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This article was published on September 11, 2012

Meet Zappar, the company trying to take augmented reality mainstream, one hat at at time

Meet Zappar, the company trying to take augmented reality mainstream, one hat at at time
Alex Wilhelm
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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

Zappar’s self-stated goal is to “make the world a little less boring,” and they are well on that path. TNW spoke with Zappar recently, and then interviewed the company’s own Caspar Thykier about just what the company is up to, where it’s going, and how it may help take augmented reality from the dreams of technologists and into the mainstream.

Currently, Zappar technology is applied to clothes, namely shirts, and recently, hats. A mobile application ‘reads’ the item being worn, and then interacts with it, on the screen, in a whimsical way. It’s a single application of Zappar’s technology, one that they are using to grow their platform. As you’ll see shortly, the team has much more planned.

Interestingly, Zappar became profitable after its 10th month in business. It’s a unique company, in other words.

Now, to Caspar, and our discussion about what the firm is up to.

TNW: For the uninitiated, explain what Zappar does:

Caspar: Zappar is a proprietary platform and free to download mobile app that allows you to use your phone to turn tangible products and images into bite-sized entertainment experiences. By Zapping everyday objects (t-shirts, greetings cards, books, toys, film posters, etc.), images and objects come to life in the camera view of your mobile device with video, animation, interaction, links, mini game experiences and much more.  Our mission is to help the world get more out of everyday products and experiences one Zap at a time.

It seems that Zappar’s technology could go far beyond clothing items, what other areas do you see applying it to?

In the coming months, we’re continuing to educate retailers and consumers about our AR-enabled products and experiences. We’re looking at adding a little bit of magic Zappar dust into new product sectors like hats, posters, puzzles, stickers, books, stationary, bags, phone cases as well as brand new products and features. We’re also expanding globally taking our product assortment and brand into new markets across the world. Although AR has been around for 40 years, today is only day one in terms of consumer understanding and adoption. There’s a big world out there to Zap.

What has been the market response to Zappar’s shirts?

It’s been fantastic. We get a lot of great emails in from people saying how much they loved their Tees and asking where can they get more – which is brilliant. We’ve got more than 600,000 unique, engaged users of Zappar who are currently averaging 47,000 Zaps per week.

Zaphats, your newest product, just launched. How has the reaction been so far?

The reaction to Zaphats has been great even at this beta stage. There’s a lot of excitement around trying them out around the election and the holidays, when they’ll be available for sale through select retailers and online. We can’t wait to see people trying them on and sending their mask Zaps to friends and family.

You mentioned that the hats are essentially a freemium product, could you explain that?

The Zaphats will be available for sale for around $10 and come with a number of digital masks you can Zap. Anyone with an iOS or Android supported device is able to download the Zappar App from the app stores for free. There will be a host of masks that you can try out for free in the app and then others that will be added over time, which you can chose to purchase from $0.79 to $0.99.

What’s the zaniest place that we will see Zappar technology in 3 years?

I think the real question is where will we not see Zappar technology in the next 3 years, at the rate we’re going. But you’d be hard pressed to get it on the moon I’d say, just because the 4G signal is bad there!

For those who might say that AR technology is always three years away from mattering, what would you say?

We’re selling products right now that provide an accessible and fun application of AR technology, our community of users is growing rapidly, and we’re thinking up new applications every day…This is a technology that been around for a while and is ready to enjoy now. There will always be improvements and new stuff you can do with AR (some of the new R&D stuff here in the Zappar labs is looking great). But rather than constantly looking into the future, we’re hoping people get to enjoy the present, live in the now and bring a bit of Zappar fun into their lives!

Deliciously awful lunar joke aside, Zappar is a company that TNW is going to keep in its sights. I might be a fashion neophyte, but what the Zappar wants to do with augmented reality is exciting.

Still, Zappar has a long way to go before what it’s trying to due will be considered normal, though rising smartphone penetration in all developed market will certainly help. As they do it, we’ll bring you the news.

Top Image Credit: Graeme Maclean

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