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. ZapBox 2.0 will be available very soon directly from www.zappar.com/zapbox

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Remaining surveys sent!
about 2 years ago – Fri, Apr 07, 2017 at 11:21:05 PM

Hi ZapBoxers,

Just a quick note from your friends at Zappar HQ to let you know that the remaining surveys have been sent. Huzzah!

These surveys are the ones for people who backed at the $30 "ZapBox" tier. Everyone else should have already received theirs a couple of months ago - we don't need any more information from you, so fear not! :)

For those "ZapBox" tier backers who are just receiving their survey links, please fill in your shipping details ASAP so we can lock down the shipment plans. If we don’t have your details by end-of-day UK time on April 19th, your shipment will be delayed as we’ll be locking the responses and passing the information on to our fulfilment partner at that point.

We’d recommend just filling it in right now so there’s no danger of you forgetting it later on!

Oh, and check out this shot hot from the production line... exciting stuff!

- Team Zappar

Production and Delivery Update
about 2 years ago – Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 07:47:40 PM

Hi ZapBoxers!

This post gives an update on the production and delivery plan for your ZapBoxes. In short manufacturing is now underway but we are running slightly behind our original estimates. Full details of the revised schedule below.

Production update

The final designs for all elements of ZapBox (headset, controllers, pointcodes, and packaging) were completed, signed off, and delivered to our production partner Mr. Cardboard a couple of weeks ago.

We ended up making a few more design changes than expected which led to more rounds of samples than originally anticipated, but rest assured these changes are all about improving the product. We're thrilled to have finished the design stage, and really happy with the final results.

The tooling, printing and die cutting of the cardboard is well underway now and assembly is kicking off in earnest this week. Exciting times!

Delivery schedule

The current schedule we are working to has manufacturing completed and ZapBoxes shipped from the factory to distribution centres by the end of April.

The majority of the rewards in the Kickstarter campaign were listed with an estimated delivery in April, so this does represent a slight slippage of the schedule we'd originally hoped for. We're really sorry for this. The main reasons for the delay are the additional design iterations mentioned above and the work required to design the trigger for the controllers.

We're still working out the exact logistics of shipping these out to you all so we can't yet offer any more detailed guidance on exactly when to expect your ZapBox to arrive. We will post updates on this as soon as we've finalized the plan (very soon!).

Backers at the ZapBox level will be receiving their surveys soon to provide us with their shipping addresses. We’ll post another update just before pressing the button so you’ll know to look out for it.

Developer Bundle update

The Developer Bundle reward level was listed with an estimated delivery in March, based on our original plan to do the manufacturing and shipping of those rewards in a separate batch. Our current plan is instead to do all the manufacturing to fulfil the Kickstarter rewards in a single batch.

We recognise this change in plan represents more of a delay for those Developer Bundle backers, and we want to make it up to you. Here’s how:

  • As a gesture of apology we’re going to increase the number of zapcodes included in the Developer Bundle from 10 to 15.
  • We’ll also update the beta app and print-at-home materials out in the next couple of weeks that will add support for on-device map building and third-party headsets, which will bring the beta experience much closer to the final ZapBox one. We’ll post another update soon about what to expect from this next beta release.
  • Finally we’ll ensure that the individual shipments for Developer Bundle backers get priority when the ZapBoxes arrive at the distribution centres.

We’ve just done the third batch of updates to the lists of email addresses with access to the beta apps on both iOS and Android. We’ve also followed up individually with anyone who has reported problems getting access. Please leave a comment below if you’re still having issues.

The 15 zapcodes will be added to your personal ZapWorks accounts this week. If you signed up for a business trial on ZapWorks rather than as a personal user then you should also add a personal account to your ZapWorks login now. You can do that from this page.

ZapBox evangelism

ZapBox would never have happened without the amazing support of our Kickstarter backers. You guys will always have a really special place in the ZapBox story, and in our hearts! We now have over 2000 backers when including those who pre-ordered after the end of the campaign, and have been totally blown away by that level of support.

