It’s all zapping together

I’ve been on a learning curve over the last few weeks, teaching myself how to make Zappar codes. The process is something between making a little web site (in terms of interactivity) and a short film or animation (in terms of narrative progression). I’ve had a few frustrations – it is after all a new platform, and there are bound to be some bugs, plus some things i just don’t know how to do, like transparent videos – but I am getting there! And it’s satisfying to begin to see the results.

One concept I didn’t immediately get was the tracking image. This is like a background image which you can use to anchor the posiition of your elements, but it’s not actually part of the Zappar code – it’s the actual image that viewers are seeing through their device’s camera as they scan the code. Since our Zappars are located outside and we want people to be looking at the environment around them, our original idea was to use photos of the location as tracking images. However, I soon realised that unless someone was standing pretty much exactly where the photo had been taken from, and pointing their camera in the same direction and at the same angle, the tracking image wouldn’t really be identifiable. Other variables such as the weather, light and traffic would perhaps also alter the image. Tracking images should really be a static image such as a poster or card where the viewer is aiming their camera to scan the code.

sticker_making_3This weekend, as I made the stickers that we will use to place the Zappar codes in our chosen places, I had one of those sudden moments of revelation: here is the tracking image! We want people to be looking around at the environment but they will have to first point their device’s camera at the sticker, so that can be used at least initially for the AR to emerge from. It seems pretty obvious now … but that’s the thing about working with technology: there will always be exciting revelations, large or small!

So, I’m about to remake the 5 Zappar codes with new tracking images. At the same time, I’m going to improve some of the graphics and make timing and size adjustments now that I’m more familiar with how it all works. Maya has sent screenshots of two codes tested on location, which has also been very helpful in thinking about how it appears in the actual site. I’m testing on a tablet, however probably most people will access it via a smartphone, so I need to think about the size. We’ve also added a line to the stickers advising people to use headphones, since traffic and other ambient noise makes the audio hard to hear – and the audio is very important!

It’s all coming together now – I’ve got the concepts clear in my head, a good understanding of how the media elements are going to work and interact; and I’ve also had friendly and helpful support from the people at Zappar when I’ve needed it. It will be interesting to see how the public respond …