ZapBox: "Mixed Reality" for $30

Created by Team Zappar

Interactive virtual content in the physical world: play mini-golf, visit Mars, or build an engine in 3D. Then create and share your own content. ZapBox 1.0 is no longer available for purchase, but ZapBox 2.0 is available now. Find out more and order directly from www.zappar.com/zapbox.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Getting Started with your ZapBox
over 2 years 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

ZapBox Deliveries Happening!
over 2 years ago – Tue, Jul 04, 2017 at 10:13:27 PM

Hi ZapBoxers,

We've heard from some UK backers that their ZapBoxes have arrived today!

It's awesome that after all our hard work you finally get the chance to experience the product. This did however catch us a little unawares - we were expecting the products to start being dispatched today, with the beta backers being delivered first.

However we have had some reports that some non-beta backers have also received their kits, and so they were unfortunately unable to try it straight away as the apps weren't public on the app stores.

On Android, we've now switched the beta app we put up last week into "Open Beta" mode. That means everyone should be able to find the ZapBox app in the Play store just by searching for ZapBox (it might take an hour or two for the change take effect).

On iOS, we'll add all UK backers onto the beta list in the next hour. You'll receive an email inviting you to join the beta testing program through TestFlight. We'll also request an "expedited review" of the public app submission from Apple, but adding you to the beta list is the quickest way to make the app available to you on iOS.

Other Shipping Updates

Ship Naked have confirmed that European shipping will also be starting this week, and have advised to allow 2 weeks for deliveries within Europe once your ZapBox has been dispatched.

The US shipment has got through the customs exam. They have released the products to Ship Naked, but unfortunately a sticker to be added to each ZapBox stating the country of manufacture before they will allow onward delivery.

Ship Naked are taking care of this for us, but it will add another delay. Tentative timeline: ZapBoxes arrive at Ship Naked's facility end of this week, stickering project and customs re-examination next week, allowing deliveries from the US centre to start the week commencing 17 July. We'll keep you up-to-date with any alterations to that tentative schedule.

Once dispatched from the US centre, domestic US backers should see delivery happen in 1-2 weeks, and we're told backers elsewhere should allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

Collectors Editions

Those ZapBox superfans who backed us at the "Collector's Edition" level - we'll be dispatching your collectors edition ZapBox from our offices here in London, so you'll just receive your "normal" ZapBox through the standard fulfilment route.

We're designing some super-special exclusive stuff to go with them, which is why you haven't received them yet. It'll be worth it!

Right, we best get on with it...

- Team Zappar

June Roundup
over 2 years ago – Sat, Jul 01, 2017 at 04:22:40 PM

Hi ZapBoxers,

Firstly, apologies for not being as responsive as usual over the last couple of weeks. We know the previous update had backers in the UK and Europe expecting the imminent arrival of their ZapBoxes, and the fact that still hasn’t happened caused some understandable frustration and confusion.

There was a small issue in how we needed to supply the shipping data to Ship Naked, which we were completely focused on resolving. We should however have balanced our desire to resolve it as quickly as possible with the need to keep you all updated, and we’ll definitely aim to do better at that in future.

Anyway, read on for the full details on what’s going on with shipping, along with news of the updated Android beta build which was updated on Thursday.

There's also a heads-up for anyone who missed the Kickstarter campaign but placed a pre-order for ZapBox on BackerKit - we'll be charging your cards in the next couple of days, so we can get those orders processed as soon as the Kickstarter ones are fulfilled.

Where’s My ZapBox?

We’ve now delivered the shipping lists for all Kickstarter backers across to Ship Naked.

This was more complicated (and hence took a bit longer) than anticipated as it turned out we needed to specify exactly how many of each of the four possible ZapBox variants were going to each backer; Ship Naked have to treat them as four separate products for inventory management purposes.

We wrote some scripts to automate most of this (eg Quad Pack backers are allocated one of each variant) but there was still a bit of manual work required to identify backers who had multiple orders across Kickstarter and BackerKit for example. We also made a best-effort attempt to identify different backers with similar addresses (such as the same company name) and tried to ensure they have as few repeats as possible in their combined allocations.

