ZapBox - affordable Mixed Reality, available now

6 min read
Blog Author

ZapBox - affordable Mixed Reality, available now

Blog Author
6 min read
Now available for sale for just $30, ZapBox is the affordable, democratic and awesome mixed reality solution.

ZapBox is the first affordable Mixed Reality kit which empowers developers and businesses to reimagine how they build, design and view 3D experiences. By combining the power of your smartphone with the headset and other physical components in the ZapBox kit, you can access a whole new world of interactive content via the free ZapBox app.

You can physically interact with content using our cardboard controllers, from precisely picking up and dropping objects to playing virtual instruments. And this content is all fully tracked and anchored in the real world, enabling you to move around and explore your content from any angle. It’s pretty magical stuff!

Today I’m really excited to announce that our all-new ZapBox kits are now available to purchase directly from our website for just $30.

ZapBox - the affordable Mixed Reality kit, now on sale for $30


What’s in the box?

So what does $30 get you? Well, quite a lot, really.


  • Cardboard headset - fits all major smartphones and complete with a snug strap so your hands are free to interact with the content.
  • Two cardboard controllers - pinch, grab, manipulate and otherwise interact with Mixed Reality content.
  • World pointcodes - designed to be detected super quickly, these versatile little cardboard disks form a map of the area you’ve chosen to enjoy a spot of Mixed Reality, enabling ZapBox to work out your exact position and viewing direction.
  • Fisheye lens - increases the field of view of your smartphone camera for more immersive experiences and to allow a wider range of controller motion.


Zappar's Leonie getting creative with ZapBox at our London HQ


ZapBox - so what’s new?

The ZapBox journey from an original idea to the product we are making available today is quite a long and interesting story, but that is a tale for another blog...

Briefly the idea was to mash up Google Cardboard with Microsoft HoloLens and HTC Vive to offer an affordable way for creators to experiment with the new possibilities offered by those devices: immersive, fully-tracked 3D content combined with fully-tracked controllers to allow physical interaction.

We launched the ZapBox Kickstarter campaign in late 2016 to validate interest in the idea and help to fund the development of the product. ZapBox was funded successfully thanks to over 1800 enthusiastic backers helping us raise almost three times our original funding goal. We love you all, Kickstarter ZapBoxers!

After the successful completion of the campaign, we completed the design and manufacture of the first batch of ZapBox kits in 2017. Since then we have made some further improvements to both the physical product design and the software.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the recent changes in all things ZapBox...


New ZapBox 2.0 “Cardware”

We learnt a huge amount from producing the first ZapBox kits for our Kickstarter backers, and identified a few design changes that could be made to improve the product. The headset includes larger lenses to offer a more immersive experience, the controllers have additional tabs for a more solid design and feature a tweaked trigger mechanism that is more reliable. We also now include some cardboard lens spacers to help mount the fisheye lens on devices with camera bumps.

However the biggest change is in the form factor of the packaging. You may remember the Kickstarter ZapBox packaging as, to put it kindly, pretty bulky. More importantly, it was borderline hostile to the average letterbox and meant a higher shipping cost for all involved.

The ZapBox 2.0 product is a much sleeker, flat-pack affair that is a lot more convenient all round. The flat-pack design also works much better for people who want to order ZapBox in bulk or for uses such as free giveaways at events.


The contents of the ZapBox Mixed Reality kit with its sleeker (and more postage-friendly!) packaging


Refreshed ZapBox site with new support content

With a leaner box comes some creative packaging. The controllers now require some self-assembly but don’t fear, it’s really intuitive and we have a helpful construction video on our refreshed ZapBox website should you need it.

We’ve also added new setup videos to cover all aspects of getting started with ZapBox, from how to place the fisheye lens correctly to tips on using the ZapBox app. If you’re new to ZapBox these videos will get you going in no time. Even if you’ve been using ZapBox for years you should watch these; they’re full of useful tips to get the best out of ZapBox.


New app update and content

In the next few days the latest update to the ZapBox app will be rolling out on both iOS and Android devices.

This update will bring support to the ZapBox app for all the latest ZapWorks Studio 6 features such as the glTF 3D model format and Sketchfab integration. In addition, we’re adding some exciting new content into the app's launch menu for you to enjoy.

These new experiences join others already in the app to offer a range of content to enjoy, experiment with, and be inspired by, from exploring the plight of the endangered loggerhead turtle to mini-golf putting action.


