Planet 9 aims RayGun at iPhone

“We’ve overcome huge hurdles associated with the creation of global 3D models and delivering a responsive, entertaining platform that’s easy to use,” says San Francisco, Calif.-based Planet 9 Studios.

The navigation and social networking software developer is now offering RayGun for the iPhone. The RayGun platform is a 3D social network allowing users to chat, explore, locate and interact with realistic avatars and actual 3D cities on a mobile device using GPS locations. Users can jump to their location, navigate through real cities, chat with friends and share geo-located photos, the company says.

With RayGun technology, developers and device manufacturers have a ready-made, real world platform that changes the way people look at the world.

The technology is now used by companies such as Boeing, General Dynamics and Denso for simulation, navigation and location aware visualization and analysis.

A demonstration video is here.

Kids can learn cameras by building one

bigshot

The Computer Vision Lab at Columbia University is developing a camera kit with which kids can learn photography.

The BigShot will expose children to fundamental concepts in optics, mechanics, electromagnetism, electronics, image processing, and the physiology of the human eye, the researchers say, to draw them towards further learning in math and science.

bigshotThe camera kit contains parts ready to be assembled. The finished camera is powered by a battery or by spinning a crank.

Optics options will include normal, anamorphic, and stereo prism.

The lab is now testing prototypes of the kits.

Retail reward programs gain traction in recession

In light of the recession, consumers are leaning on loyalty programs to stretch household budgets further by earning rewards for their purchases. Research shows U.S. consumer participation in rewards programs has increased by nearly 20 percent since 2007. In fact, nearly one-third of consumers rate retail rewards programs as “more important” during the recession.

Sears and Kmart are expanding their rewards with the new ShopYourWay Rewards program. Customers now have a new way to shop as they can accumulate and spend rewards, receive bonus rewards and special storewide promotions at Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears Holdings retailers – Kmart, Sears, the Lands End store at Sears, and mygofer.com.

“In this economy, Americans are looking for new ways to get the most out of their money,” said Mike Gatti, executive director, Retail Advertising and Marketing Association. “Giving shoppers the option of receiving rewards or bonus points absent of credit cards will likely make a lasting impression.”

ShopYourWay Rewards allows customers to earn rewards toward purchases regardless of their method of payment – cash or credit. The rewards are issued within 48 hours of earning and there is no threshold that needs to be met in order to receive rewards. The rewards are stored on the ShopYourWay Rewards Card and members can redeem rewards where and how they desire. While many loyalty programs are tied to credit card purchases, Sears and Kmart recognize the importance of giving its customers the choice to shop their way and still earn benefits.

Consumers can register free at any Kmart location or online to begin accumulating rewards. They will receive a ShopYourWay Rewards card immediately when they enroll in a Kmart store and receive their card via mail when they enroll online. Each time a customer shows their ShopYourWay Rewards card with a purchase, card holders will earn one percent in rewards as well and are eligible for storewide bonus rewards.

Take a moment to learn how you can market your business with gift certificates in today’s PMA Marketing Moment

Gift certificatesPMA_Marketing_Moments_low are powerful marketing tools, and Mark Klostemeyer, MCPF, of Design Frames, Falls Church Va., says every independent shop should be using them. In today’s PMA Marketing Moment, he explains how and when they should be used – and offers a great tip for making presentation folders.

Fujifilm forms Fujifilm North America Corp.

Fujifilm Holdings America Corp., Valhalla, N.Y., announced, effective Jan. 1, 2010 it is creating a new organization, Fujfilm North America Corp., which will merge Fujifilm U.S.A. Inc. and Fujifilm Graphic Systems U.S.A. Inc. Also, Fujifilm Canada Inc. will become a subsidiary of the new company as of April 1, 2010.

“The creation of this unified organization will enable us to build a stronger presence in the North American markets and realize greater collaboration between businesses,” said Ryutaro Hosoda, President, Fujifilm Holdings America Corp.“Most important, it will allow us to serve our customers even more effectively and efficiently by taking full advantage of the skills and knowledge of our people.”

Fujifilm North America will bring together five operating divisions: photo imaging products including digital photo processing equipment and services supplying commercial and consumer customers; graphic systems products and services supplying the printing industry; consumer digital cameras; motion picture films; and the Canada Division operating asFujfilm Canada Inc. which markets multiple Fujifilm products.

Digimarc sues Shazam for patent infringement

Digimarc Corp., Beaverton, Ore., filed a complaint for patent infringement against Shazam Entertainment Ltd., asserting Shazam identification technology infringes three of Digimarc’s patents, including two patents dating back to 1995. Digimarc’s patents relate to technology that enables devices to identify audio and visual content and immediately link the consumer to associated internet services.

“We prefer negotiated business relations over litigation, but having not made progress in initiating such discussions, we are heading to court to enforce our patents,” stated Bruce Davis, chairman and CEO of Digimarc. “While we are comfortable seeking help from the courts to enforce our intellectual property rights where they are not properly respected, our general approach is to foster adoption of our technologies by establishing mutually profitable business relationships in which we receive fair consideration for our innovations while supporting continued progress toward the realization of a shared vision.”

