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What is ZapBox?
ZapBox is an affordable way to experience Mixed Reality and Room-Scale Virtual Reality using the power of your smartphone.
ZapBox combines physical components with advanced software to provide magical Mixed Reality experiences. Insert your smartphone into the ZapBox headset, start the ZapBox app, and step into a whole new world of interactive content.
The ZapBox app displays the live feed from your smartphone’s camera so you can see what’s around you in the room. The magic part is that it can also display virtual objects that appear anchored to the real world, so you can change your viewpoint by simply moving around.
That’s pretty awesome already, but that’s not all. ZapBox also works out the 3D position and orientation of the included pair of handheld controllers to offer natural interaction with content simply by reaching out and touching it.
This combination of a view of the real world combined with virtual objects that appear to be anchored in 3D space is known as Mixed Reality. For just $30 including shipping ZapBox unlocks this entirely new medium by making it accessible, affordable, and enjoyable for all. Huzzah!
You may have heard about Mixed Reality (MR) before, perhaps from Magic Leap or Microsoft HoloLens, but the technology is not currently very widely accessible - a HoloLens Developer Edition is now available but will set you back $3,000.
We set ourselves the challenge of creating a much more affordable MR solution. How could we make Magic Leap, “Magic Cheap”? :)
Inspired by Google Cardboard, we realised we could combine the power of existing smartphones with some simple physical components to offer MR experiences. With ZapBox, the equation is simple: More Cardboard = More Awesome.
What will I be able to do with ZapBox?
We’ll provide free experiences with ZapBox at launch so you can jump into Mixed Reality right away. The video at the top shows some of the content you’ll be able to try for yourself, including:
- Painting - ZapBrush, where you can paint in 3D space and walk around your creations
- Mini-golf - play mini-golf in your hallway complete with an animated windmill
- Dancing mini-game - Wii Fit meets brain training, a fun mini-game to test your dexterity
- Xylophone - Play a virtual musical instrument
- Explore Mars - Send a probe to the surface of Mars and discover fun facts
The content we build here at Zappar HQ for ZapBox is only the start - ZapBox is also fully open to developers. Using our ZapWorks platform we’re empowering the creative community so they can make their own experiences and easily share them with ZapBox users, straight into the ZapBox app - there’s no need to submit and manage separate app submissions for each piece of content.
All of that, in a box, including shipping, for just $30. We’re crazy good to you guys.
To keep shipping costs down we’re planning to flat-pack the headset and controllers but don’t let that scare you - assembly will be straightforward and full instructions will be provided. You’ll be ready to go in no time.
What’s not in the box, but is still important?
ZapBox App - The free ZapBox app is your one-stop shop to experience ZapBox content. You’ll use the app to build a map of the codes you’ve placed around your room, and then to browse and experience content.
ZapWorks Studio - ZapWorks is our content authoring platform which allows developers to create their own content for ZapBox, and to instantly preview and share their content with other users through the ZapBox app. ZapWorks Studio is available for free for non-commercial use.
Smartphone - You'll need a smartphone to use ZapBox. For iOS users an iPhone 6 or later is recommended. On Android, most higher-end devices from the last few years should be fine, but see the FAQ at the bottom of the page for more details.
A closer look at the stretch goals
How ZapBox works
ZapBox includes a set of physical markers (you guessed it, made of cardboard) that you place around your room. We call these markers “pointcodes” and we’ve designed them to be detected and identified in camera images very quickly, even when they are small or if there are many of them in view at once.
Thanks to the joy of maths [or math for our American friends] and our crack team of software wizards the ZapBox app is able to build a map of where all the pointcodes are in your room, and then use that map to work out your exact position and viewing direction using the pointcodes it can see at any time. We also use pointcodes on the ZapBox controllers to allow us to fully track them in 3D whenever they are visible to the camera.
As well as Mixed Reality, ZapBox can also offer Room-Scale Virtual Reality experiences. The virtual content can completely cover up the camera feed shown in the background, putting you into an immersive, entirely virtual environment that will react to your movement in space. Any motion of the controllers in the real world will also be accurately mapped into the VR view to provide natural interaction with content.
ZapBox vs Other Devices
There’s a lot of devices out there promising brand new Mixed Reality or Virtual Reality experiences. ZapBox occupies a unique position in terms of the amount of functionality available at a previously unheard of price-point.
Check out the table below for how the different devices stack up. We may be slightly biased, but you can’t deny ZapBox ticks a lot of boxes for just $30!
How do I get started with my ZapBox?
Getting set up with ZapBox is super-simple. Place your pointcodes, get the app, and away you go. You’ll be enjoying sweet Mixed Reality content within minutes. Check out the infographic below for some more detailed steps.
How do I develop content for ZapBox?
With your support and the imagination of the creative developer community the possibilities really are endless.
The good news is that our R&D team have cracked the heavy lifting stuff of making the underlying technology work from a smartphone (what else were the PhDs for?!).
Now the fun really begins. We’re developing the ZapBox app; plumbing the code into our ZapWorks platform; building the content experiences to ship with ZapBox; and finalising the product specification for manufacture with our partners.
If we hit our goal we plan on having ZapBox in your hands by 31st April 2017.
Who are we, and how do we know so much about this stuff?
Glad you asked!
We're Zappar, a young and friendly company based in (sometimes) sunny London. We are world leaders in mobile AR & VR, with many years of experience both in research that furthers the capability of the technology and in campaigns that harness its current potential.
We have a lot of experience working with both big and small companies. We recently partnered with Rovio, the creators of Angry Birds, in the launching of the largest AR campaign to date, and just last month completed a project for a local school free of charge simply to inspire more children to read.
One learning that we've taken from our wide ranging experience is that the audience for this brave new interactive world is as diverse as it is global and we fully believe it to be a wonderful thing. In our view, great technology shouldn't be something that is only available to a few and likewise we want anyone & everyone to be able to enjoy the thrill of experiencing “zaps”.
We’re on a mission to democratize AR and VR, and now MR too thanks to ZapBox! If another two letter acronym ending in R pops up we’ll probably be all over that too!
We’re an established company with a track record of producing high-quality software and content, but we haven’t attempted to make a physical product until now. To be able to offer ZapBox at such a low price-point and print so much cardboard (we <3 cardboard) we need to order the various components in bulk, and with your pledges we’ll have the confidence to make such a bulk order and know the demand for ZapBox is out there.
More importantly, the community of users and developers is going to play a fundamental role in the success of ZapBox as a whole. We think Kickstarter is a fantastic way to build and love that community, in addition to making ZapBox available to the world!
We want to make Mixed Reality accessible, affordable, and enjoyable for all; whether you're an experienced developer, hobbyist creator, or someone looking to experience the cutting edge of what's possible in the comfort of your living room.
We really need your support to make ZapBox happen. If you think this sounds cool we’d love to have you as a backer so together we can get on with making the future.