Meet the Northern Stars finalists: Is Swapbots the future of augmented reality toys?

12 Oct, 2016

On 17th November 2016, our Northern Stars final will take place in Manchester. Among the 20 companies pitching will be six from the regional heats currently under way. As the final approaches, we’re highlighting the winners of those events.

Swapbots, a product from agency Draw & Code, was victorious in Liverpool, so we spoke to the company’s Marketing Manager, Phil Charnock, to find out more about it.

Hello Swapbots, what’s your elevator pitch?

Swapbots is an augmented reality toy and game. It makes the ‘toys to life market’ more accessible than ever before.

With most NFC toys, like Skylanders and Nintendo’s Amiibos, you use them once in a game and you don’t have to touch them again – just an expensive way to buy content. We wanted to make the physical toys more integrated into the game itself. There are six toys that can be arranged into a total of 216 combinations.

What’s it like to be a startup from Liverpool?

There’s a lot of talent here in areas like gaming and simulation. People here have experience of working for Sony or on their own games. Liverpool has a lot going on in virtual reality and augmented reality – Vizuality offers a VR production studio with untethered headsets, for example – we’re just not good at shouting about it. At Draw & Code we were inspired by UsTwo in London, and the idea that a small dedicated research team can come up with something fantastic. Swapbots was too good an idea not to follow through.

Liverpool great place to live and work. It’s big enough to have opportunity, but small enough to have community. You do have to travel to places like London and the US for money and partnerships, though.

What are your plans for the future?

We need to secure funding and partnerships. We’re looking at licensing the IP to a big brand or franchise, or maybe we’ll license the patent behind the technology. We believe in the technology as much as the product.

We’ll have a good pre-production model in early 2017. We’re timing that for the big toy industry fairs in January and February. Also, we’ve been invited to the HAX Boost accelerator in the San Francisco, which is intense mentorship programme for hardware startups..

Event photography by Thomas Jackson for Tynesight Photographic Services.

Why did you enter Northern Stars?

It’s brilliant to highlight what’s happening in the North. It’s no use sitting in an office and putting out press releases. Northern Stars puts companies out there and shows them to the world.

What was it like to pitch?

We didn’t expect to win. I thought the quality of pitches on the night was superb and it made us realise the heat was on. It was quite a daunting thing. I think we won not because of the presentation or the business case, but because it’s fun – and anybody can relate to fun.

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