Interview with Octane Rich Media – the makers of the World of A&K iPad App

A while back, we had posted about the World of A&K app for the iPad. It’s a really well designed application that makes good use of the real estate and capabilities of the iPad to show various travel destinations. Well, travel experiences are more than just destinations. The experiences presented are curated by Abercrombie and Kent, a luxury travel company. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the app is meant only for potential A&K customers. It’s a brilliant way of looking through different ways to travel and explore the planet. Do check out the post, here, and here’s a video of the app in action.

We then had a chance to talk to Jim Forni of Octane Rich Media, the guys who actually came up with the app. ORM specializes in Digital Media; Mobile Applications, Web and Media Online, Video on Demand, etc. We were interested in how they came up with the application and the interactions that are possible and many things more.

Octane Rich Media’s Client Base:

ORM, which specializes in original content, original storytelling and enriched media, and looks at how this can be best applied in certain categories, where their products need to be dimensionalized with media.
Their clients include the Hyatt Hotels, where they create the Interactive Media Experience when you check into the hotel, so that there’s a second level of stimulation for the guests at the location and so that they participate in activities at that location.
Other high profile clients include Rolex and Mercedes.

While ORM does work with a myriad of luxury brands, they do quite a bit of work in other spaces, which we will look into later.

The Process of Conceiving the A&K Application:

The starting point of the A&K application was inspired by The Lonely Planet’s 1,000 Ultimate Experiences. A&K had more to offer than a publisher, including travel experiences, not just information. Octane Rich Media (ORM) took this idea to Abercrombie and Kent (A&K), as A&K, being a Travel Organizer, actually delivers these experiences and destinations. Additionally, half of A&K’s mobile traffic is from the iPad, which is primarily why the iPad was selected as a platform for the application. ORM has delivered a number of rich media solutions for A&K in destinations such as Africa and French Polynesia and many other locations, to film and create the “experiences”. ORM has also produced one piece on A&K’s philanthropic efforts in India. These projects were mostly for online display and industry uses (with Travel Agents, etc).

Process of Developing the Application:

A team of ten people with distinct responsibilities worked on developing this application; the UI Design, the Content Development, and the Development and programming of the Application.

The UI Team came up with the mosaics that you see when you launch the application, with four different filters to navigate through the mosaics, namely, Nature & Wildlife, Exotic and Extreme, Cultural or Family Travel. These filters were developed along with A&K, based on the user behaviour of the traveller. The different destinations are represented pictorially, which is a representation of the subject matter of the experience rather than the destination itself. You can then navigate into the various other destinations available for that filter. You can, of course, look at a map and pick various destinations from that.

The Content Development Team included the Photo and Video editors and the Sound Composition team. The writing, the Voice- Over Recording and the sound composition were developed by this group, as the sound would be key to the experience as people would listen to the effects. Sound Effect libraries were acquired for specific trips to have the most authentic experience, such as for the Gorilla Trekking Trip in Uganda, so that the Mountain Gorilla Sound Effects were authentic. These same effects were used by the Lucas Films team. Multiple choices were taken into account for each experience; Such as different sounds for different gorilla behaviours.

A lot of care had to be taken so that the images were at the correct locations; the Ruins on the east bank of the Nile had to be placed properly. These were developed in collaboration with a team from A&K, and the people involved had been to at least one of the 26 locations available on the application.

The third group were involved with the Development and Programming of the application, to completely leverage all the different possible operations on the iPad (swiping around, pinch, all the other multi-touch gestures). The application was programmed separately for both portrait and landscape orientations, hence all the images are present twice, so that it’s in the exact position.

ORM didn’t try to do things with the application that were better served by other channels, such as diverting people who were in certain experiences to just touch the AK logo and go to the AK site itself and get details about the trip. The actual booking of the trip isn’t done by the app itself, the idea of the app was to get people immersed in the experience and to deliver the user to another environment that was already built for the functional portions; getting in touch with A&K to actually book the trip.

