventually, just remember this simple motto: let’s not both waste our time. If you can help your intern and your intern can help you, that’s the perfect relationship and one you should facilitate as much as you can.

Delicious Rises From Its Ashes

The Fall of Delicious and the Rise Of... Delicious

I was writing about the fall of Delicious back in December, when one thing was sure, Yahoo! was going to axe their social bookmarking service pretty soon and no one was really queueing up offering to buy it.

The thought of losing all my bookmarks saved on it was really annoying, even though I suggested the possible alternative of Diigo, another service similar to Delicious for many aspects but also offering a whole set of new things to enhance the user’s experience (like page annotations, highlights and so on).

Breaking News

What happened just wednesday is that apparently Yahoo! finally did find someone to sell Delicious to, nothing less than YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen.

After selling the gargantuan video platform to Google for an astronomical amount of money, the two ventured into founding a new internet company, AVOS, whose main activity seems to be dealing with the transition from Yahoo! technology to proprietary in-house one (something that must not be easy seen how deeply Yahoo! services were tied into Delicious).

In the press release there’s much stress about how serious the two seems to be about this acquisition, and I have no doubts about that because seeing how Diigo is moving around their own service, there’s much to be done for Delicious as well.

The possibilities around a service effectively gathering all your website choices and making them available to others are huge, and seeing how we just started to scratch the surface of “social” it’s very exciting to see that two successful entrepreneurs decided to get their hands into this.

So, What Is Going to Happen?

Your data won’t be lost as I was initially afraid of back in my previous post. As AVOS effectively acquired it, at some point you will be asked to login with your Delicious/Yahoo! account and explicitly authorize this data transfer. Any successive change will then be communicated afterwards, even though the transition will be seamless. And that’s great news.

Why Shouldn’t I Switch to Diigo?

I don’t really know. I mean, I switched in January, and I am pretty happy about it. Despite the lack of a dedicated application for it (not like I searched much, I admit), the Chrome extension and bookmarklet for Safari work great. Actually, the bookmarklet works fine on Safari for iPhone/iPad as well, allowing to save bookmarks on the go as well.

However, if you stuck to Delicious so far I advise you to keep using it. The names involved in this operation make me kinda sure your data will be safe and the change will happen without hassles.

Delicious Rises Again

Like a phoenix Delicious rises back from its own ashes. Hurley and Chen are two top notch entrepreneurs, working at Paypal before founding Youtube, they definitely know what they are doing and if they believe in Delicious enough to acquire it from Yahoo!, I am pretty positive they have a solid strategy behind it.

As I mentioned, the possibilities are limitless, and as the transition happens in July we will probably begin to see Delicious’ future unfold.

It will surely keep being a social bookmarking service, but it will obviously become something more, to counter the offensive of all the other services who cannibalized many of Delicious users (me included) just a few months ago.

Will this be enough to become once again the #1 social bookmarking service on the web? How will they be able to monetize such a service without driving off users? Do they have any surprise up their sleeves? We will see very soon, I am sure it’ll be worth waiting for.

5 Types of Users You Will Write For

5 Types of Users You Will Write For

After several months from the launch of this blog (or at least, from the start of my contribution to it), I can start asking myself who am I writing for – I know the answer to that actually, but I am asking it to make a point.

Widening the question, I ask myself: who is everyone running a blog writing for?

I am relatively new to social media, but after reading thousands of posts in the last year alone I can at least try to give a decent answer. I believe it’s very important to do it, each of us, because if we don’t keep track of who we are really writing for, I am afraid this all translates into a huge waste of time. You can shoot as much as you want but if you don’t actually aim, you’ll never hit bull’s-eye.

One of the conclusions I reached thinking about this topic was that every blog, in the end, is a business blog, unless you just run it for fun or because your analyst told you it’s good to keep a diary of your thoughts, that’s great too but I am divagating.

