Zappar Revisited – A talk with the founder

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I got to talk to Zappar CTO and Co-Founder Connell Gauld about the company’s past, present and future. It was a bit of a fan moment for me, as Zappar was what introduced me to Augmented Reality a few years ago.

Introduction to AR

I first saw AR when Green Lantern was about to be released in cinemas across the world and one of the posters had this odd code on it. My friend picked up his phone and pointed at it, and I saw how the poster came to life.

As it turns out, this was the works of Connell and his team at Zappar. Using an algorithm he and Co-Founder Simon Taylor developed during their time at University of Cambridge, they made a light-weight application that could recognize patterns and display advanced motion-tracked animations.

Past memories

While I was talking to Connell about the past 5 years, he said it feels like a lot more time has passed. They’ve done so much and achieved so many things that it almost seem impossible that only 5 years have passed.

When they started out, the first generation iPhone had just hit the market. Samsung had their first Android-based phone out as well. Blackberry still had its own operating system. The technical specifications of those phones weren’t exactly great, which is why so few even tried Augmented Reality. However, the PHD and Masters project the duo had been working on was so light-weight and so efficient that it worked even with the limitations of those phones. This became the ground works for Zappar and it’s still using a version of that very same platform.

Present technologies

Connell is the Chief Technologic Officer at Zappar and is in charge of everything that makes the app run. He has a finger in every part of the technology, from development to support. Not just for the app, but also the development tools.

The ZapWorks tool, which is the advanced version of the developer tools available, is the very same they use at Zappar. This means you can do all the same things they can do, and it’s Connell’s team that makes sure it all works.

The typical user

Connell doesn’t see Zappar as having a typical user, as the platform is so adaptable. It’s been used by retailers, for marketing, for games and even for education. This applies to both developers and end users.

One of the challenges for Connell’s team has been to cater to all these users. Since the user base is so broad and diverse, the job to implement everything that everyone wants has been hard. The team has managed quite well though, and every feature that has been requested and later developed has been released in the ZapWorks developer software.

The unusual user

There has been many applications created with Zappar that just blew Connell’s mind. One particular customer he remembers well had used one of the simpler tools, before Zappar Studio was released, to apply videos with certain parts transparent to create great visual effects that he didn’t even think was possible with such simple tool.

Another user had 3D models of virtual pets show up on cargo boxes, so you received your virtual pet in an actual physical box.

The most amazing feat he’s seen so far is when children in different schools around the world use the tools. The things they create is beyond many adult’s imagination. Children as young as 7 seem to have an extraordinary ability to pick up on the new concepts of art that goes beyond our own reality and seamlessly blend virtual with reality.

Time to say goodbye

Towards the end of the conversation Connell asked how I found out about Zappar. When I said they were my introduction to AR, you could hear the pride in his voice. We got on to talk about how The Torch started around the same time and noticed how our developments have followed each other very closely.

As our conversation came to an end I was filled with ideas for how Augmented Reality could be used and I was not surprised to see one of my ideas come into reality with a recently released game… but that’s a topic for another day.

We wish Connell and the rest of the guys at Zappar all the best luck and are looking forward to what they come up with next.

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