Wikitude Studio

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General Review

The very first thing that ZapWorks did was break my review structure – and I mean this as a good thing, not bad.  In a market where just about everyone is doing the same thing, it shows that ZapWorks is thinking seriously about how they differentiate themselves.

ZapWorks doesn’t recognise generic images, rather they provide Zapcodes – either round or rectangular – which you can then place in an image for scanning. While some brand managers may not like the idea of a “foreign body” on their ad campaign, the scanning works exceptionally well and allows you the luxury of not caring about whether or not the background image can be scanned.

An additional advantage of using Zapcodes instead of classic Target scanning is that with ZapWorks you can share Zapcodes on Twitter and Facebook.  While this requires that the user download the Zappar Scanner App, it makes it very easy to share your AR experiences with your friends and community.  As well, it doesn’t take much additional imagination to see where the Zapcodes can be used in a digital marketing campaign or any other digital or print medium.  Sure, you can share Targets created with all of the other AR CMS tools, however the size and resolution of the image then becomes an important topic that never needs to be dealt with when using Zapcodes.  Zappar emphasise that “Zapcodes allow for a single target image AND multiple AR experiences” and “Zapcodes enable the creation of experiences on a massive scale off a single target image.”

Zappar has put together a benefits sheet that explains why they feel Zapcodes have unique strengths.

ZapWorks also has an interesting feature called the “Deep Link”.  This is basically a URL that can be used in lieu of scanning.  Simply send someone the Deep Link for the Zapcode and when the URL is opened it will fire up the Zappar Scanner and display the experience.  If the user doesn’t have a Zappar Scanner installed, they will get a page pointing to the download sites.

 

Zapcodes

A while a standard Zapcode looks like a circular or rectangular bar code, it can be surrounded by artwork to enhance the appearance.

Default Zapcode Format

 

Enhanced Zapcode Formats

 

 

Designer tool or Widget tool?

For designing your AR experience, you have two choices with ZapWorks Studio – the Widget tool and the Designer tool.  The Widget tool is a very elegant and easy way to get your AR experience up and running with absolutely no design or programming skills.  The Designer tool has all the functions available in the Widget tool, however you also are able to control placement of Augmentations.

When you create a new Zapcode, you are required to give the Zapcode a name and then to determine which shape you want to use.

After you make this selection, you need to decide whether you will use the Widgets tool or the Designer tool.  If you choose the Widgets tool, then you will have the opportunity to add Widgets to a Zapcode and when the Zapcode is scanned it will automatically arrange the Widgets around a center image.  Up to 8 Widgets can be applied to each Zapcode. If you choose the Designer tool, then you will have the opportunity to supply a Tracking Image which you’ve applied the Zapcode to and arrange Objects on top of the Tracking Image as you wish.

When you are in the ZapWorks interface, you can determine whether the project is Widget or Designer based with a small icon at the top left of the project.

Designer Zapcode

Widget Zapcode

   

 

Regardless of whether Designer or Widget based, the initial set of options available when you edit the Zapcode is the same.  The top half of the display gives you the ability to modify the Zapcode content, get a Skin for your Zapcode, download or change the color of your Zapcode, as well as change the type, duplicate or archive the Zapcode.  Additionally, you have a count of the total number of times the Zapcode has been scanned and the ability to publish and preview the Zapcode.

Designer tool

When working with the Designer, you have a number of options.  You can start a design with or without a Tracking Image.  You can also change out the Tracking Image at any time, as well as download or change the color of the Zapcode, add a background sound track that will play once the Zapcode is scanned, and enable “Grab & Go”.  Grab & Go is a feature that keeps the Widgets on screen after the Zapcode has been scanned and the Tracking Image is removed from your field of view.  Grab & Go is used by default when you use the Widget tool. Note that when you use Grab & Go, it only displays the Objects.  While that makes sense in the Widget tool, which has no Tracking Image, it is inconsistent with most other tools which display both the Tracking Image and the Objects. Zappar responds to this objection with the statement that you can simply add the image used for the Tracking Image as an Image Object, then it will be displayed with the rest of the Objects.

Designer Tool

Widget Tool

   

 

When you are using the Designer tool, you can change out the Tracking Image anytime.

When you upload a Tracking Image, the Designer tool is kind enough not only to analyze the quality of the image you use, but it also searches for the Zapcode and makes sure that you are using the right Zapcode on the Tracking Image.

When you add the Zapcode to the Tracking Image, although it can be small, Zappar says that you should try to keep it at least 7mm in diameter and you want to try to keep it 1/15th of the total image size.  All of this is explained with the video found behind the button “Display Guidelines”.

Although you can use the common dragging techniques to position and size Objects on the Tracking Image, you are also offered a good set of editing controls, such as Width and Height of the Object, the ability to break the aspect ratio, and fine tune X / Y coordinate positioning of the object.  You can also control the layering sequence of the Objects, duplicate and lock objects and delete them.