We knew from the start that a successful Kickstarter campaign would be only the beginning of the ZapBox journey. To deliver on its full potential we need to continue to spread the word and further build the community, which is why we've been out at various events showing off a prototype version of the kit, sharing our excitement and generally banging the ZapBox drum (or xylophone to be precise!).

Simon on the showcase stage at MWC.
Simon on the showcase stage at MWC.

One recent opportunity was an invitation from the organisers of Mobile World Congress to present ZapBox on the Showcase Stage. MWC is a huge show with over 100,000 attendees, so this was a great opportunity to present ZapBox to an audience eager to see innovation in mobile technology.

As well as presenting ZapBox on the Showcase Stage, Simon and Caspar were also interviewed by Mobile World Live TV and gave a live demo of some example ZapBox content.

 

Along with the public outreach efforts, we’re also actively discussing the creation of custom ZapBox experiences with our partners. Zappar’s in-house creative team builds hundreds of custom AR and VR experiences for our partners each year, and we’ve started exploring the additional possibilities offered by MR and ZapBox with them.

You may have seen from our social media channels we’ve recently taken a ZapBox prototype out to the SXSW festival, where we had a number of great conversations about bringing new content to ZapBox. We expect many partners who work with us to create ZapBox experiences will allow us to share them with the whole ZapBox user community, meaning more high-quality content for everyone.

We don’t have anything to announce on this front now, but just wanted to give an insight into the other ZapBox-related work going on here at HQ.

Our top priority remains getting your ZapBoxes into your hands as quickly as we can, and completing the initial content experiences we promised in the campaign. We’ll post another update soon showing our progress on the app and content side of things and letting ZapBox backers know when to expect their survey links to arrive.

We hope that the slight delay hasn't left you too disappointed. We're working hard to ensure that the final kits are extra awesome to compensate!

Thanks for your continued support!

- Team Zappar

Android Beta and ZapWorks Forum
over 2 years ago – Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 08:40:13 PM

Hi ZapBoxers!

This update is only really of interest to Developer Bundle backers. If that isn't you then feel free to stop reading now, and have yourselves a great weekend!

Beta Apps

The iOS Beta was released earlier in the week and if your pledge included the Developer Bundle and you answered yes to the question about iOS access then you should have received an invitation to install it via TestFlight already. If not then let us know in the comments and we'll follow up with you individually.

If you're one of the beta backers who has been waiting patiently for an Android build then we have good news for you - the Android beta build is now available in the Play Store. You will need to click on the following link to "opt-in" to becoming a tester, and after clicking that you'll see a further link to download the ZapBox beta from the store. NB: The link will only work for those people who backed at a Developer Bundle level and provided the email address for their Play Store account in the BackerKit survey.

https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.zappar.zapbox

We delayed the Android release so we could bring the experience closer to the iOS one in terms of tracking quality, at least for those devices that offer the manual camera control APIs to apps. Thanks for your patience everyone!

To bring this to you as quickly as we could there is a little more manual camera setup required on Android at the moment, but we'll be looking at managing all this automatically for the final ZapBox app. In this first beta version you'll see a couple of toolbar buttons when you launch the app into the camera view. Here's the recommended procedure for this build:

  • Point the camera towards an object that is around 1.5m away and tap the AF button. That should trigger auto-focus, and then lock the lens in that focus position. We find 1.5m or so for sharp focus works fine for both tracking the world markers and the controllers, and having it locked avoids issues due to focus hunting.
  • After the auto-focus is locked, try tapping the little "lock" icon. If your device supports manual control of ISO and exposure then this will attempt to maintain the brightness of the image, but with a shorter exposure to reduce blur (the tradeoff is the ISO will be higher so there will be more noice in the image). You'll see a message telling you either the settings were applied successfully or that you device doesn't support manual sensor control. If the settings were applied then the exposure will now be locked. If you move to a location with significantly different lighting you'll need to press the button again to return to default automatic exposure mode, and then lock it again when the light levels are correct. We'll be working on making this all automatic in future.

