Opinion: How to earn a Ferrari and help launch a new search company

With Serge, the idea is to take photos of products, labels, and other media to scan for related content online using a smartphone.

Every once in a while I run into something really interesting. Such was the case last week when I met with Rich Jenkins, Vice President of Business Development at Serge, new visual search company. Serge is launching a new search service that connects people to their brands through their Smartphones. Because they need to build a database of brands and sell advertisers on the idea of the value of this connection, the company has a rather interesting way to make you part of the sales effort and, at least on paper, you could earn a Ferrari doing it.

I’ve been a big fan of creative ways to get people to do things for you, and like the idea of getting cash better than Google’s historic approach of rewarding you with crappy software for helping them out. Serge actually has two services and the other, called Isis, is more interesting, but doesn’t have the cash reward part.


What Serge will do — once folks like you and me get most of the brands participating — is allow you to take a picture with your Smartphone of something you are interested in. It could be a billboard, something you see on TV, something you see on a movie (more on this later), or something you see while walking around. For example, let’s say you see a hot car you’ve never seen before, you take a shot, and up pops a web page on your phone that tells you about the car, where you can buy it locally, and perhaps related merchandise or background information, like hats or t-shirts barring the car’s likeness, or the custom shop that created a unique version of the vehicle. If you saw a cool chopper it might connect you to Anaheim Customs, for instance, and tell you about the related reality TV show.

Now, if you are a developer, Serge does have a $1M challenge that you can enter. But it is the second coming challenge (the website giving details is apparently not up yet) most of the rest of us will be able to participate in. To make this challenge work, they have to have a lot of brands connected in to their service. And the way they hope to do that is, users like you and me take the initial shots, fill in some basic information, and then the folks at Serge try to sell the brand owner a service that costs a few dollars a month for a small company, and for a big company, around $99 a month. If a company signs up and you were the first to submit, you get around 10 percent of the first year’s income.

If you get to 1,000 companies, you are in the $120K range (assuming they are all $99 customers), which means you are in supercar price territory. And if you put your heart into this (they are just starting out) you likely could do that in a summer. Wouldn’t it be fun to out earn your parents working over the summer break?

Granted, I imagine you’ll be able to count the folks that actually do this on one hand and have fingers left over, but it is still an interesting proposition.

Taking a photo of a movie and having the app bring up relevant search results may be convenient, but could be annoying to other theatergoers in public.Now, one thing did kind of bother me about this service and that was the “taking pictures in movies” part. I think it would be pretty damned annoying if anyone, let alone a lot of folks, started taking pictures in a movie theater — particularly if the phones made that maddening artificial shutter sound and used their flash.

In the end, this could become a really cool service where anytime you wanted to find out about an unusual product you’d just snap a picture from the app and you’d near instantly be taken to a page that told you about it. Not to mention, of course, all the money-making possibilities.


Isis is a bit more interesting. It is a service that is being rolled out in stores using a large screen TV on its side and Xbox Kinect. What you do is, rather than trying clothes on, you walk up to the TV screen, Kinect gives you a screen menu, and you gesture to select what clothing you want to see. Each piece of clothing is rendered on your body as if you were wearing it.

Two benefits of this technology immediately come to mind: I hate trying things on, and a lot of folks use the dressing booths to steal clothing, which is a problem for stores.

I can picture a time in the future where we have a large screen TV on its side in our homes, and shopped from our living rooms for clothing much the same way. Hell, I can see a device like this show what we would look like in cars or on motorcycles we wanted to own to help us pick out the colors or just dream a bit. Just think of being able to do what typically requires you to go into a store to do, in your home, and see the result on you real time.

I think that would be really cool. But while it won’t get you that Ferrari, it could get you to dress in clothing that actually looks good on you for once, without having to spend precious cash on outfits that you never wear. You could even share the generated images and get fashion advice from a friend or your mama, real time).

Wrapping Up: A Sign of the Future

Both of these technologies showcase the coming future when we will be increasingly connecting the real world to the virtual world to get things done. We are clearly only at the tip of this iceberg, and companies like Serge will be blurring the lines between worlds. That could be a scary thing for many; I just think it is incredibly cool.

Guest contributor Rob Enderle is the founder and principal analyst for the Enderle Group, and one of the most frequently quoted tech pundits in the world. Opinion pieces denote the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Digital Trends.

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