A Grid is also available, which allows you to control its size and positioning, as well as enforce a Snap to Grid requirement.

Additionally, you get Undo / Redo functions that most of us are familiar with from other tools, which also map nicely to Ctrl-Y and Ctrl-Z, as expected.

The Designer works on the concept of Scenes which allow you to replicate the Tracking Image and have different Objects on top of it.  You can then use Events and Actions to Transition from Scene to Scene.  Transitions into and out of Scenes are defined in the context of each Scene.  Not only are you able to have Transition effects, you can also control how long the Transition takes and set a Transition delay.

Objects can have various Properties and Actions, however they all tend to have the same Transition characteristics that we already know from Scenes,  as well as a common set of Appearances.

Widget tool

The Widget tool is much simpler than the Designer tool. While the selection of Widgets is almost identical to Objects in the Designer tool, there are no Scenes or Transitions.  You simply select and configure your Widget. One minor annoyance is that you only know you’ve reached your limit of Widgets after you try to add the 9th Widget.  Ideally, the interface should inform you that you’ve reached your limit after you add the 8th Widget and disable the portions of the interface related to adding more Widgets.

If you have more than one Widget on the Zapcode, then the Widgets will be displayed in a circular fashion. You can customize the center image using the “Upload Center Image” function.

Standard Center

Customized Center

   

 

Additionally, the display of the Widgets will change based upon how many Widgets are present.  There is currently no mechanism to control this.

Two Widgets

Four Widgets

   

 

 

Widgets / Objects

The available Widgets / Objects are:

  • Image
  • Photo Album
  • Video
  • Sound
  • Text (not available in Widgets tool)
  • Button (not available in Widgets tool)
  • Add contact
  • Add calendar event
  • Web Link (not available in Design tool)

Image

Images can be either PNG or JPG and up to 10MB in size.  You can either upload an image or select one from the Media Library.

Designer tool

The Designer tool will display the image exactly as it is on the Tracking Image. While Images have no Properties other than a name, they can have many Actions.

Widget tool

What you will immediately see when uploading the image is that it is automatically cropped, which is very misleading because the Image is displayed in two steps. When ZapWorks displays the image, it needs to be tapped in order for the full image to be shown.

Although the controls for the Image show that I can Edit it, this only leads to another upload request.

Uploaded Image

Image Displayed in Widget tool

   

 

Image Cover in Scanner

Image Displayed in Scanner

   

 

Photo Album

A Photo Album is essentially one or more images on a carousel.  As ZapWorks allows a Photo Album to have only one image, this is perhaps why they didn’t name it Image Carousel as most other tools do.  When the Zapcode is recognized, the Photo Album displays the first image in the album and the contents of the Photo Album are shown by swiping the image once you tap the cover image.   The order of display is the same as the order the images are selected when the Widget / Object is configured. I was also not able to find any means to create a timed transition from image to image.

 

Designer tool

The Designer tool displays the photo album exactly as it is shown in the Editor.  It has no Properties other than a Name.

 

Widget Tool

The Widget Tool has a couple of different behaviors.  When there are only one or two Widgets on the screen, a cropped image of the first image is shown.  Once tapped, the images are shown in their correct format.  When there are more than two Widgets on the screen, the Photo Album will actually rotate through each image while before the Widget is tapped.

Photo Album Cover

Photo Album Contents

   

 

Video

For Video, you have three options – to upload a file, to link to a YouTube video or link to a Vimeo video.

If you upload a video, ZapWorks is one of the most generous around, supporting AVI, MP4, MPG, MOV, and 3GP, and allowing you up to 500MB per video.  They also support transparent videos using FLV format encoded in VP6.

If you use YouTube or Vimeo, you need to supply either the video’s URL or ID and ZapWorks will interrogate the video to populate its title, description and duration.

 

Designer tool

The video can have many different Properties and Actions.  When tapped, the video shows in exactly the same frame as shown in the Editor.

Video Properties

Video Actions

   

 

Widget tool

Once a video is selected in the Widget tool, it is shown full screen.

 

Sound

Working with sound is as simple as uploading the file – external links are not supported.  ZapWorks documentation shows that they support MP3, OGG, M4A and “many others”.  A standard, albeit different, icon is used for sound in both Designer and Widget tools.  Because you cannot change the Icon for sound, if you have more than one sound on a Tracking Image you’ll probably want to use a Text Object to identify them.  It would be nice if Buttons or Text Objects could play a sound when tapped, however this can be worked around be moving to a new Scene that plays the sound upon scanning. The placement of the Icon after using Grab & Go in Designer is peculiar to me, as it was put smack dab in the middle of the Tracking Image at about 1/5th of its size.

Sound Icon – Designer Object

Sound Icon – Widget

   

 

 

Designer tool

Sound has no Appearances, but it does have Properties, Actions and the standard Transitions.  Sound can be configured to play once the Zapcode has been scanned and to pause any other media that is playing before the video starts.  Sound has the same actions as Video.

