Last week was an incredibly exciting time for all of us here at Zappar. After weeks of meticulous planning (and a LOT of coffee), it was finally time for our March Meetup - the gathering that brings together our staff, the ZapWorks community, our agency partners and AR enthusiasts from far and wide for an evening of networking, product updates, debate and an industrial amount of pizza.
Our previous event was a breakfast Meetup in the heart of London’s Soho, but this time we changed it up and headed to East London for an evening at the Huckletree Shoreditch Auditorium - a hub for tech and gaming businesses just a stone’s throw from the iconic Silicon Roundabout. Our team shared the latest news on ZapWorks Studio 6, ZapBox and discussed the latest AR trends with an expert panel featuring learned friends from Mindshare UK, Rovio and VRCraftworks.
A snippet of the Zappar March Meetup experience
We were also lucky enough to have our good friends from Sipsmith Gin along for the ride, keeping the good vibes in check with their dazzling array of delicious G&Ts. We’re still learning about building a bigger and better community around ZapWorks and will continue to experiment with venues and events (after all, this was only our second one ever!) - but suffice to say, G&Ts certainly help!
If you came by, thank you so much - it was a pleasure! And if you weren’t able to make it? Not to worry, here's the five key talking points from our latest and biggest event to date.
1) ZapWorks updates - world tracking is coming!
So the digital cat isn’t fully out of the bag just yet...but our March Meetup did feature confirmation from Co-Founder and CTO Connell that World Tracking is coming to ZapWorks Studio 6!
Arriving hot on the heels of face tracking and Sketchfab integration, Connell revealed that we will be committing to making world tracking for everybody, providing a unified environment for building content that takes place directly in the world around you.
Zappar CTO and Co-Founder Connell looks to the future of ZapWorks Studio 6
Behind the scenes, Studio 6 will be utilising both ARKit and ARCore but users won’t need to worry about the quirks of either - enabling them to build content just once, hit publish and share their content with the world via the Zappar app.
There will be plenty of more detailed updates coming soon, including information on a brand new scripting editor, integrated documentation and a slew of 3D navigation and workflow improvements - so be patient and keep your eyes peeled!
2) ZapBox 2.0 is going to be awesome
Zappar Co-Founder and Chief R&D Officer Simon provided our audience with plenty of updates on the progress of the second iteration of our affordable mixed reality toolkit, ZapBox 2.0.
Following the phenomenal success of the original ZapBox Kickstarter campaign, attention shifted to delivering an improved version of the product - including an all-new flat-packed design that’s a lot more letterbox and postage friendly than the previous model.
The design and manufacturing of the 2.0 kits has now been completed and they are on their way from the manufacturer to our warehouse. We are aiming to have ZapBox 2.0 available to purchase directly from our website by the end of April.
The latest ZapBox 2.0 updates are demonstated on stage by Chief R&D Officer and Co-Founder, Simon
The ZapBox app has seen a significant amount of work and improvements too over the last couple of years. With the launch of the 2.0 “cardware” we’ll also be rolling out a further app update offering much-improved setup videos and some additional content to inspire users. We’ll continue to work on evolving and improving both the app and the content for the ZapBox community.
Looking further ahead, Simon explained that we’re in the very early phases of thinking about what might happen with the physical ZapBox product in the future. We don’t have any concrete details to share on this just yet, but we remain committed to maintaining 100% ZapBox content compatibility with all ZapBox kits. The key aims with the next iteration are to improve user comfort and usability whilst maintaining the super-accessible price point that ZapBox is renowned for. We are all really excited about sharing more updates with you as the product evolves.
3) WebAR - the future
One of the hottest topics in the AR community is the development of WebAR - technology that enables users to access experiences via a web link, without the requirement of an app. It’s certainly something the curious minds in our development team have been digging into and the March Meetup was a great opportunity to share our thoughts and debate the merits of this emerging technology with our community.