We're aiming to make significant improvements to tracking with blurred images as we work towards the final ZapBox release. This will help increase the speed of motion that can be tracked across all devices but will be especially important to those android devices that don't support the manual camera API. For now the best advice is to find a bright environment to use it in to nudge the auto-expsoure algorithm towards a shorter exposure time.

Most Android devices will currently output a 720p stream at 30 FPS. Android has a seperate API for high-speed capture which was intended to support recording slow-motion videos. Unfortunately the high-speed API doesn't easily support processing of those images on the CPU, although we are continuing to investigate ways around this to deliver the best experience we can on every device. We'll keep you posted on progress.

ZapWorks Forum

Now the beta app is available on both iOS and Android we're hoping to see some of you dig in and see what you can build using ZapWorks. However we also recognise that you might have questions and need some assistance as we build out the full docs for developers. You might also want to discuss ideas with other ZapBoxers, or even share what you've built already.

So it gives us great pleasure to introduce the brand-new (and thus currently empty...) ZapWorks Forum! We hope this will be a helpful resource for all users of our ZapWorks tools, but as intrepid Kickstarter types we wanted you to be the first to know. We've set up a ZapBox category and various members of Team Zappar will be monitoring things there too and helping out where we can.

https://forum.zap.works

We're looking forward to some interesting chat and all things AR/VR/MR and ZapBox and hearing your thoughts.

Have a great weekend, and see you over at the forum!

- Team Zappar

Pushing Beta Buttons!
over 2 years ago – Fri, Feb 03, 2017 at 05:35:47 PM

One of them is being pushed with a virtual flower. Because deadlines.

Hi ZapBoxers,

We mentioned in our last update that we were aiming to get some beta goodness rolling out by the end of this week and we do indeed have some lovely stuff to start sharing now.

We’ve prepared PDFs for the print at home controller and world codes and these are now uploaded to BackerKit. We’ll push that button straight after this update goes out, so anyone who has filled in their survey and is getting the Developer Bundle should receive a link to the download within the coming hours. Stand by your scissors, people!

Also in the download is a zapcode which can be scanned with the beta app (once you receive your invite) to let you experience the joy of pressing a virtual button with a virtual flower. It’s only a tiny thing but we still find it pretty satisfying. We should probably get out more.

If you want to see this beta app in action (and who wouldn’t want to watch a button being pressed by a flower?) then take a look at the “informal” video below where Simon walks you through it.

Good job he didn’t say shaft, or we’d have to film the whole thing again.

The zapcode in the download will allow you to start pressing buttons with flowers instantly, but we’ve also included the source project for ZapWorks Studio. You can import that into ZapWorks Studio and investigate how we built it, and perhaps use it as a starting point to create more weird and wild things. We can’t wait to see what you create!

Next week we’ll prepare a tutorial video walking you through the creation of this scene in ZapWorks Studio and describing in detail how to get started building content for ZapBox. We might even get around to replacing the flower with an accurate geometric model of the controller itself, which was the original plan for this demo content. Anyway, we wanted to get it out in this early form in time for the weekend as we know some of you are super keen to get stuck in!

As for the beta apps themselves we expect to get them submitted to the stores tomorrow. The android one should go through fairly quickly and we’ll then start getting the invites out straight away. The iOS version will need to go through App Store approval but fingers crossed should be available around the beginning of next week.

Have great weekends everyone!

-Team Zappar

Beta surveys are here!
over 2 years ago – Wed, Feb 01, 2017 at 11:23:19 PM

Hi ZapBoxers!

Firstly we'd like to apologise to beta backers that the calendar has flicked over to February without the beta having been delivered. The main reason for the delay is that it took us a bit longer than expected to set things up in BackerKit, specifically how we are handling the beta access. We felt it was best to take a small delay so that we could better prepare the surveys and be absolutely sure to collect all of the information we need from you. Thanks for your patience, everyone!