Dive deep into a fascinating Mixed Reality under the sea experience and learn about the endangered loggerhead turtle and ragged-tooth shark - one of many free ZapBox app experiences


ZapWorks Studio 6 ‘Project Templates’, bespoke for ZapBox

ZapBox is all about creativity - both experiencing great content and crafting it yourself. The team here have worked hard to make sure that creating Mixed Reality for ZapBox is better than ever through integration with our powerful ZapWorks Studio 6 tool. Whether you’re an experienced programmer or an aspiring designer, you can create high-quality immersive Mixed Reality experiences both with or without code.

A major step to help you achieve your Mixed Reality goals are the new Project Templates, empowering you to access the key building blocks of pre-made popular, multi-featured experiences. These ZapWorks Studio 6 templates provide a great head-start on a project so you can focus on adding your own creative flourishes.

These templates include…

  • 3D model - Brings a 3D model of your choice into glorious Mixed Reality. Nice and simple!
  • ZapBox animation on button - Do press the big red button! This sets out the key elements for grabbing a controller and triggering an animation.
  • ZapBox hotspots - Demonstrates interactive hotspots that are positioned around a tracked 3D model. Plenty of scope for crafting instructional content for events or workplace learning.
  • ZapBox product visualization - Change the texture of an interactive, tracked 3D model with a pre-built intuitive UI. An ideal template for showing off the features and customization options of a product.


Sketchfab integration

Of course, sourcing the visual assets to put your own take on these Project Templates can be easier said than done. That’s why our recent update brought Sketchfab integration to ZapWorks Studio 6 - and with the coming ZapBox app update, this will also play very nicely with ZapBox experiences.

You’re now able to access hundreds of thousands of 3D models and other visual assets created by the phenomenal Sketchfab creative community, directly in ZapWorks Studio. These can be imported straight into your existing projects with minimal fuss and brought to life in ZapBox Mixed Reality.


The Sketchfab integration in ZapWorks Studio 6 means high-quality visual assets can be imported directly into your projects with a minimum of fuss - empowering you to create phenomenal experiences for ZapBox, quickly and easily.


The future of ZapBox

Offering our new ZapBox physical kits for sale directly to consumers from our own site is certainly a big tick on our roadmap, but we’re not done yet! We’re working hard on ZapBox content updates which we will be continuing to roll out as free updates for all ZapBox users.

We’re also continuing to invest in updates to the ZapBox app to offer the highest possible quality of experience across the widest possible range of devices.

One particular focus in the coming months is combining the ZapBox world pointcodes with “markerless” world tracking technologies to offer excellent content tracking performance with fewer codes and an easier setup process.

As you probably know by now, ZapWorks Studio 6 already includes World Tracking support, which is implemented as a cross platform API for developers that uses ARKit on iOS and ARCore on supported Android devices under-the-hood. Unfortunately we cannot leverage ARKit or ARCore directly with ZapBox as they are not compatible with the fisheye lens (though feel free to try it if you want to see what happens when computer vision goes wrong…).

We’re working on our own implementation of World Tracking, outside of ARKit and ARCore, to solve this problem. This will allow both for use in ZapBox with the fisheye lens, but will also allow us to bring world tracking support to a wider range of Android devices and to Zappar’s WebAR platform.


Me demo'ing the new ZapBox 2.0 'Cardware' at the 2019 Zappar March Meetup


On the physical product side, the ZapBox kits we are making available for sale today represent a refined version of our original Kickstarter proposition for a product that was described by Slash Gear as “Magic Leap meets Google Cardboard”.

We’re really proud of this version of ZapBox, and expect it to remain the only physical ZapBox kit available to purchase for the foreseeable future. Of course we are already thinking about where we could take the physical product next, but we’re committed to maintaining 100% content compatibility between all the different versions of ZapBox, so there’s no reason not to buy one now! Oh and did I mention it’s only $30?!


Final thoughts

So there you have it - I hope you’re as excited as we all are here about this latest ZapBox iteration and you can grab your very own for just $30 from our online store.

If you’re a brand or business looking to leverage Mixed Reality and ZapBox has piqued your interest further, our team would love to have a chat about how we can make it happen for you. Whether you’re creating yourself using our powerful ZapWorks Studio 6 toolkit or if you would like our expert team to craft an awesome experience for you, ZapBox is an easy to set-up, portable, affordable and engaging way to take your product visualization to the next level - from the boardroom to the event floor.

Finally, if you’re using your ZapBox or eagerly awaiting its arrival, you’ll find inspiration, feedback and helpful faces of Mixed Reality enthusiasts over on our community Forum, alongside our support team.