Interview with ReadARactive

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eye Google and The Chinese University of Hong Kong have joined forced to launch of “Empowering Young Entrepreneurs Program (EYE Program)” a one-year program aiming to empower young entrepreneurs in Hong Kong. The program commences with a sponsored trip for outstanding participants to Google headquarters in Mountain View, U.S. to meet and connect with experts in the global community.

ReadARactive is one of EYE Program 40 Mentee Teams

Tell us about your project and what inspired you to start it.

It all began as our team members met during the EYE Program, and had a chance to discuss how reading habits are declining at an alarming rate globally. We decided to utilize our technical expertise to do something about the situation, and our solution - ReadARactive, is a social platform connecting worldwide book lovers with state-of-the-art augmented reading (AR) technology. ReadARactive enables users to easily create and share AR content for both leisure and e-learning purposes, and our recommendation engine brings together people with common reading interests and topics.

ReadARactive aims to promote interactive and social reading in order to nurture reading habits in our society. We believe our project advocates understanding in culture and humanity, improves communication skills and intellectual development, especially among the digital generation.

What stage of development are you at right now?

We have a prototype on the Android platform with core features implemented and tested, including book recognition and overlaying using augmented reality. We have also conducted usability tests in order to obtain user feedback, with minimum guidance so that we could gather accurate behavioral patterns. Apart from the above, we also carried out the architectural design and back-end implementation on the technological side. Our target is to develop a scalable design which is capable of satisfying the future global user needs. This lays a solid foundation for our upcoming platform development.

 

What are the hardest components to launching your project?

There were two main obstacles in our project: The first was deciding on a scalable and sustainable architecture, as well as the best technology stack to go with the AR library. Fortunately our team members are experienced in software integration and computer vision, and we had done extensive research and consulted experts in the respected fields as well.

The second obstacle was the initial difficulty to deliver the conceptual idea of ReadARactive. We included too many features in the product and needed to objectively cut back the less popular ones. We did A/B testing and employed the thinking-aloud approach during usability tests, using paper prototypes and clickable prototypes to minimize our costs. From comments and feedback, more emphasis was put on the entertainment aspect of ReadARactive, making it more fun and attractive.

 

What are your goals for the next 2-3 months?

Currently, our prototype features the core front end functionalities such as book recognition and AR, but there is still a lot of work to be done on the back-end, including advanced features like the recommendation system. Optimizations on the backend architecture must be performed as well.

 Apart from the technology side, we are looking at co-operations with authors, publishers and AR game developers through various publishers / affiliate programs. In the future we will also utilize our recommendation engine for targeted advertising through user behavior analysis.

 

What does the name of your company mean? How did you come up with the name?

We came up with the name "ReadARactive" to emphasize the three cores of our product:

"Read" as in a social network for READers;

"AR" as in the Augmented Reading technology involved;

"ARactive" as in the inteRACTIVE eco-system where users create and share content.

 

How has EYE program helped you with this project?

First of all, the EYE Program has provided an excellent platform for like-minded entrepreneurs in Hong Kong to network and connect with the bigger community. As said, we met and did business together because of this program. The training covering entrepreneurial skills, user experience and technical knowledge has helped a lot. In particular, we enjoy the guest speaker series, where we learned a lot from successful entrepreneurs. 

 Potential investors were also invited to network with EYE Program participants, and we had the opportunity to pitch our business in front of a large audience. That’s a great channel for us to promote our project and share our vision. We were happy to be one of the 20 finalist teams. We hope more people understand our vision and encourage reading.

Last but not least, the EYE Program helped the team connect with an experienced mentor for one-on-one mentorship. We benefited a lot as our mentor is a serial entrepreneur in the ICT field. He shared a lot of insights about building a startup, securing funding and eventually a successful exit. The mentors and speakers are passionate to support us and point us to relevant resources. We value all the feedback and look forward to growing our business.