Liverpool immersive tech studio Draw & Code is breaking into US and European retail markets with an enhanced version of its augmented reality (AR) smart toy SwapBots, following support from the Activate programme.
SwapBots is an interactive AR app that enables children to digitally customise physical toys and bring them to life through a smartphone or tablet.
The growth follows significant developments to SwapBots as a result of Activate, a part-ERDF funded project that helps SMEs grow by exploring and adopting emerging technologies such as machine learning, virtual reality (VR) and AR.
Supported by the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) and project partner Activate, Draw & Code was able to access the skills and technology needed to achieve market validation and late-stage user testing of the SwapBots app. It is now tackling the retail toy market with a revised version of the game, using input from the research and consultancy facilitated by Activate.
Draw & Code, which recently showcased at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, has also appointed two new staff members to see it into its next stage of growth. Former Angry Birds producer Becky Jones has taken on the role of lead producer while Brett Page, formerly of Hasbro, joins as commercial director, taking the company’s headcount from 15 to 17.
Draw & Code was able to refine the internal workings of SwapBots by attending user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) workshops delivered by FACT.
FACT also worked with the company to enable in-depth development work with marketing, funding and UI design professionals from the likes of Nintendo, to determine a new commercial strategy for taking SwapBots to the international market.
Phil Charnock, marketing manager at Draw & Code said: “Access to funding is a major challenge for any business and Draw & Code is no exception. Despite Liverpool City Region being a hot-bed of interactive and games talent, it’s still hard to find the right staff and support. The opportunity to leverage experience like this is rare, and it’s encouraging to see business support programmes like Activate helping innovators access industry insight, for free.
“We’re aiming to push SwapBots into the US and European retail markets by 2020, and the support provided by Activate and FACT means we are much more prepared for the challenge both strategically, and in terms of the game design itself.”
Roger McKinley, head of innovation at FACT, said: “We are immensely pleased to have supported Draw & Code’s growth over the last year. A company that’s always been very present in the city is now getting the recognition and world platform it deserves. From development workshops in finance, crowdfunding and user experience, through to supported user testing with FACT’s family audiences and Digital Summit delegates. FACT is thrilled to have supported Draw & Code through Activate and to have been a part of this brilliant company’s journey.
“Activate is set to end in June 2020, so we encourage digital and creative businesses across Liverpool City Region to get in touch as soon as possible to see how the project can help them grow.”