(Photo courtesy of Rylan Daniels)
Windward School

Review: Zapbox is affordable AR for everyone

Something caught my eye as I walked through the gigantic show floor at the Augmented World Expo. Although people were lining up like crazy to try out Microsoft Hololens and the ODG R8 AR glasses, just around the corner, there was a lot of buzz about something called Zapbox.

From what I could see at first through the immense crowds, it looked just like the Cardboard headset Google introduced a couple of years ago to give smartphones VR capabilities. But as soon as I tried the Zapbox, I was blown away.

(Photo courtesy of Rylan Daniels)

If you’re looking to try out augmented reality, get Zapbox. It’s a $30 VR/AR/MR headset for iPhones and high-end Android devices.

With the Zapbox on, you can do everything from exploring the solar system to playing mini golf right in your living room. It comes with two motion controllers similar to the Vive controllers that — you guessed it — are made of cardboard!

Zapbox isn’t only for viewing AR, since you can actually walk around virtual objects with Zapbox’s room scale feature.

(Photo courtesy of Rylan Daniels)

“In order to be able to do all the tracking, we’re using computer vision,” said Connell Gauld, CTO of Zappar. “Whereas Hololens has lots of cameras in it and a depth sensor, we don’t have all those. We just use a single camera that’s present on an iPhone. The idea is that, using computer vision and the camera, we make mixed reality experiences work. All Zapbox really is is a Cardboard to allow the phone to be in the right place and for us to understand where your hands are with these controllers.”

Zapbox is also the ideal AR tool for education.

“I think the key to Zapbox for education is that for $30, you can put one in every classroom,” Connell said. For learning anatomy, you can view realistic models of the body, something you can walk around and interact with. You’re not going to have the real equipment in every classroom, so Zapbox enables this experience. One of the demos we’ve done is a solar system. Suddenly Mars appears, and you can see the different layers of Mars.”         

The lesson here is you don’t have to have the most technologically advanced headset to make a difference. Because now everyone can have AR, especially for education.

(Photo courtesy of Rylan Daniels)