With all that sorted (yay!) we’ll be sending the first batch of surveys to collect the information we need from Developer Bundle backers straight after posting this update. This survey will be sent to all backers who pledged at a level that included the Developer Bundle benefits. Specifically, these pledge levels are the “Developer Bundle + Beta”, “Developer Bundle + Beta Early Bird”, along with all pledge levels that were $200 or more.

We’ll also be sending a survey to backers who pledged at the “ZapBox Early Bird” level or any of the multipack levels. During the campaign we offered backers at those levels the ability to add on $10 to their pledge to also receive the Developer Bundle benefits. For those pledge levels we have added an “add-on” item for the Developer Bundle Extras in BackerKit. When you follow your survey link you’ll be able to select the add-on during the survey. If your Kickstarter Pledge already included the additional $10 you’ll have nothing more to pay but make sure to select the add-on so you’ll be asked for the additional details we need. If you missed out on upping your pledge during the campaign but still want to get in for the beta then you can still select the add-on item on BackerKit, and can then pay an additional $10 via the BackerKit page.

If you pledged at the standard “ZapBox” level then sit tight, there’s nothing else we need from you at this stage. We’ll send out your survey to collect shipping address in a couple of weeks.

Beta App Progress

The first beta builds of the app for Android and iOS have been prepared (and the iOS one will be submitted for App Store review tomorrow). Check out the gorgeous start screen below, which also gives a sneak peak into how the design for the rest of the kit has been progressing. We’re really pleased with how it’s shaping up! Big props to our dedicated and talented designers for all their awesome work so far.

Constellation-y!
Constellation-y!

The beta is all about giving developers early access to the tools and app so they can start to explore the possibilities offered by the platform. There won’t at this stage be any of the user-facing experiences that we’ve shown in the campaign video, but we are putting together a video tutorial with a simple experience that you’ll be able to try out (and take inspiration from for your own ideas).

For a head start on development for the beta, there are some things you can start doing right away! Firstly head on over to http://zap.works and ensure you’ve registered for a personal account. We’ll ask for the email address you used to register for ZapWorks in the Developer Bundle survey so we can credit your additional hosting to the right ZapWorks account. Also download and install the ZapWorks Studio tool onto your Mac or PC. This is the same tool that you’ll use to build content for ZapBox (and at least for this first beta the standard ZapWorks Studio release will be used). There’s loads of great tutorials and getting started guides over at the ZapWorks docs site at http://docs.zap.works.

Other Stuff

We’re really close to finalizing the layouts and designs for all of the cardboard components. There’s been a huge amount of work to get to this point, from improving the functionality of the individual components to finessing the unboxing experience. We’ve got a couple more weeks in the production schedule to finalize all the designs before the big cardboard button is pressed.

One improvement in the design we can report is that the headset and controllers will now be shipped fully assembled (we were previously expecting to ship them flat-packed). This will give you a much better first-time experience and easier setup, along with a beautiful reusable box to keep it all in between uses without needing to dismantle anything.

The downside from our perspective is that it increases both assembly and shipping costs quite a bit. We said pledges included shipping and we remain committed to that; but if you’d like to show your appreciation for our reckless focus on quality over profit(!) then there’s a tip jar on BackerKit so you can send a few additional dollars in our direction.

Survey Summary and Beta Plans

Apart from backers at the standard “ZapBox” pledge level, everyone else should see a survey pop into their inbox in the next day or so. If you’re getting the Developer Bundle (either as part of the Developer Bundle pledge or as an add-on to another level) then please fill in those details as soon as you can.

We’re hoping to get the beta apps, video tutorial and downloadable PDF ready by the end of the week. When it’s live we will send invites to the beta apps to all the Developer Bundle backers who have filled in their BackerKit survey by that stage. We’ll keep the surveys open until the end of Feb so no need to panic if you can’t fill it in straight away, but if you can do it by the end of the week then you’ll be in the first batch of beta invites.

Sorry for the slight delay to the beta release, but everything is really coming together now and we’re getting super excited here :)

-Team Zappar