Sound Properties

Sound Actions

 
 

 

 

Text

Text is a Designer-only Object with a very good set of Properties.  The only thing that I can see missing is a font size control.

The Actions for Text are almost identical to that of an Image and make for a very useful Button.

The Appearances for Text are different from the standard.

 

Button

Button is also a Designer-only Object and has all the same Properties and Actions as the Text Object.  The only difference between the two is that the Button Appearance allows you to control the Border characteristics.

Add Contact

The Widget for Add Contact allows for all the standard fields that you would find in most contact databases.  Fields that are not present in the database are ignored when importing.  Oddly, the Postal Address information did not transfer to my iOS contact database.  Although the standard iOS database also allows for Social Profile information, none of this information was transferred either.

Contact in Editor

Contact on iOS

   

 

Designer tool

The Contact Object has only a few Properties, no Actions and no Appearance control.

 

 

Contact Display

Contact Detail

   

 

Widget tool

 

Contact Display

Contact Detail

   

 

Add Calendar Event

The Add Calendar Event Widget allows for all the common fields associated with an event.    When entering the Event date, ZapWorks is kind enough to restrict you to future dates.

When transferring to my iOS contact database, all fields were correctly populated and the URL, for which there was no field, was added to the event Notes.

Event in Editor

Event in iOS

 

 

 

Designer tool

The Event Object has only a few Properties, no Actions and no Appearance control.  For some reason the RSVP and “More Details” buttons that are available under the Widget are not shown on the Object.

 

Event Display

Event Detail

   

 

 

Widget tool

When displayed, the “RSVP” button will open an email to the address given under RSVP, and the “More Details” button will open the link specified by the field URL.

Event Display

Event Detail

   

 

 

Web Link

The Web Link is a Widget-only function that acts like a classic button with a background image.

Web Link in Editor

Web Link Display

   

 

Previewing

The Designer tool and Widget tool have the same preview option.

The Designer tool knows that it is possible that the Zapcode is too small on-screen and has you scan a Zapcode before you scan the Tracking Image.  I tested this on paper and everything worked perfectly fine as well. Because the Widget tool doesn’t have the concept of a Tracking Image, you are simply presented with a Zapcode to scan.  “Just for fun” I printed the Zapcode from the Widget tool and had no problem scanning it.

Designer Preview

Widget Preview

   

 

Scanning

The Zappar Scanner is quick and easy to use, it never times out and is the most feature rich of all tools tested.  It starts scanning as soon as the App is started and recognizes Zapcodes almost instantly.  Once the Zapcode is found, the scanner unlocks the content.  A convenient “rescan” button  is at the top right side of the screen.   The Zappar Scanner also has the unique features that it can turn on the flashlight and change camera, if your device supports these functions.

Scanning

Target Found

   

 

Once the Zapcode is unlocked, it will display the widgets configured for this Zapcode.  If you want, you can take a snapshot  and either share it or save it.

Save or Share

Sharing

Saving

     

 

If you expand the menu  you also get the additional options of creating a video  that you can share and marking the scan as a favorite , which you can later call back up by going into the App’s menu.  The video option was a little confusing because there is no “start” or “stop” function, or any indication that the recording is taking place – you just need to take it on faith and be patient.  Tap the video icon and you get a video of about five seconds, which is played back when you share it.  Unlike the image capture option, you cannot save the video.

Accessing Favorites

Sharing Video

   

 

One minor issue I experienced on my iPhone was that if I expanded the menu, I could not collapse it again because the collapse icon overlapped the menu icon .  This problem was only on my iPhone and did not exist on the Android or iPad scanners that I tested.

 

Reporting

ZapWorks has what they call “Zap-alytics”, which is some of the best reporting of all tools reviewed.  Zap-alytics include the standard scan histogram which you can select a date range for.

Then, they add:

  • Average Zap Times
  • Countries
  • Platforms
  • Time of Day
  • Zapcode specific scan counts

Not being one to complain, I would like to see the date ranges also include common items such as this week, last week, last month, last quarter, last year, etc. and that the graph’s horizontal axis gets some dates.  As well, it would be nice if you could zoom in and out on the Countries display.

Error Handling

ZapWorks does an absolutely superb job of Error Handling.  URLs and Email addresses are validated as they are entered and the field borders change from a bold red to a calm blue once the contents match the formatting requirements.

 

Demo Account Limitations

  • Only 1 Trigger allowed
  • Cannot create Scanner app

Pricing

Summary

What’s to like

  • Exceptionally well done user interface
  • Solid on-line help
  • Media Library directly accessible
  • Good reporting
  • Feature rich scanner
  • Superfast recognition
  • Image & orientation independent recognition
  • Scanner restart not required when previously scanned content changes

What’s not to like

  • Few Widget / Object types

Wikitude Studio

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