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SXSW 2018: PhotoBloom AR Brings Photos to Augmented Reality Life

Via AR, PhotoBloom AR brings your printed photos to life with video and audio and it was one of the coolest things on the SXSW show floor.


Augmented reality tech is a looking glass into a future typically reserved for science fiction. AR improves experiences with a layer of immersion and interactivity not seen before and PhotoBloom AR is harnessing this to bring our photographed and printed memories to life.

Until an adequate and comfortable pair of AR spectacles hits the consumer market at a decent price, our smartphones will serve as our lens. At SXSW 2018 I got to see PhotoBloom AR harness this technology in a very cool way.

IMG_0469 from PhotoBloom AR on Vimeo.

On the expo floor, PhotoBloom AR’s CEO Justin Lemus gave me a moment of his time to discuss the project and his journey to this point.

“We are like the Shutterfly for AR and your videos,” he says. “We’re from San Jose, California and we’ve been around for about a year, but this is our first dive into actually taking it to the public.”

You start by uploading your video to the site and a single frame is taken from that video to serve as the image for the printed photo. You then use the app to scan it once you receive it and it comes to life with your uploaded video. As seen in the tweet above, audio is included as well. 

At this time, there’s not really a limit to the amount of video you can attach to an image, but Lemus recommends that creators consider the attention span of users. Also, the videos are linked to cloud storage, so longer videos will take longer to load. Tech is in development to allow the simultaneous viewing of multiple PhotoBloomAR products with video loaded as well.

“My family has been in the printing business for over 40 years and I always liked that feeling of being able to take a picture and share it in a physical space,” he says. “And now, everyone takes video. I think it's kind of a shame they’re left buried in our phones or posted online and we forget about them. So AR was an opportunity to take the old tech that I grew up loving and the new tech that I also love and merge them together.”

Lemus doesn’t have a tech background, but was lucky enough to find some people that believed in his idea. The project has been in the works about a year and a half, but a major test will come when it goes live on Kickstarter sometime next week. I noticed one particular product on their booth’s wall, a painting that looked like a large handprint with David Bowie’s face on it.  Turns out, a friend of Lemus' paints art onto his hand and stamps it onto a canvas, but the finished product doesn’t really show off the full scope of the work done. Not much art really does to the average eye, at least. 

“He has tons of fans, but not a lot of them can afford his paintings," Lemus explains. "Now he uses AR to sell these posters that, when scanned by the app, show the process of how he actually paints the work. It’s an opportunity for him to actually use our company to help sell merch.” Elements like this will be important when the seeking crowdfunding, as consumers and business could find interest in PhotoBloom AR.

Bowie from PhotoBloom AR on Vimeo.

While the full project isn't available yet, you can download the app and see it in action on the PhotoBloom AR website. Stay tuned to Shacknews for more coverage of this AR project, SXSW 2018, and more.

Charles Singletary Jr keeps the updates flowing as the News Editor, breaking stories while investigating the biggest topics in gaming and technology. He's pretty active on Twitter, so feel free to reach out to him @The_CSJR. Got a hot tip? Email him at

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