The Green Lab Debuts Augmented Reality Cannabis App at SXSW

The room was overflowing with curious attendees at SXSW Wednesday as many watched The Green Lab team debut the first augmented reality (AR) application developed for the cannabis industry. Called Bleum, the AR software platform is in beta testing and will be available summer 2019.

Co-founders Julian Dais and Dan Earle started the first cannabis-exclusive marketing agency in Texas in June 2018 out of Geekdom, a downtown San Antonio coworking community. In the space of 10 months, the startup of nine people has already outgrown its space at Geekdom. The company is opening its new downtown San Antonio headquarters in the Jefferson Bank building on Soledad Street April 1.

Read more: Cannabis Startups Growing Like Weed in San Antonio

As the duo work with cannabis entrepreneurs, Dais and Earle must account for the compliance and regulatory issues surrounding digital advertising and marketing of cannabis-related products, which varies by state in the U.S. Now that cannabis for medical use is legal in 33 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, as well as across Canada, professional growers and cannabis-related businesses are discovering that legalization comes with regulations—many that dictate product labeling and packaging.

The requirements vary by state or country, but often involve child-resistant packaging as well as the information that must be included on the label. When mailed, product packaging must be nondescript to comply with child safety laws.

The Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation, in collaboration with the U.S. National Cannabis Industry Association, recently issued its Regulatory Recommendations for States and Nations.

“Augmented reality is an option that can augment the required minimalistic packaging,” said Dais. “Clients were telling us they needed to stand out in an exploding industry, but they needed to do it in a way that wouldn’t run afoul of regulations.”

The founders sought out The IMG Studio for their expertise in custom software application development that leveraged virtual and augmented reality. The Bleum AR platform will give business owners and brands data-driven insights on consumer behavior while staying compliant with cannabis product labeling and marketing laws.

“The platform allows customers to get much more information from labels and packaging than from conventionally printed material,” said James Chandler, president of The IMG Studio. “It will be a complete point-of-sale system for a cannabis business that will keep business owners legally compliant while offering customers engaging content.”

Read more: The IMG Studio Shapes Visitor Experiences at Convention Center with AR-Enabled Platform

“The Bleum app will enable users to create a ‘wish list’ of products once someone lands in a U.S. state where sales are legal,” Earle said. “You can then go into a dispensary and scan the product’s logo and package to learn for yourself what the product is and what it does.”

Former Golden State Warriors basketball player Matt Barnes watches the Bleum app demo from The IMG Studio's Andrew Jacobson. Courtesy photo.
Former Golden State Warriors basketball player Matt Barnes watches the Bleum app demo from The IMG Studio’s Andrew Jacobson. Courtesy photo.

AR technology can be added to any picture, even one that has already been printed. It can also be programmed to allow the image to be scanned so it can be viewed afterward, rather than having to hold the device over the image. Each label has a special visual cue or micro text that tells the app to load computer-generated images. From there, users can interact with the newly-generated augmented reality.

“By using AR, we are helping our clients showcase their brand with behind-the-scenes content that gives buyers a closer look at product details,” Dais said. “The No. 1 feedback we got from SXSW participants was how they felt this would help educate consumers better as the market continues to grow.”

Augmented reality is making inroads into marketing, from packaging for Legos to wine labels. (Check out Australian Wine brand 19 Crimes, they use AR technology to animate its labels.)

Flowhub is a cannabis point of sales software competitor with more than 300 of the largest U.S. retailers and cultivators as customers. However, Bleum is the first AR-enhanced cannabis software platform that goes beyond a POS platform. Each state has different laws for selling cannabis products, with some requiring cash-only sales, according to Dais.

“Bleum’s primary value will be as an opportunity for brands to tell their stories as they educate consumers,” Dais said. “Dispensary owners can use our app to add to their customer’s experience, helping them compete with larger cannabis businesses.”

A crowd of over 300 people attended the SXSW Bleum app demonstration, with many interested cannabis brands and entrepreneurs interested in the software platform’s capabilities. Leading cannabis companies Champ Energy and CBD Lion are beta testing the Bleum app. The Green Lab has a long-term partnership with both companies and is looking to add more strategic partners as they bring their Bleum app to market.

“The Green Lab is in our first year, and I don’t see an end in sight,” Dais. “We’re determined to use tech as we help cannabis startups gain a foothold in the exploding market.”

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Iris Gonzalez

Iris Gonzalez is a writer based in San Antonio, Texas, covering innovation in emerging tech, cybersecurity, and bioscience startup companies in San Antonio.

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