What we learned at the AR Pioneers Summit 2021

15 min read
Blog Author

What we learned at the AR Pioneers Summit 2021

Blog Author
15 min read
After 10 years in existence, we at Zappar ran our inaugural virtual Summit in June 2021. The AR Pioneers Summit was a testament to the last decade in augmented reality.

After 10 years in existence, we at Zappar ran our inaugural virtual Summit in June 2021. The AR Pioneers Summit was a testament to the last decade in augmented reality, and a well-informed nod as to what’s to come. 

We hosted 12 keynotes and 9 fireside chats across two days, alongside leaders in the industry from agencies and brands alike. After demos, announcements, and a deep-dive into how AR can and should be used, here’s a summary of what you might have missed at the AR Pioneers Summit 2021: 


Day 1 - AR Strategy

Welcome to day one

In this session, Caspar walked us through the last 10 years in Zappar history, and the AR industry at large. It was a great refresher on how far we’ve come in the last decade.

Watch the session on-demand here. 

How to transform your packaging into an interactive media channel with Nestle

Zappar’s resident packaging expert, Martin Stahel, and Nestle’s Jeremy Moussai, delivered a keynote that dove into how connected packaging is changing the game for brands, with expert guidance on how it should be done.

They also ran through some killer Nestle connected packaging campaigns, like Smarties ‘Smart Seas’, and discussed an omni-channel and ‘always-on’ approach, as well as Zappar’s ‘5 Cs’ framework for executing AR campaigns. 

An important takeaway from this session was how the rise of WebAR is further boosting the efficacy of connected packaging campaigns. WebAR means we no longer need to rely on native apps to deliver AR experiences, reducing friction in the user journey. The COVID-19 pandemic has also dramatically increased awareness and understanding of QR codes, with 89% of people understanding what they are in a recent US study.

As Jeremy Moussai put it: “[WebAR] is the game-changer. And this is just the beginning.”

Watch the session on-demand here.

How to execute impactful WebAR campaigns with Groove Jones

Zappar’s Managing Director, Max Dawes, teamed up with Groove Jones’ Bobby Ennis to deliver an insightful keynote on how to do WebAR right. 

WebAR is a stepping stone to making AR ever-more accessible. With over 3.5 billion smartphone users in the world today, access to AR should be as simple as pointing a camera at a code - and with WebAR, it is. Groove Jones shared some examples of their world-class WebAR campaigns, perfectly exemplifying how to leverage WebAR for the biggest impact possible. 

“People love the surprise and delight of seeing an image come to life in AR,” Bobby said. He went on to say that custom-branded splash screens were making a real difference for brands and their ability to incorporate AR into their campaigns. “Having the ability to own the AR experience through a custom-branded splash screen is very unique to you guys. It’s a huge win.”

When we asked some of our attendees for their personal highlights, anything WebAR related came out as a fan-favourite. Atlas, from Ohio USA, said: “My key highlight was really anything that was WebAR. A lot of the time I’ve spent messing around in Zapworks Studio is focused on WebAR.”

Watch the session on-demand here.

How retailers are using an always-on AR strategy

Next up was a keynote centred around retail and eCommerce. In this session, our CEO, Caspar Thykier, outlined our key development frameworks - the 5 Cs and Ds for AR success. These are the essential tips for creating AR campaigns that really resonate with their target audiences, and ultimately lead to ROI. 

Harnessing the power of AR in an ‘always-on’ way gives brands a “digital superpower”, in the words of Caspar. He concluded with an emphasis on the importance of “delivering deeper and more relevant conversations with customers” - a key strength of an always-on strategy.

In this session we also announced our partnership with eCommerce platform AiBUY. This very exciting development means that users will have the capacity to layer AR on top of key points in the eCommerce journey. Found out more in our AiBUY partnership announcement.

Watch the session on-demand here.

AR for L&D

Voted the most popular session of day one, this keynote, delivered by Angus White and Betty Dannewitz, discussed the impact of augmented reality on Learning & Development strategies. They delved into some of the cognitive science behind AR’s impact on memory, and how that effect can be harnessed to deliver L&D campaigns that really stick with the recipients. 

A key finding was that AR experiences deliver significant increases in visual attention when compared to regular campaigns, with a 70& increase in memory encoding. “If you are considering adding augmented reality to your learning solutions, use this data, because this is incredibly important,” remarked Betty Dannewitz.