All those details have been passed onto Ship Naked and on from there to the individual fulfilment centres. The UK deliveries are getting underway early next week. We heard on Wednesday from Ship Naked that “our German depot has confirmed they will be aiming to start fulfilment in early July”. We’re trying to pin down a more accurate estimate there, but hopeful that means next week too.

Backers outside of Europe will have their ZapBoxes shipped from a distribution centre in the US. The container arrived safe and sound, but unfortunately was selected to go through a detailed customs exam which added an unexpected delay.

The examination was ongoing on Wednesday but the logistic providers were still expecting the ZapBoxes would reach the distribution center by the end of the week. We’ve again requested an update and will share it in the overall project comments thread as soon as we hear back.

The US shipping details are already over with Ship Naked too, so they’re able to start processing the data now so that onward fulfilment should start very quickly once the products arrive at the distribution centre.

New Android Beta

We put up a new Android beta on Thursday. This brings parity in terms of the app UI and platform features with the version shown on iOS in the previous update a couple of weeks ago - see the walkthrough video in the previous update for how to use it, as the process is the same.

As with the first android beta, camera control is a little different to the iOS build. You should tap the AF icon to lock the focus when looking at a subject a couple of metres away. Then tap the lock icon to switch to a short exposure mode that should give less blur and hence better tracking, as long as your device offers the necessary manual camera APIs.

This build of the app has the same full-screen menu UI as the updated iOS beta. Whenever the menu is displayed we stop the camera feed to avoid wasting resources. Unfortunately the focus and exposure lock settings do not persist across a camera restart, so you’ll need to do the AF and lock procedure whenever you enter the camera view from the menu (i.e once at the start of the map building process, and then again when you launch an experience from the menu).

Our current implementation uses the “standard” mode of the modern android camera API, which allows manual exposure controls and the ability to process the images on the CPU. It is the best fit for our purposes, but in practice most devices seem to be limited to 30 fps through this API. The Google Pixel does offer a 60 fps mode, so we’re hopeful this might set a trend for new devices.

However, we’re aiming to offer the best experience possible on every device so we’re putting a lot of effort into investigating alternatives. We’ve discovered that using the alternative “slow motion” mode of the camera API does give a smooth, low-latency, 60 fps camera preview feed on some popular existing devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S6. This mode is significantly more limited than the standard mode; manual controls are not supported, and getting the preview images onto the CPU for processing is a challenge, but it’s one that we’re already working on.

Pre-Order Backer Update

Since the end of the campaign in December we’ve been taking pre-orders for ZapBox through BackerKit. We haven’t yet charged the cards for those backers yet, but now all of the shipping details for Kickstarter backers are with Ship Naked, we can turn our attention to those who placed pre-orders.

We’ll attempt to take payment from your cards on Monday, so if you’ve changed cards since you placed your order you might want to return to your BackerKit page to update the card details. For Pre-Order backers this is also your last call to update your address details.

After attempting to charge those pre-order cards, we’ll prepare the shipping data for all those that succeed for fulfilment. If the payment fails you’ll get an email from BackerKit with instructions for how to update your card details.

App Release Timelines

As your ZapBoxes will be arriving imminently our next focus is to get a first public version of the app into the app stores. We have split the shipping data into two waves, so beta backers will receive their kits first, and they already have access to the beta apps on both platforms. However the second wave of shipping will follow on directly so it’s important we get an app release into the stores in time for when those backers receive their rewards.

On iOS the App Store review process does take a variable amount of time, and it is possible the reviewers will require some changes to be made before approving the app for public release. To give ourselves the best chance of having the app in the store in time for the arrival of those first ZapBoxes, we’ll be submitting the current iOS app for review this weekend. We’ve improved the framerate in most experiences since the last beta, so now we think it’s in a reasonable shape for a first public release.

