SwapBots is an exciting new Augmented Reality toy and video game combination that lets players influence the game’s outcome aided by a tablet or smartphone. There’s no need for expensive consoles or hardware to enjoy SwapBots – just download the free iOS or Android app, install it, and start playing.
SwapBots was conceived by a group of UK parents who wanted an alternative means of introducing their children to digital technology and Augmented Reality, while at the same time encouraging playing with physical objects. Developed with the help of gaming and AR professionals, SwapBots was originally intended for children aged six to eleven, although Beta testing made it obvious that people of all ages are enjoying the game, which is scheduled for general release in July of this year.
The impressive team behind SwapBots includes Draw & Code, a Liverpool, England-based digital studio owned by two of SwapBots’ founders that specializes in Augmented & Virtual Reality. The AR technology that brings SwapBots’ toys to life is from software developer Vuforia, who created the world’s most widely used Augmented Reality platform. The platform for the game itself is Unity 3D, which was developed by Unity Technologies of San Francisco. SwapBots toys are produced by international toy manufacturer Creata, whose ideas and products have helped promote such well-known brands as Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Nestle.
The expertise, technology and financial resources needed to bring a new toy to market were beyond the means and abilities of the group of parents, so they sought outside financial and technical expertise. During the initial stages, San Francisco’s SOSV HAX Boost Accelerator provided both business advice and startup financing for the project. Being a winner of Tech North’s Northern Star Award for UK startups helped SwapBots obtain additional prototype funding through UK Games Fund, a governmental agency formed to promote growth in the Games industry.
Producing SwapBots in sufficient quantities to bring the game to market, however, was realistically still beyond the means of the startup team. They consequently turned to Kickstarter to raise the money needed to complete the project. Founded in 2009, Kickstarter is a Brooklyn, New York-based For Profit Benefit Corporation that helps raise money for projects by connecting innovators with backers. To date, more than 13 million people worldwide have backed a Kickstarter project. SwapBots’ Kickstarter objective was to raise £25,000, or $32,500. In just 42 days between the campaign’s launch on April 1, 2017, 383 backers pledged £25,617 ($33,300).
All Kickstarter projects must have a specific monetary goal, which in SwapBots’ case was £25,000. Backers are usually offered rewards in exchange for their support. SwapBots, for example, offered incentives ranging from a three-pack of SwapBots toys for a pledge of £14 ($18). Pledging £5,000 ($6,500) earned the opportunity to help design and name a new SwapBots character during a two-day visit to SwapBots’ headquarters with hotel accommodations paid.
Kickstarter is an “all or nothing” proposition. If the goal is not reached within a specified period of time, the campaign is terminated, and backers who have pledged their support are relieved of their obligation to fund the project. Kickstarter also waives its usual 5% fee for underfunded and cancelled campaigns.
About the Game
Swapping parts of a Bot through a tablet or smartphone “SwapScope” directly affects what happens within the game. Each Bot is unique, and can be configured differently by “swapping” components with other Bots. Through Augmented Reality, the player or players cause characters and environments to appear on the same real life surface where the Bot has been placed. Only a single Bot is needed to enjoy the SwapBots experience, although using three or more Bot toys greatly enhances the game by allowing customization. That’s why the company plans to market new SwapBots in groups of three.
SwapBots is optimized for iPad 3, iPhone 5 and newer iOS devices. For other smartphones and tablets, Android 4.1 or later is recommended for optimum performance. SwapBots will run on earlier versions of iOS and Android, although there may be some noticeable loss of performance. The game is reasonably priced at a very affordable £16 ($21), which includes three Bots, the video game and the app. SwapBots has pledged there will be no in app purchases or advertisements.
SwapBots, Kickstarter and Augmented Reality all have something in common – each is a success story based on an innovative concept, perseverance and hard work.