While the name “Coolhobo” might conjure up an image of an old-timey drifter with a bindle and a sweet leather jacket, it’s actually a slight mispronunciation of the Chinese word for “carrot” (胡萝卜).
Based in Shenzen, China, Coolhobo is an early-stage startup that does augmented reality shopping and is aimed at Chinese Millennials. Though it could be used for any type of shopping, the company is starting with groceries. Coolhobo is creating a mobile app that allows shoppers to find desired products in a store, discover more information about them and share their experiences in a social setting to make shopping more fun.
As Coolhobo Co-Founder and CEO Loïc Kobes explained it to me, when the app is launched, users will be able to choose a product they are looking for (for example, a particular bread), and the app will tell them what store close by carries it. Once in the store, a cute Coolhobo virtual assistant pops up in the app to direct the user to the product’s location. Customers point their camera at the item and an array of floating information flitters about on-screen about the product, including nutrition and preparation information, as well as reviews from other customers.
Show is better than tell, so here’s a Coolhobo demo video that walks you through the experience:
Kobes said that Chinese consumers really like imported products, but there isn’t a lot of information about them. Coolhobo provides that information, and can help customers choose between two similar imported items. But even once they choose something, “People need help to understand how to prepare it, how to cook it,” said Kobes.
Kobes described Coolhobo as a B2B and B2C company, and said he’s in partnership talks with a number of Chinese and international retailers. He said the app is scheduled to launch in June or July. Kobes took an earlier version of Coolhobo through the SOSV accelerator program, and is currently raising a seed round of funding.
According to Kobes, China is far ahead of the U.S. when it comes to shopping experiences, and, in particular, integrating mobile technology into them. This summer, we’ll see if Coolhobo’s augmented reality will be enough of a carrot for stores and consumers to sign up for the experience.