On Android the process of moving an app from beta testing to production is much simpler and faster than on iOS, so we’ll keep working on that in beta (aiming to make some more progress on the improved camera pipeline) before pushing it live. The target is still to have the public version live in time for the first arrival of ZapBoxes to non-beta backers.

There’s still plenty of improvements to come for both the app and ZapBox content over coming weeks and months. We’ll go into much more detail on what’s done and what’s still to come on that front in future updates.

Sorry this was such a long update, and a bit of a wall of text, but we hope it answers all your questions.

Have great weekends all!

- Team Zappar

New Beta Walkthrough Video
over 2 years ago – Sun, Jun 11, 2017 at 06:53:07 PM

Hi ZapBoxers,

We had an awesome time at Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara just over a week ago. ZapWorks won the “Auggie” award in the category of “Best Authoring or Publishing Tool”, and ZapBox was really well received too - our small batch sold out within the first two hours! You can read the full show write-up over on the Zappar Blog, which also has links to the videos of all the talks from the Zappar crew.

This week the ZapBox team have all been back together in London pushing hard to get the next beta app completed. The iOS build is done and in TestFlight awaiting Apple’s beta app review. iOS beta backers will receive a notification when the update is ready to install. The android update is underway now and if we don't hit any unexpected issues we should have it live early next week.

Along with the updated beta app we’ve prepared an updated set of print-at-home PDF files including two controllers and a full set of ten world pointcodes. Beta backers will receive a download link for those files in an email from BackerKit later today.

This beta represents a big update in underlying capabilities from the last one - it supports calibrating and undistorting the fish-eye lens adapter, and building world maps on the device itself. Both of these allow for much larger experiences than the “flower and button” from the first beta.

We've also been working hard on the content experiences. The new beta has a launch menu with links to Xylophone, Mini-Golf, and Mission Mars experiences. Right now Mini-Golf is the only one we have published but first versions of the other two should be live early next week. We’ll also be sharing the ZapWorks Studio project file for the Xylophone experience so developers can take a look at how it was put together. The new beta still features the option to load content by scanning a zapcode, so developers can publish their own experiences and view them in the beta app by scanning the zapcode.

There’s a walkthrough video for the iOS beta below explaining the setup process (both with and without lens adapter) and showing the playable Mini-Golf experience.

Not the perfect take, but we went with it as Simon probably wouldn't have got another hole-in-one :)

When using the lens adapter it’s important to check that it is sitting flat on the lens. Devices where the camera is flush with back surface are fine, as are devices like the iPhone 6 family that have a small lens bump that fits entirely inside the bottom part of the lens adapter.

The iPhone 7 family has a larger bump that prevents the bottom of the adapter from touching the device surface, and the 7 Plus has the dual lens design with an irregularly-shaped bump. Although careful positioning of the plastic clip is often enough to get the lens adapter flat on these devices, we would recommend finding some way of providing a larger flat surface for the lens to sit on. You might already by using a case on your device that provides a suitably flat surface, but alternatively you could use some of the excess cardboard from the sheet of world pointcodes to cut out a larger surround for the camera bump to help in this case.

Shipping Update

We’ll be releasing the shipping addresses for beta backers to the UK and Europe distribution centres on Monday as we’re now pretty confident the beta apps will be live by the time you start to receive your ZapBoxes.

The latest update we have had from our shipping partner on the batch going to the US is that the cargo is out at sea and scheduled to arrive in Boston on June 24th. We should have some more info next week on estimates for unloading the cargo, getting it to the distribution centre, and out to your addresses. Beta backers can use the print-at-home PDFs to get a feel for ZapBox before it arrives, and for the everyone else we'll continue working hard on improving the app and content side of things in the meantime so you should be able to expect a great first-time experience when your ZapBox arrives :)

That's all for this time. Enjoy the beta!

 - Team Zappar

Quick Progress Update and an Exciting Week Ahead
over 2 years ago – Tue, May 30, 2017 at 11:58:23 PM

Hi ZapBoxers!

Just a quick post today to bring you up to speed with progress and to let you know what we're up to for the rest of this week.