Wether you are an individual looking to enhance your own personal brand, or a full-fledged business looking for a way to be “more social” (it’s the latest trend anyway), a blog is an extension of your business, any kind of business.

Individuals and businesses can blog for the most various reasons.

Credibility & Authority, by interacting with other peers, showing off your knowledge, discussing with your visitors about your niche’s topics, participating, engaging and encouraging participation and engagement yourself. If you are a business this will show the “human side” of it and it’s kind of evident people prefer to interact with people rather than fancy corporate names.

Tech and R&D, using your blog as a portfolio for what you do, what you’ve done, what you WILL do, attracting interest around a certain technology or achievement and showing people your actual skills, with obvious benefits.

You might blog for direct income, be it from advertising, eBooks and various services, consulting or conference speaking.

You can even blog to get a job, like my friend Antonia Harler did. In her case it worked very well in the end, but she has powers and all, I know.

Or you might blog just for the sake of it of course, where all of the above doesn’t apply, you just write and enjoy people reading and commenting it. Bless you.

You really can blog for the most various reasons, but I believe there are only 5 main type of readers you’ll eventually blog for.

1. Clients

You blog to get new clients, simple as that. Or well, it’s simple to say, but not to achieve.

If you’re a tech company, you’ll blog about industry news or about the uses people can have for your products/platform/services. You have to be careful to do it in a meaningful way, to avoid the classic mistake of just spamming your products and promotions and making your blog become just another extension of your corporate website.

People – even potential clients – are looking for something more than another advertise, so give them just that. Don’t just mention how awesome is your product, but actually help them being awesome using it (MailChimp’s blog does an excellent job, for example).

My 2 Cents: consider that this is also a very good exercise for your company. If you can’t think of ways to gain advantages using your products or services, then you’re probably selling crap anyway.

2. Peer & Friends

Most people involved in social media write for peers and fellow bloggers, think about all those posts to improve the quality of your posts, find new ideas for them, simplifying various processes through the use of WordPress plugins and so on. Theres’ nothing bad in that unless you write only for this kind of user. In this case, you’ll have to start asking yourself where’s the money in all this. It’s the kind of question no one ever likes to ask but it’s fair to, once in a while.

The advantage of writing for peers and friends is that you’ll build up a healthy network of people to trust and who will hopefully trust you, it’ll help your credibility and authority, but only if you have something good to say, otherwise you’ll just tag along in the social media boat like many people do nowadays.

Being respected by others for what you do bears always good consequences and responsibilities as well.

My 2 Cents: in the end, social media is about being social, so there’s nothing wrong in writing for this kind of visitor. As I mentioned, it’s bad if you write ONLY for them, a mistake which is more common than not especially when you’re just starting your blog. But it’s ok, nothing bad in adjusting your aim while running.

3. Machines

One thing is optimizing your blog for SEO purposes and search engines, another thing is writing for them uniquely. This often leads to what I call “the explosive headline trap”, where the headline is forged in a way to blow people’s mind off but the content of the post itself is totally mediocre even though totally “SEOtastic”. This kind of behavior will attract visitors in an explosion of page hits, but will also drive them off your blog faster than you can say “ouch” when it appears clear you’re just talking bull.

My 2 Cents: spending 20 minutes optimizing your post, researching some keywords, running the Google Adwords tool? Sure, why not. Heavily modifying all your post to attract as much keyword searches as possible and writing shocking, controversial headlines just to get people’s eyes? Good luck with that.

4. You

Don’t we all write for our personal wellness, in the end? I mean, there’s something addictive in pressing that “Publish” button, some kind of… mmmhmm, that’s done, onto next task, sorta feeling, no? Also, blogging has the objective benefit to help you organize your business and your thoughts in a far more efficient way, to learn new things and to force you to read a lot. Judging from statistics on what and how people read nowadays, this can’t be bad can it?

