ZapBox: "Mixed Reality" for $30

Created by Team Zappar

Interactive virtual content in the physical world: play mini-golf, visit Mars, or paint in 3D. Then create and share your own content.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

ZapBox 2.0: This changes everything*.
7 months ago – Thu, May 31, 2018 at 06:16:10 PM

Hi ZapBoxers!

[*] if by “everything”, you mean how big the box is.

We haven’t posted an update for a while, but now we’re finally able to share what we’ve been working on with all things ZapBox.

ZapBox App Version 2.0

Firstly, there is an app update that we expect to be live in the app stores next week.

This is the culmination of almost a year of behind-the-scenes work and we’re so excited to finally be bringing it to you all. Here are the highlights of the ZapBox app, version 2.0:

  • We’ve completely rethought how tracking the world map is implemented, and prioritized smoothness of tracking. Say goodbye to your content ‘jumping’ when you cover up some of your world pointcodes!
  • The triggers on the controllers can now be detected and tracked by the app, and are no longer just another one of those Kickstarter fidgety things!
  • There’s some awesome new content (and a new launch menu that we can update on-the-fly without needing app updates) - check out the winning entry from our Christmas Hackathon, ZapBox Pop!
  • Much improved calibration and map building flows. You can also separately calibrate the camera both with and without a fish-eye lens!
  • Full iPhone X support!
  • We’ve updated the underlying Zappar platform bringing exciting new features such as dynamic lighting!
  • I’m sure there’s more but I’ve exhausted my exclamation mark quota!

Here’s a really nice video showing the much smoother world tracking, trigger support, and dynamic lighting all coming together to deliver something which is super awesome. We’ll link this experience in the new launch menu too, so you can try it out for yourselves.

This is so much fun.

ZapBox “Cardware” 2.0

ZapBox was brought to life by all of you lovely Kickstarter backers, and ZapBox 1.0 was our first attempt at making a physical product. Overall we’re pretty happy with how it all turned out, and we hope you agree the final product we delivered was a big step forward from the early prototypes we were using in the campaign page and video.

Although we were really proud of what we delivered with 1.0, it was not the perfect product. The major flaw with the initial design was that we prioritised the “prebuilt, ready-to-go” aspect of the unboxing experience without considering the impact on the shipping cost. In hindsight it’s obvious that price is a key differentiator for ZapBox, and we should definitely have given more weight to the impact on shipping cost when making those design decisions.

So allow us to proudly present the next iteration of the ZapBox Cardware, ZapBox 2.0

🎉🎉🎉🎉

ZapBox 2.0 - More awesome. Less weight, size, and shipping cost!

So what’s different, and what’s stayed the same?

The important thing to note for Kickstarter backers is that the key components of the kit haven’t changed - there is still a headset with head strap, the same fish-eye lens adapter as 1.0, a set of world pointcodes, and two controllers with triggers. When in use the set is equivalent to the original ZapBox kits, and all ZapBox content and app updates will be 100% compatible with both versions of the cardware.

The big change is obviously the new packaging format. ZapBox 2.0 is roughly half the weight and one-eighth of the volume of the 1.0 design. That’s going to mean much cheaper shipping (we can’t say exactly how much cheaper right now, as this time we’re actually going to work it out before setting the shipping cost…). The new format is also much easier to deliver as it can be posted straight through a letterbox, and it works much better for bulk orders, direct mail, exhibitions, events, and education - all of which are great opportunities for ZapBox that the 2.0 design will really help with.

The controllers come with the complex trigger mechanism part pre-assembled but the rest of the parts are flat-packed into sheets. We think they actually look awesome like that - huge props to Steven and Petra for leading the charge on the design work. Putting the controllers together is actually really fun too! No glue is required to construct the controllers, it’s all just popping out the elements and folding them into place. Check out the construction video if you want to see how easy it is.

Design-wise with the controllers we have made a few tweaks to fix some issues we have seen in some of our 1.0 kits. The trigger has been re-designed to avoid the glue coming unstuck along the front, and the collar mechanism has been adjusted to give a smoother and straighter motion. The “diamond” on the controller now has flaps to fold all the top sides together, giving a stronger shape that won’t pop out during use. All nice tweaks that we were able to make to the design whilst keeping 100% compatibility with ZapBox 1.0 kits.

The headset has undergone a few design tweaks to accommodate the flat-pack design and now features the larger lenses typically used with current Google Cardboard devices. The camera cut-out is also slightly larger for better device compatibility when the fish-eye lens is attached.

The world pointcodes are the same, although we have reduced the number from 10 to 8 to save on weight. We did use the spare space on those sheets to also provide some simple cardboard spacers that can help the fish-eye lens adapter to sit flat on devices with camera bumps.

All-in-all it’s a set of small tweaks to the contents, and a big change in the packaging. In short it’s the future of ZapBox.

When Can I Get One?

There’s a team from Zappar over at Augmented World Expo in the US this week. They have a very limited supply of pre-production samples of ZapBox 2.0 with them to sell at the show. It’s fair to say Connell was pretty excited that they arrived at our booth on time!