Digimarc has invented a range of technologies that employ cameras, microphones and other sensors to enable instant identification of all forms of media content. The contextual awareness of the phone combined with instant object identification enables new, more efficient and higher quality methods to search without text input. Applications like Shazam use Digimarc’s innovations to provide more intuitive means for users to search for and get delivery of rich Internet experiences.

Corel says “yes” to share offer

The board of directors of software company Corel Corp., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, gave its approval to a share offer made by venture capital company Vector for all outstanding shares of the company at US$4.00 per share. Vector currently owns approximately 67 percent of Corel’s outstanding shares on a fully-diluted basis.

Target reports improved third quarter

Target Corp., Minneapolis, Minn., reported third-quarter net earnings of $436 million, compared with $369 million for the same period last year. Total revenues were $15.276 billion, including credit-card revenues, compared to $15.114 billion for the same period last year.

“We’re very pleased with our third quarter earnings performance, which reflects strong execution and a commitment to continued innovation by teams throughout the company,” says Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and CEO, Target. “Profitability in our retail segment during the third quarter was well above expectations, and credit card segment profitability also improved due to continued thoughtful portfolio management in a challenging credit environment. As we look ahead, we remain keenly focused on delighting our guests with exciting merchandise, exceptional prices and superior service during the holiday season and believe we are well-positioned to capture profitable market share.”

Retail sales increased 1.4 percent in the third quarter to $14.8 billion in 2009 from $14.6 billion in 2008, due to the contribution from new store expansion, partially offset by a 1.6 percent decline in comparable-store sales. Retail segment earnings before interest expense and income taxeswere $791 million in the third quarter of 2009, a 2.4 percent increase from $772 million in 2008.

Target operated 1,743 Target stores in 49 states in the quarter.

Digital camera market in Western Europe fueled by the changing face of the DSLR buyer

Despite the down economy, DSLR cameras have continued to drive sales in Western Europe (France, Germany, and the UK), providing market vendors with an opportunity for expansion and growth. As the DSLR market matures, DSLR buyers are shifting from early adopter male hobbyists to female family memory keepers, according to the latest research from InfoTrends.
  Many first-time DSLR purchasers are upgrading from point & shoot cameras as a result of the shutter lag issue. Early adopters and hobbyists were seeking the latest technologies, however, these new buyers will be more interested in ease of use, convenience, and competitive prices. Consumers want to maintain the simplicity of a point & shoot camera but have the functionality of the DSLR. 
  In order for digital camera vendors to reignite the compact camera market and create a spike in replacement sales, they would have to address the shutter lag problem. Shutter lag remains a key consumer complaint, and digital camera vendors have yet to offer a solution.  Even if their last purchase was only about a year ago, cameras that eliminate lag time would likely convince many people to purchase new ones.  Digital camera manufacturers who do not have DSLRs available must work on addressing this issue to prevent consumers from seeking other camera brands.
 

NPD reports consumers put ‘Comparison Shopping’ and ‘Value’ at the top of their holiday lists

The NPD Group, Inc., a leading market research company, released some additional results from its eighth annual study of consumers’ holiday spending intentions for Holiday 2009.  According to NPD, 30 percent of consumers surveyed ‘plan to spend less,’ this holiday. Consumers will shop this year and holiday gifts will be purchased, however, despite the overall drop in spending intentions. 
  “All of our indications suggest that consumers will shop but be more cautious in their approach.” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc. “The study’s results show consumers will be doing their homework a bit more carefully this year. ”This year’s holiday study reports that almost half of consumers said they would comparison shop they buy. “That 45 percent is at a five year high,” noted Cohen.
  This year consumers told NPD that ‘online research’ is the primary way they plan to do their ‘homework’ before they shop, but they will also still be using catalogs and television ads. Consumers told NPD that value will be the primary influence on where they will do their shopping this year. “Overall value for the price” is the top reason to shop in a particular place this year.
   According to the survey, 41  percent of consumers plan to start their shopping during Thanksgiving weekend or later. “Consumers have come to expect deeper and deeper discounts as the holiday season wears on. And they have also come to expect that the products they want will be available whenever they get around to purchasing them. I’m not so sure that will work in their favor this year.” said Cohen.
  “This year retailers are carrying less inventory and the products that consumers really want may just run low or even be out of stock in some stores,” said Cohen, “If consumers wait too long expecting bigger discounts they may just be surprised to find that the item they want won’t be there. It will be the informed consumers that will find what they want, buy early and on sale.”
  “I do think the gift of the leaner inventory may be the ‘gift that keeps on giving’ to retailers this year.” observed Cohen, “One of the primary things retailers need to do is to wean consumers from the expectation of deeper and deeper discounts as the holiday season unfolds. This process of “discount detox” (weaning the consumer off the deep discounts) is critical in getting retailers to return to being profitable again.”