Another major feature of the app is the sharing capabilities; you can share all the photos and videos available on the application to Facebook, Twitter. You can also share a personal travel map to Google Earth to get a 3D version of the map, and create post cards and share them using the images from the app itself.

Marketing the Application:

A&K, which has a substantial database of travellers, pushed the application through various sources to these clients. ORM created a demo of the application, which is on YouTube, which also acts as a tutorial. The day after the launch of the app on iTunes, ORM hosted a live webcast with the President of A&K and its head of Social Media, which went out to the Travel Industry, and included a live Twitter feed for people to ask questions. ORM also hosted an industry launch at the Wynn Hotel in Vegas, which included a presentation by the Founder of AK, Geoffrey Kent.

Statistics on the Application:

In the first month, the application was downloaded about 5,000 times from 43 countries. The application is currently only available in US English, and ORM and A&K are working on making the application in other languages (including Mandarin). A&K has seen an increase in the mobile traffic, and an increase in the inquires for each destination.

Plans for Expansion:

A&K is interested in targeting a younger demographic in the future, who understand people that want to trade their financial resources for experiences rather than things. Furthermore, there are plans on bringing apps for international markets and creating apps for specific kinds of trips for different markets, to provide for a better experience based on the different interests of travellers from different markets.

Other Areas of Work:

ORM has three primary verticals: Fashion, Luxury and Health. In the Health space, ORM uses its tools to demystify complex subject matter and make it understandable for patients and medical professionals.

ORM also deals with Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs) companies – kinds of products needing a detailed story to be revealed through rich media. ORM has content in in-store retail networks (ORM has content in about 1,000 stores in the U.S., playing on immersive screens in retail environments). That kind of experience could go to the mobile space, where users are getting more comfortable with the ability to scan a code at a location to get more information, that could lead to applications regarding the products themselves.

In the Health Space, ORM works on creating content to better educate users about their health. These includes series like “Smart Like Me”, developed for Companies to educate their employees, and promote healthier living. On the medical practice side, ORM has been working on Electronic Medical Records (EMR), and to make these records more accessible to both the physicians and patients and also allow the patients to connect with physicians.

Finally, quoting Jim Forni of ORM, on its philosophy on the mobile space and mobile application development:

“Our philosophy is this: We think there is room now in the market for a different kind of firm to create mobile applications and mobile experiences. It’s driven from our perspective, which came out of being digital story tellers. Our firm is called Octane, the notion was Octane, it’s your screen, fuel it with rich media. That motto was developed when our focus was primarily online display. We understood the brands were running a 24×7 cable channel, which was their website and that needed content and it needed to be done efficiently and that would help convert and delight users. So that was our heritage. Where I see that now converging, as opposed to coming at it simply from a development perspective; to make the next game or app tells you when the next train is coming, which have wonderful utility and are definitely part of the ecosystem. We are seeing the next phase as being rich content centric and our skills for original story telling and leveraging the screen itself as a superior mechanism. Those are the things we are focussing on and we are focussing on areas where those kinds of tools can be realised such as in medicine or health; where you’ve got a complex story, lots of elements, lots of inter-relationships between factors and also the ability to communicate. Some of the tools we are working on have been on physicians leveraging the camera/recording capability of the iPad and then sending that directly to the consumer or the patient. Those are powerful tools as opposed to trying to do this over the phone. It is a more personal way to connect even though it is done using a device. I think that’s really the future of mobile computing. It’s going to dominate our way of interacting over the next decade and we see ourselves positioned to bring our particular multi-disciplinary as a way to leverage that movement.”

Do check out Octane Rich Media at their site ( We’re looking forward to seeing what they come up with next, especially considering the interactive elements that they plan on utilizing for more utility based applications and services.

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Raghu Kannan

Drummer, Car enthusiast and wanna be rally driver, between jobs and loving it! @raghukannan

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