This draft will soon be appearing in a major Asian newspaper. Once the newspaper version appears online, this one will be taken down.
Stephen Black and Sayuri Okayama are preparing the Southeast Asian food industry for the Augmented Reality revolution. Their partner in this endeavor is Bubiko Foodtour, a “little chef from Thailand”, who is on her way to becoming AR’s first superstar. The three are blazing a unique trail across the region, sharing their insights on AR, as well as researching the culinary world of Southeast Asia.
Most recently based in Singapore, Black, Okayama and Foodtour left the Lion City in February, first stopping in Johor Bahru. There, they experienced a full range of food culture: from family-run warungs to the Imagineering Institute, a pioneer in creating virtual food experiences. After stops in Jakarta and Bandung, they traveled to Kuala Lumpur, where they attended both the Malaysian International Food and Beverage Trade Show, and Cooler Lumpur, a weekend showcase of AR and other technologies.
The trio are currently in Ipoh, after stops in the Cameron Highlands and southern Thailand. With these visits, Black, Okayama and Foodtour learn about local foods and, in turn, explain how AR technology will soon be available on hundreds of millions of phones. ” AR will have a huge impact upon supermarkets and restaurants,“ Black says. He suggests that companies prepare for AR now, in order to get maximum benefits from the first mover advantage.
“AR is the future, “ added Okayama, ”easily accessible to anyone, it offers unlimited creative possibilities. It combines the best of cinema, theatre and the written word. Bubiko is ready for all of this. She’s Charlie Chaplin, Hello Kitty and Anthony Bourdain, all rolled into one!” Besides business ideas, Black and Okayama introduce people to Bubiko’s colleagues, The Doughbots and Secret Donut World. “With these charming characters and original software, our company aims to be the Pixar of AR.” Black, who has a degree in Photographic Fine Art from the Rochester Institute of Technology, has worked with CNN, France 2, Fuji TV and other international media companies. One of his eight books, i ate tiong bahru, is a bestseller in Singapore. Okayama is experienced in the travel and hospitality industries.
“Ipoh’s reputation for great food was a major reason for coming here. Plus, the natural surroundings, the town’s history and architecture; this a great base. With places like pasar malam, Little India and the huge flea market on Sundays, there are many ways to learn about Southeast Asia. Recently, in Ipoh, Black did an unusual project. From the roof of the Abby Hotel, he did a live, 72 hour Facebook broadcast. He shared food research, read from his books, played videos about art, food and music- and introduced the world to Bubiko Foodtour.
"The live broadcast saw me going to the streets and visiting interesting shops, rain or shine; adding local flavour to the programme for my international audience. It was informative and all in good fun. I’m looking forward to doing this again-but probably not for 72 hours. Bubiko enjoyed it, but all she did was dance occasionally," he quipped.
“We plan to be in Ipoh a while longer. I’m staying near the Kinta River, between Old Town and New Town. We explore in the mornings and late afternoon, to avoid the heat. The British architecture reminds us of Singapore. The food is fantastic. Every meal is an insight into Malay, Indian and/or Chinese culture, especially the spices! Bubiko likes it too!" Black said with a smile.
The character of Bubiko came naturally to the multi-talented Black, whose background also includes conceptual art, creative direction for a gamemaking company and production work for Cartoon Network. “It was Sayuri’s idea to use an actual Thai doll as a starting point. Now we are testing our own character ideas, refining her face and personality. Her adventures are a fun way to inform people about the possibilities Apple and Google are adding to our phones. Now, AR is unknown, but it will soon be as common as GPS.”
Bubiko is also a photographer, and her adventures in Ipoh have resulted in a photo portfolio. Available on Amazon, the ebook is entitled 'IPOH: 88 iPhone photographs'.An essay about Bubiko's experiences also appears in the book Black is writing about his experiences in Southeast Asia.
As the trio’s unusual tour continues, Bubiko Foodtour’s fans on Instagram and Facebook are increasing. Soon Bubiko will be sharing meals with millions of people. Perhaps Bubiko will be bigger than Pokemon- and Ipoh hosted her first!