Connell really loves his ZapBox 2.0

If you’re at AWE, pop by booth 711 to get a look at the new 2.0 kit and to try out the updated app.

There are a number of slight alterations that we want to make before pressing the button on the full production run, which will then take place over the summer. We expect to have stock ready to sell by around October.

We’re also taking the opportunity to rethink how we fulfil orders for ZapBox 2.0 to ensure orders are dispatched as quickly as possible after being placed. We’re not going to run pre-orders for ZapBox 2.0 whilst we finalise all the details. If you need your ZapBox fix before then we still have some remaining stock of 1.0 which can be purchased through the BackerKit page.

Collector’s Edition Backers

We need to end this update with an apology - we’ve still not sent out the Collectors Edition 1.0 ZapBoxes 😬. We’re really sorry about that, we just carefully labelled the box with them in and organised them away under a table, and then clean forgot about it.

To apologise properly for our failure to send these out in a reasonable timeframe, we’ll also throw in a couple of signed ZapBox 2.0 kits for each of those Collector’s Edition backers. We hope that will make it up to you.

Phew, that was a long one. We’ll post more about the app updates when they are live in the stores.

Happy ZapBoxing! The future's going to be awesome.

- Team Zappar

Wow, what a year!
12 months ago – Sat, Dec 23, 2017 at 07:13:20 PM

Hi ZapBoxers,

Happy Christmas!

We received an email from Kickstarter last week reminding us it was the anniversary of the successful completion of our ZapBox campaign, and such a milestone definitely deserves a project update. It’s a good time to look back at what we’ve achieved, and also update you all on what else we've been working on and what's still to come next year.

Looking Back

So let’s begin with a look back at an incredible first year for ZapBox.

Your ZapBoxes started being shipped out from our distribution centres around the end of June. That was a couple of months later than we hoped, due to a combination of a slightly overambitious schedule and a bit of bad luck with the largest shipment being selected for a deep inspection at US customs, resulting in an additional requirement to add origin stickers on all of the units. We got all that sorted out and all backers should have received their rewards by now.

There are however still around 100 backers who have not yet filled in their BackerKit survey with their address details so we haven’t been able to dispatch those rewards. BackerKit should have been sending regular reminder emails but if for some reason you haven’t been getting them then you can retrieve your survey from https://zapbox.backerkit.com.

On the software side the first version of the ZapBox app was released in the app stores around the middle of the year. Although we had the core pointcode mapping and tracking code working in time to film the Kickstarter campaign video last year, we had underestimated the amount of work involved in making a fully consumer-ready app. There's still more improvements to come here into next year.

In terms of content we had the mini-golf experience ready for the app launch, but the others have taken longer than we had hoped. We finished up the Xylophone experience and launched that in-app at the start of November, and we have since shared the source project file for this over on the ZapWorks forum so developers can use it as an example for how to put a more complex ZapBox project together.

To celebrate, here’s a festive tune from Tommy Antonio (friend of Zappar and professional musician):

 

New ZapBox Content!

Today we have made the “Mission Mars” experience live in the ZapBox app. This is a ZapBox conversion of one of the AR projects we produced in partnership with StoneOak Media for their Rockwell Adventures series of STEM learning resources, so we'd like to thank the team at StoneOak for allowing us to re-use the content for ZapBox.

Both the Xylophone and Mission Mars experiences will work best using table-top world maps. For Xylophone you can use the slider when it first loads to set the height of the notes – with a table-top map you’ll want to set this to near the bottom so you can easily play the notes.

We’ll improve the map-building instructions in a future app release. In short the trick is to “rotate” around the codes, keeping as many in view as possible. Start by viewing the codes on the table from a 45-degree angle or so, and then smoothly move and rotate the device around so you’re viewing them from above, whilst keeping the codes in the centre of the image throughout. Once you get the hang of it map building should be pretty quick.

Back in November we held a launch event for ZapBox in South Africa. This took places in the Two Oceans Aquarium, and to mark the occasion we produced an educational ZapBox experience where you can learn more about two awesome creatures of the deep. We'll add this to the Launch menu in next app release, but you can already access this content by scanning the zapcode below through the "Scan Code" option (again this one is designed for table-top use).

Recent Developments

In other news our Computer Vision team have recently implemented support for the controller triggers, which were added to ZapBox as a stretch goal in the original Kickstarter project. The triggers are exposed to content developers as both a simple on/off input or as a full analog value. We weren't expecting the analog value to be super-accurate but it seems good enough in practice to allow for some interesting content experiences. There’s a sneak peak at the triggers in action below. The new app release early next year will feature this new functionality.

 

Finally we’ve just closed the office for the Christmas week with a two-day hackathon where the Zappar crew arranged themselves into teams and built ZapBox experiences. We'll dedicate some more time to polishing these experiences in the New Year before sharing them out to the community but we think you'll really enjoy them.

Looking Ahead to 2018

2017 has been a great first year for ZapBox but there's still more for us to do to truly fulfill the commitments we made in the campaign.

