Feb 2, 2013

Singapore - Asian newspapers turn to S'pore app

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Knorex CEO Justin Choo shows off the app, which will allow newspaper readers to obtain content such as 3-D images, video clips, photo galleries, product catalogues and contest forms on their smartphones.

Start-up's app lets readers scan photos and ads in the papers to get extra content

Made-in-Singapore technology is making its way into newsrooms across Asia, helping newspapers like The Star of Malaysia, Thailand's The Nation and Hong Kong's China Daily come alive with cutting-edge smarts.

Local start-up Knorex has inked deals with six dailies in the region which will enable readers to download an app on their smartphones and then scan photos and advertisements in the paper to instantly get extra content on the device. These include 3-D images, video clips, photo galleries, product catalogues and contest forms.

"It's a new way of interacting with print content," said Knorex CEO Justin Choo, 34.

"How cool is it to be able to view a movie trailer on your smartphone just when you are reading a review of the same movie on print," he added.

The two-year-old spin-off from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) clinched its first major deal last April with The Star of Malaysia.

Thailand's Nation Multimedia Group will also be launching a similar app for its three national dailies - The Nation, Kom Chad Luek and Krungthep Turakij - next Monday.

By June, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Hong Kong's China Daily will come on board too.

Business publication The Edge Singapore and Indonesia's national daily, The Jakarta Post, are also currently in talks with Knorex, said Choo.

The company which he co-founded two years ago is already profitable through revenue-sharing deals with news publishers, he added.

The firm was spun off from the Institute of Infocomm Research (I2R) - an A*Star unit - in January 2010. Knorex's ARise technology is based on augmented reality, where virtual content is "embedded" in real-world spaces.

This is typically done with the smartphone, although advanced spectacles or TV screens are also capable of overlaying the virtual content.

One of the key components in Knorex's ARise augmented reality app is Snap2Tell - I2R's award-winning image recognition software which is able to make sense of the images in print or on physical objects.

The I2R invention won an international image-recognition competition - Document Image Binarisation Contest - in 2009 in Athens, Greece. The contest was organised by the National Centre for Scientific Research, Demokritos, in Athens.

Dr Lim Joo Hwee, head of visual computing at I2R, said that Snap2Tell is also used in a National Heritage Board app for conducting tours to 32 historical sites - like Labrador Park, Fort Siloso and Bukit Chandu - for some 130 schools.

Separately, Knorex's ARise has also been recognised by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. It won the merit award in the Most Innovative Infocomm Product/Service category at the biennial Singapore National Infocomm Awards last year.

Last year, Knorex also won the silver award in the Digital Media category of the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF) Awards, organised by infocomm industry promotion body SiTF.

Irene Tham

The Straits Times

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