AR enthusiasts enjoy a chat and some well-deserved pizza and G&Ts at the Zappar March Meetup
It’s unquestionably got a whole lot of potential - and Connell’s exploratory presentation raised some of the key benefits and limitations of the tech. The headline impact is removing the perceived user experience friction of an app download and associated installation time, as well as the possibility of unlocking experiences that are not possible in native apps.
However, while browser-based experiences could mean faster turnaround times without the hassle of the app submission process, Connell pointed out that browsers only expose a limited amount of device functionality to websites, and web applications tend to be slower than native applications. Fundamentally, this is still a very young area of web technology which has yet to be properly road tested.
So while Zappar are definitely excited by the possibilities, we’re very much considering it to be a ‘beta’ technology while browser support continues to improve. But as part of our road map, our team are confident that WebAR has the potential to be a first class delivery platform for ZapWorks content in future. And with our democratization of AR mindset in place, we’ll be seeking to ensure all ZapWorks content will run in the common browsers already running on users’ devices when the time comes.
4) People love gin and pizza - who knew?
You’ll no doubt be as shocked as I was to find out that the crossover between AR enthusiasts and lovers of delicious pizza and high-quality gin is rather high!
Marketing Manager, Dave, discusses Zappar's upcoming collaboration with Sipsmith with their Digital Marketing Manager, Olivia
Pizza professionals Dolcezza provided a wide array of topping treats for everyone. Meanwhile, our good friends and fellow Chiswick residents Sipsmith kept the drinks and conversation flowing with a well stocked selection of their premium gins - the sloe G&Ts proving particularly popular.
Those at the event will have also caught a very exciting announcement about an upcoming collaboration that will pique the interests of intrepid AR creators. In celebration of Studio 6's face tracking and upcoming world tracking functionality, Zappar and Sipsmith have come together to launch a huge new competition that will challenge new and experienced users alike to let their creativity run wild with the new features. We’ll be revealing more details next month, so get ready - we cannot wait to see what you create!
Our invited expert panel gets their teeth into the AR topics of the day, chaired by Zappar Co-Founder and CEO, Caspar
5) AR is better together
One of the best things about working at Zappar is the wide range of people we get to meet and partner with, each with their own diverse set of perspectives. The March Meetup concluded with an expert panel discussion hosted by Co-Founder and CEO Caspar that focused on the contemporary AR landscape, and was joined by Jeremy from Mindshare UK, Aino from Rovio and Peter from VRCraftworks.
Jeremy’s work was instrumental in our collaborative ‘Layered Report’ and delivered insights into the science behind AR’s amazing ability to engage users and enhance memory retention. Meanwhile, Aino’s deep experience with marketing the Angry Birds IP at Rovio contributed from a brand perspective - detailing the importance of ‘selling the dream’ of AR to internal stakeholders. Through our collaborative work, Rovio have embarked on an innovative 'always on' AR stategy that has seen them blazing a trail since 2016. Finally, Peter brought valuable AR and VR agency experience to the panel - detailing the process of engaging brand clients on the value of immersive experiences as an experienced ZapWorks user.
It was a fantastic chat and thanks again to everyone who attended for your questions and contributions. We’ll be releasing the full panel discussion as a video in the near future, so if you want to catch up on the latest in AR, or just want to relive it, keep an eye out for updates.
Our Layered report, produced in collaboration with Mindshare and Neuro-Insights, proves a popular read!
We can’t overstate how much our team enjoy getting to meet and talk with our ZapWorks user and partner community. It’s your feedback, passion and creativity that keeps us going, so whether you attended our latest event or not, thank you. If you’d like to keep up to date with the ZapWorks community, our Forum is a great place to start. It’s full of AR enthusiasts, experts and our in-house support team - all geared up to offer feedback, inspiration and practical advice to get you going with your next AR project. And if you’re not using ZapWorks Studio yet? Well, there’s never been a better time to get involved. As you can see, we’ve got a lot of very exciting new functionality, with plenty more to come - so start your free trial now.