Octi launches augmented reality driven social network

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Octi's new AR social network helps users connect in real life.

Every social media network has its thing. For Instagram, everything revolves around images. Snapchat users love the fact that their photos disappear when sent directly but also enjoy using the app’s filters and posting to their stories. Twitter lets users vent and share their thoughts about the most recent happenings in the world.

Yet, all of these have something in common. Each one of them lets people search for and connect with friends. While it will also include that principle, Octi’s new social network is doing things a bit differently. It encourages users to interact in-person with a host of fun augmented reality features.

Doing Social Media Differently

Octi started out as an augmented reality (AR) company. In fact, as recently as last year it was researching how to use the technology to recognize the movements of the human body. Now, thanks to the encouragement of the startup’s investors, Octi has taken a big leap forward.

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Its new app, simply called “Octi,” is available for download in the iOS App Store starting on Wednesday. It utilizes machine learning to detect when a person is standing in front of a user’s camera (the movement recognition at work). If that person has an Octi account, the user will be able to send them a friend request. If not, they can send an invitation instead.

Octi’s CEO Justin Fuisz says that the lightning-fast facial recognition experience is driven by a “neural network on the edge.” In other words, the app processes images directly on the user’s device rather than doing so in the cloud. This not only speeds up the process but is better for privacy as well.

Meanwhile, Octi has an optimized search algorithm that starts with a user’s friends-of-friends before expanding a search to its wider user base. This means that the app can identify a friend in as little as 20 milliseconds.

The unique feature has drawn plenty of attention from big-name investors. Part of Octi’s $12 million in funding comes from the NFL Players Association, Live Nation, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Adobe’s chief product officer Scott Belsky.

“The special sauce is really that camera technology, that core interaction,” says the laid-back CEO.

Rediscovering Personal Connections

When a friend’s face is scanned within Octi, the app places a “digital belt” atop their image. It includes things like text-based posts, videos, and embedded content from Spotify and YouTube. Users can post to a friend’s wall or their own much like they can on Facebook.

Interestingly, Octi separates itself from other AR-integrated social networks (like Snapchat) by tracking a user’s movements with the camera. Fuisz says, “You’re almost like a QR code walking around of your profile.”

Of course, considering that connecting is easiest with a facial scan, Octi is geared towards in-person use. The CEO hopes that the network will help foster personal relationships that are enhanced by technology rather than carried out through it.

As for Octi’s potential, it seems massive. The app works on iPhone 7 and all later models and an Android version is coming sometime soon.

In a closed test, Octi provided the app to 50 high school students in Southern California. After one week, 1,200 of 2,000 students were using the app. With that sort of rapid growth, it appears that Octi has a chance of challenging some of today’s other social networks.

“It just spreads,” Fuisz says.

In the coming months, it will be interesting to see just how far Octi can extend its influence and to determine if it can stand the test of time or if it just another fad.

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