My 2 Cents: what if you write just for yourself? Well I suppose if you do that you also do realize there’s no $$$ in for you. If you’re ok with that, then by all means have fun. It’s important that you write also for yourself, because if that’s not the case you will run out of enthusiasm very, very soon. As long as you still have that positive feeling when you press Publish, all’s good.

5. No One

If the question “who are you writing for?” leaves you with a blank look, then you should seriously reconsider your intents. You probably don’t have a strategy nor a plan, you’re effectively achieving nothing and wasting your time. Blunt? Perhaps, but it’s really fundamental not to fall in this category, alright?

The most important thing to do before you even start considering running a blog is planning a strategy around it, to avoid ending up in a situation where you won’t even understand who you are really writing for.

Most of the various failures in social media are, in my opinion, due to the lack of a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Without a vision you don’t know where to go, and even if you are strong-willed and resolute, your efforts will be wasted in the wrong direction.
You really want to avoid this.

How Natuzzi Group Is Going to Radically Change Furniture Shopping

This is a deal we have in the works since nearly one year, but just today we can finally disclose more information and the actual name of our client, Natuzzi Group, the world leading producer of leather sofas with over 750 showrooms across the globe. 

The Problem

It is fairly straight forward. You see, when you go buying a high-end sofa for your living room, you usually sit down with an interior designer/sales agent and he starts jotting down sketches on paper to show you how a certain sofa will look in your home environment. This ends up turning off the customer more often than not, with a high percentage of people simply giving up or considering other options.
What they needed was a more immediate and advanced solution, and that’s why they came to us.

 

Natuzzi 3D configurator internal sales meeting

Lee Hunnisett De Beer, Corporate Retail Manager for Natuzzi Group, showcasing the 3D configurator at the internal sales meeting in Milan

The Solution

Thanks to Unity3D, we developed a configurator which allows the user to create virtual rooms (designing them from the ground-up, placing walls, windows and so on) and then proceed to place products from Natuzzi’s catalogue across the room, specifying colors and configurations among the many available (yes, all our experimentation with virtual shops and configurators wasn’t really done by accident).
After this, he can view a photo-realistic representation of the room, navigable in real time, which provides a fairly accurate real life feeling of how the final product is going to look like.
The whole experience can be completed either with a keyboard&mouse interface or through a touch screen device. The applications is available for both Mac and Windows computers and is initially meant to be used by Natuzzi showrooms under a sales agent supervision. However, since its learning curve is very low and user-friendly, it can definitely have a lot of other applications, especially when given directly to customers.

An automatic update system and XML data feeds allow the company to release library updates which include new furniture products. The configurator has also been personalized for the Italsofa brand of Natuzzi Group, specialized in young and dynamic products.

 

Natuzzi 3D configurator at Milan's Salone Internazionale del Mobile

Italsofa exhibition space at Milan's Salone Internazione del Mobile. The 3D configurator on the left is available to people for public testing.

The Results

Even though the configurator is currently in private beta by Natuzzi specialists, the feedback we had from them and the public at Milan’s “Salone Internazionale del Mobile” (one of the world’s most important exhibitions for furniture producers) has been totally awesome. People are genuinely interested by a new way of designing their rooms, and the wow-effect of the Unity3D engine applied to real-life uses can’t be underestimated, showing that it’s not just a pretty game engine but something that can actually boost your revenue stream in ways you never really thought of.

Personally, I believe it’s great when modern companies not only understand the real value behind innovation, but actively participates in the creative process of something new aimed to really boost sales, and not just to forge a new, nice press release.
The input from Natuzzi staff has been great, and the response and support of Pasquale Natuzzi himself, CEO of Natuzzi Group, has been extraordinary.
It’s always a pleasure to work along with truly enlightened companies and individuals.

Natuzzi 3D configurator, Pasquale Natuzzi and Francesco Marcantoni

Pasquale Natuzzi, CEO of Natuzzi Group, posing in a picture with Esimple Studios CEO, Francesco Marcantoni, at the sales meeting presentation.