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Marketing strategies Shift with possiblities of augmented, virtual reality

It’s one thing to sell somebody a new lawnmower by telling them how it drives.

It’s another thing to have them virtually test drive it on a virtual lawn.

Using augmented and virtual reality technology the Des Moines-based team at Shift Interactive are able to take their clients to a space that has been unheard of in the marketing world. Instead of using traditional two-dimensional marketing materials, Shift can use technology to enhance a marketing strategy.

For Toro, it was showing them how a new model lawnmower rode; American Athletic Inc. can use VR to design their gymnastic gyms.

The view on the laptop is what Chris Wagner is looking at.

Getting the full experience

Chris Wagner calls himself a, “Codewizard” but is officially a software engineer at Shift. He designed the VR program for Toro and AAI.

“You can get the full experience,” Wagner says. “You can look around using VR and create hotspots so if you look at them, you can teleport to see different views. And then once you are done it exports a blueprint with a line item budget and an architectural drawing with all the spacing.”

Andrew Gillman, Public Relations Director, says when companies go to trade shows they are constantly looking for ways to attract guests to their booth.

Virtual reality attracts people.

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Chris Wagner, software engineer at Shift Interactive, demonstrates how to use virtual reality as a marketing strategy.

“They (Toro) thought it would be a good application to get people engaged,” Gillman said.

And while he doesn’t knock the bread and butter marketing strategies, virtual reality is in a category of its own.

“We’re going to see more and more of our clients engaged in this sort of stuff and people are always trying to figure out how to get a bigger voice at trade shows to bolster their marketing efforts,” Gillman said. “I think is one way to really stand out. Up until this point its been cost prohibited. People are realizing you can get a really good VR product at a minimal amount of time and investment.”


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Nate Adamson holds an iPad displaying the app for Toro that utilizes augmented reality.

Pokemon Go! technology used for marketing

The only downside of virtual reality is that in order to use it to its fullest capabilities a lot must be setup in terms of equipment.

But with augmented reality, you only need an iPad.

“I think augmented reality is the next big thing,” Partner and Developer Nate Adamson said.

Adamson and his team created an app for Toro that utilized augmented reality to be fully interactive.

“You can do a live chat, call a salesperson, that’s kind of another example of virtual reality that you are seeing a lot,” Adamson said. “Using AR you can use your iPad to recognize the ad and have it come to life so you can see different products, get information or watch. It’s a fun way to make a static, regular ad come to life.”

Clayton Brady is an interactive programmer for Shift and was the designer of the app.

He said it took him a couple of days to complete.

“And it doesn’t need to be a page ad, you can scan a 3D object like a cup,” Brady explained. “So if it saw a Chic-Fil-A cup it could animate stuff around the cup. So it’s not just limited to page ads.”

Adamson says as cell phones evolve, so will the use of VR and AR.

“They are going to keep bolstering your phones hardware and sensors so your phone will start augmenting and interacting with the reality around you,” Adamson says.

Marketing strategies Shift with possiblities of augmented, virtual reality | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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