Zappar’s resident L&D expert Angus White said: “AR Pioneers was a great opportunity for Zappar to bring together industry experts from around the world. In our talk on day one, Betty and I explored building an immersive mobile learning strategy to help re-engage learners in a post-covid working environment. I'm pleased that we were able to share our key insights into the topic and engage with the XR community.”

Watch the session on demand here.

Day 2 - AR Creators assemble!

Welcome to day 2

Day 2 was all about how we build AR, what makes it a ‘good’ AR experience, and the mechanics underpinning all of the exciting things you see on the front-end. In the day’s opening session, we announced our brand new SDKs for PlayCanvas and Babylon.js, helping even more developers and creatives to build AR in the languages and platforms they know best. 

Watch the session on-demand here.

How to perfect your AR user-experience

George Martin and Francesca Ellis from our award winning support team lead this session on UX for AR. This keynote discussed the intricacies of delivering a great user experience, and the frameworks for getting it right - as well as potential hurdles and stumbling blocks. “[It can be] difficult to predict how a user will interact with your product,” Francesca said, “because they are now the director of your experience.”

This session gave watchers the tools they need to deliver truly unbeatable AR experiences. UX is a crucial consideration for any customer touchpoint - and AR is no exception.

Watch the session on-demand here.

Zapbox: The future of affordable Mixed Reality

In an incredibly exciting demo, our Chief R&D Officer Simon Taylor unveiled the latest iteration of All-new Zapbox. “These are the final headset and controller designs”, he said.

Anyone who’s been following the journey of Zapbox will know about its evolution from a cardboard headset all the way through to what we saw in this demo. Simon talked through the history and some of the more technical aspects of the design, answering a slew of questions from some very excited attendees who are keen to get their hands on the hardware. 

Watch the session on-demand here.

Building with React + Three.js

On day 2, we were spoiled for choice when it came to demos. In this session, CTO Connell Gauld ran a live build-along, demonstrating to watchers the capabilities of our Universal AR SDKs for React + Three.js - in particular, their face-tracking capabilities. 

“This is tracked to the centre of my head,” he said as he demonstrated the feature, “and the mesh that’s been generated fits and moves with my face as my expression changes”.

Attendee and Zapworks user Don remarked: “I’m looking forward to seeing what others are creating, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can create with Zappar.”

Watch the session on-demand here.

No-Code AR: Introducing the new Zapworks Designer

Zapworks Designer is our drag-and-drop AR builder, and its an essential part of our mission to democratize augmented reality. It means that you don’t need to be able to code to create amazing AR experiences that deliver, opening up access to AR to a huge range of people, from marketers to individual creators. Now, it’s getting an overhaul that gives it even more features, and dramatically boosts its ease-of-use. 

In this keynote, Chris Holton, Joe Brazao, and Justin Rhodes discussed the impact of the No-Code movement in both AR and tech at-large. This was accompanied by a demo of ‘Designer 2’, the beautiful new iteration of Designer that’s been rebuilt from the ground up to improve UX and bring the tool to be closer in capability to Zapworks Studio. 

You can sign up to Beta-test the new Zapworks Designer here, and watch the session on-demand here.

Improvements to Instant World Tracking for WebAR

In the final keynote of the Summit, Simon Taylor was joined by Connell Gauld and Shuang Liu to deliver an exciting update on Zappar’s Instant World Tracking technology. 

World tracking is an essential part of what allows AR to blend well with the real-world. World-tracking in WebAR has some limitations when compared to world-tracking within native apps, so improving this Instant World-Tracking technology is fundamental to the continued success of WebAR. 

In this demonstration, the team presented their research and work on Instant World-Tracking, showing dramatic improvements to stability and world mapping. Shuang Liu said as he was demonstrating: “You place the anchor, it tracks instantly, and it’s stable. It even survives pretty violent shaking.”

The updates reflect our commitment to delivering the most advanced computer vision technology that's also performant across a broad range of devices.

Watch the session on-demand here.

A final note from Caspar 

When asked about his personal highlights, our CEO Caspar said this: 

“My favourite part had to be the attendees and the live chat, discussion and feedback. Making great tech is only as interesting as the people who use it. Seeing the reaction to what we're doing and what we're releasing is what really spurs us on. 

“Secondly, personally I'd say I felt a real sense of pride seeing so many of our amazing people give such fantastic presentations alongside our partners. It’s the strength and depth of our platform, people, product and partnerships that makes Zappar so unique.”