Firstly we still need to complete the dancing game and the creative “ZapBrush” experiences that we promised as part of the campaign. We decided these experiences would work best with the controller triggers, so now that support is implemented we can finish work on those pieces of content. We'll aim to have them both live in Q1 2018.

Collaborative experiences were another stretch goal in the campaign. We’ve done some investigation on the best way to implement this but it remains quite a big job. We are however committed to delivering that support in 2018.

In parallel with the content and platform work we’ll continue to update the core app itself, both to improve the quality and performance of the pointcode tracking code and also making tweaks to the UI and UX. There will be an updated app release out early in 2018 with an improved calibration and map building flow, along with the first round of performance updates.

Another key focus for 2018 will be improving the quality of the ZapBox experience on Android devices. Unfortunately the official manual camera API on Android is not universally supported but we have discovered some undocumented approaches that can improve things on many popular devices.

So in summary, 2017 has been a great year. Not everything has gone exactly to plan but we’ve made lots of progress and are really looking forward to finally completing all our ZapBox campaign commitments next year.

Thanks so much for all of your support to date, ZapBox really wouldn’t have happened without all of you and we couldn’t be more grateful for the support, or more excited about what the future has in store.

Have a great Christmas everyone, and here’s to an even more awesome 2018!

- Team Zappar

Fulfilment from US has begun!
over 1 year ago – Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 03:33:10 PM

Hi ZapBoxers!

Most of the fulfilment for Kickstarter backers in Europe is now complete.

Those of you outside of Europe who have been reading along with our updates will know all about the holdup on the shipment going to the US distribution centre due to customs requirements. The great news is the shipment was approved by customs last week, and fulfilment proper was able to start on Tuesday this week.

We're still getting the batch of direct Kickstarter orders out first, but will get the shipping lists for the later pre-order backers over to Ship Naked next week.

We've copied an update straight from Ship Naked at the end of this post with more details on the fulfilment process for those backers whose products are being dispatched from the US centre.

That's it for this time. We're still working on the performance updates and Android camera improvements for the next app release and aiming to get a new release out around mid-August with those improvements.

As always, thanks so much for all your support and patience :)

- Team Zappar

Greetings ZapBox Backers!

As of July 24, 2017, we have begun to pick, pack, and ship ZapBox reward packages out to you. If we run into any snags, we'll provide an update to Zappar so they can let you know here. We’ll also provide them with another update once all picking, packing, and shipping is complete.

You should receive a shipping notification to the email you included in your survey or pledge manager when your package label is printed or scanned through the local facility. Be sure to check your spam folder!

Thank you for your support of ZapBox and Zappar!

- Ship Naked

ZapBox app now live in the iOS App Store
over 1 year ago – Sun, Jul 09, 2017 at 09:38:12 PM

Hi all,

Another quick update here - Apple approved the ZapBox app submission yesterday, so ZapBox is now live in the App Store for everyone.

We'd recommend anyone on the beta switch over to the public App Store build - it does a better job of maintaining a 60 FPS feed from the camera.

We've heard from a few people struggling in the map building phase, so Simon's written up some more detailed notes on what's needed to make this work well over on the forum here. We'll incorporate this into the main setup guide pages next week. 

Our focus over the next couple of weeks will be on improving the performance of the pointcode detection and tracking code; this will give a smoother experience on more devices and should reduce the heat / battery drain caused by ZapBox a bit. We'll also continue working on improvements to our Android camera pipeline.

Finally we'll look to get the first version of the Xylophone experience live for you to try. We will also be sharing the source ZapWorks Studio project file for this as it provides a nice example of putting simple content together involving interaction between the controllers and other virtual objects in the world.

If you're keen to get started making your own ZapBox content in ZapWorks Studio already, then take a look at this forum thread where we converted the "Flower and Button" demo from the first beta to work with the current app.

- Team Zappar

Getting Started with your ZapBox
over 1 year ago – Wed, Jul 05, 2017 at 04:46:47 PM

Hi ZapBoxers!

Just a quick one to point out we’ve added a page to our ZapBox mini-site that has some helpful hints on getting the ZapBox app and getting set up for those who have received their rewards in the last couple of days.

https://www.zappar.com/zapbox/setup/

We’ll keep that page up-to-date as we release new versions.

We’d also like to highlight the ZapBox forum, which is a good place to post any questions you may have. That way we can keep the questions and answers in public so everyone can learn from them, and threads keep things a bit more organised than Kickstarter comments.

https://forum.zap.works/c/zapbox/

Can’t wait for your ZapBox to arrive?

If you’ve got access to the Developer Bundle (either if your pledge level included beta access or you purchased the add-on in BackerKit) then you’ll have access to the Print-at-Home PDF files and the beta apps so you can get a taste of the ZapBox experience (although it is much improved by the fish-eye adapter included in the kit).

For everyone else, don’t worry too much – there’s still a lot of work we’re doing to improve the app and content, so you’ll benefit from a more polished experience when your ZapBox does arrive.

- Team Zappar