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While augmented reality and virtual reality are often lumped together, as if they are a single space, the truth is that they actually have very different use cases and functionalities. Virtual reality seems to get most of the press for its immersive experiences, but augmented reality is, in some ways, even cooler. It can actually alter the world around us. We recently saw the power of this with Pokemon Go, but that was just the beginning.
Soon all of us will be able to create our own augmented reality experiences. At least that's the mission behind Zappar, a developer of augmented reality experiences and creative tools.
The company announced on Thursday that it has raised a $3.75 million round of Series A funding led by London investment house Hargreave Hale, with participation from trade investor You & Mr Jones and Chinese independent app developer iDreamSky. In addition, many of the company's previous institutional investors and individuals followed up this round.
The company has previously raised $84,356 from 1,854 backers in a Kickstarter campaign, well above its goal of $30,000.
Founded in 2011, Zappar is an app that can see and recognise images and objects in the world around us. Once it sees things it knows, it uses augmented reality to adds things to the camera view that aren’t actually there.
For example, below is a video of Zap created by British boyband One Direction. The band did a seven hour long live YouTube show in which they used augmented reality to serve second-screen content for broadcast. It got over 1.5 million zaps over the course of a day.
The company's flagship product is ZapWorks, which allows anyone to create their own AR experiences that they can publish and share.
"The typical customer for ZapWorks is the next generation of digital developers and designers looking to understand how they can use the new creative canvas of AR, VR and MR to capture value and tell new stories," Caspar Thykier, CEO of Zappar, told me. "Zappar wants to democratize AR, VR and MR so everyone can adopt the technology and create meaningful experiences for everyone to witness, explore and share. We solve it by providing scalabe tools and experiences for a signficantly cheaper cost than competitors."
The company also works with brands, license partners and retailers to produce content. It has worked with more than 200 partners, including Rovio, Sony Pictures, Sony Music, Warner Bros, Hasbro, PEZ, Universal Pictures, Pearson, Crocs, Morphsuits, Moonpig.com, Coca-Cola, Manchester City Football Club and Asda.
Zappar currently also has thousands of users in 199 countries. Thykier also told me that the company is, "Near doubling in revenue terms year-on-year."
"We believe we offer the best, most robust and affordable short form experiences made for mobile on the market through ZapWorks. There’s also our industry leading zapcodes for super-fast scanning and detection which opens up new opportunities for packaging at the Internet of (every single) Thing," he said.
Zappar says it will use the funding to accelerate the development of several new products, while also increasing development, global marketing and support for ZapWorks.
"There’s so much good stuff we can currently do. It’s really about making others aware of it. There’s still a big education job to do around AR, VR and MR frankly. The investment accelerates our roadmap through hires and increases our ability to speak to more users through marketing and product support," said
"As with any software platform it never stands still and it’s a constant flow of improvements and new features. The addition of Mixed Reality experiences with ZapBox created in ZapWorks is super exciting."
Zappar will also be expanding its 30 team, growing it to 45 by the end of the year. It will be making additions to its SaaS Sales team, User Success specialists, R&D and Marketing divisions.
Part of what makes this new funding is so exciting for Zappar is that it will now be working with iDreamsky, which opens up opportunities for the company in the Chinese market.
"I wouldn’t say China is any more important than the rest of the world, but there are clearly some fascinating opportunities given the way that scanning and the adoption of QR codes has developed there that make it of particular interest to our approach through zapcodes and ZapWorks. We’re just beginning to understand the potential over there working with local partners," said Thykier.
Ultimately, the company's goal is to be the "number one platform catering for the next generation of digital developers and designers building the best and most valued short form, expressive, interactive AR, VR and MR experiences on handheld devices and headsets."
"If Snapchat is the camera company, then Zappar is the canvas company," said Thykier.
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