Shipping and App Update

The European and UK distribution centres have now received their pallets of ZapBoxes. The pallets going to the US distribution centre to fulfil orders from the US and the rest of the world have had all their customs paperwork sorted out and are now on the way across the Atlantic.

A new beta app update will be out this week for Developer Bundle backers, along with updated print-at-home materials.

We'd previously intended to do an earlier beta build update without full support for fish-eye lens calibration. However, given that European backers will shortly be receiving their ZapBoxes, we instead redoubled our efforts on getting fish-eye support in the build. We didn't want to be in the situation of having ZapBoxes arriving with backers but without this support in the app; the fish-eye lens adapter has a large impact on tracking field-of-view and immersion and we want you to experience that from Day 1.

As soon as the beta update is live in the stores we'll kick off the final leg of shipping for those UK and European backers with the Developer Bundle. We're hoping that means next week will see the first ZapBoxes arriving with backers.

We'll carry on working on the few remaining rough edges from the beta to get a public app release in the stores. Then we can commence the final deliveries for those European backers without the Developer Bundle.

The app release process shouldn't add any further delays to the kits being dispatched from the US distribution centre. Developer Bundle backers will be processed first and with luck we'll start to see ZapBoxes arriving with those backers before the end of June.

Team Zappar at Augmented World Expo

This is a busy and exciting week for ZapBox. There's a team of 5 of us over in Santa Clara, California for Augmented World Expo 2017 (AWE for short) - one of the largest AR/MR events on the calendar. Zappar have attended the show in previous years, but for this year ZapBox is our main focus.

It should look a little something like this...
It should look a little something like this...

Back when we were initially planning ZapBox the timing of the show presented a perfect opportunity to begin talking about ZapBox as a product, rather than the idea/project/campaign that had been the story so far. Despite being a little behind the timeline we'd hoped for, that is a story that still hangs together - we have the final physical components manufactured and on their way around the world, the app is approaching feature-complete and submission to the app stores, and we have a small set of demo experiences to illustrate the potential of ZapBox (and to demonstrate that it does really work!).

Both Simon and Connell have speaking slots at the show, and we're also thrilled to have been awarded one of the 5-minute slots in the main show press conference to introduce ZapBox to those who haven't seen it before and to encourage attendees and journalists to our booth to try it themselves. All in all, AWE offers a fantastic opportunity to build awareness of ZapBox, garner some more press coverage, and to continue growing the ZapBox ecosystem and community.

We've got Booth 208 which is in a great location - funnily enough right next to the HoloLens one! We love meeting backers in person, so if anyone is coming along to the show then please drop by for a chat, it would be awesome to meet you.

We have also air-freighted out a few crates of ZapBoxes (we'll have just under 100 with us on the show floor). If you're a Kickstarter backer attending the show we're happy to let you pick up your ZapBox in person - let us know in the comments that you're coming along and we'll put one aside for you. Bring some ID for when you come for the pickup. Due to the very limited numbers we can only offer one per backer; if you pledged for a multipack the remaining ones will still be dispatched to you from the main shipment.

AWE allows selling products on the booth, so any of our small batch that aren't claimed by Kickstarter backers will be sold during the event. We’re pricing these significantly higher than the Kickstarter pricing at $50 each. After we run out of units on site we'll be encouraging people to place pre-orders (where they will join the back of the queue).

We thought long and hard about this decision. We don't want to do anything to undermine the trust and respect of all of you - our awesome Kickstarter backers who believed in the project from the start, invested early on, and have been nothing but supportive throughout. Getting your rewards to you as soon as we can remains our absolute priority. However having some small-scale retail availability on the booth really helps drive the message that ZapBox is now a product rather than a project, and we think we’ve found a good balance between those concerns. We can guarantee that this is a one-off and that there will be no other retail availability of ZapBox before we’ve fulfilled all Kickstarter and Pre-Order backers.

Thanks for your continuing support and hope to see some of you here at AWE! If we don't have time for a full Kickstarter Update post we're sure the Zappar social media feeds will keep you up-to-date with all the excitement of the show.

- Team Zappar