2017 started with a bang for us at Make Real, following the Christmas holiday break, with multiple projects kicking off early doors as soon as we all returned to the studio. Some short timescales and rapidly approaching deadlines meant the team had little chance to gently get back into the groove but as ever, they were up and running firing on all cylinders by the end of the first week.

The first three months of the year have been consistently busy for the outward facing VR Demo Dream Team of Robin Scott (Managing Director) and Sam Watts (Director of Immersive Technologies), with seemingly hundreds of meetings booked to showcase the potential power, current and future capabilities of immersive technologies to existing and soon-to-be new partners and clients. As ever though, the details of these will have to remain internal until projects and products are signed, completed and delivered.

Onto things we can talk about, let’s start at the beginning of the year with January.

January

Continuing on from previous products deployed with EDF Energy, our first new projects to commence for 2017 included two new pieces of immersive technologies for our long-standing partner — the Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch motion-tracked input controllers and the Microsoft Hololens.

Having only just become available for purchase in the UK in December 2016, the Microsoft Hololens was also a new piece of kit to the Make Real team but thanks to our deep knowledge of the Unity 3D development engine and guidance from our New England House neighbours, Fracture Games, we were up-and-running quickly ready to deploy at the end of the month, for a corporate-wide learning technologies showcase event.

Mock-up of the Microsoft Hololens “EDF Energy — HPC Explorer” Application in use

Mock-up of the Microsoft Hololens “EDF Energy — HPC Explorer” Application in use

Our freshly promoted Junior Developer, Harrison, having already gotten to grips with the Oculus Touch controllers during the Oculus Touch 24-hour Hackathon event we ran last year, as part of the Brighton Digital Festival #TOMTech #vrLAB at The Old Market Theatre, made quick work of developing “The V.O.I.D” (Virtual Object Inspection Deck) VR application. This was to be deployed at the same time for the EDF Energy internal event alongside the Microsoft Hololens “HPC Explorer” app.

“The V.O.I.D” EDF Energy Oculus Rift + Touch Experience

“The V.O.I.D” EDF Energy Oculus Rift + Touch Experience

The other major event of the month was VR Connects, London, which saw our Director of Immersive Technology attend to listen into a number of talks from other specialists working in the field and meet with peers to discuss current and emerging trends within the sector beyond gaming.

February

The month started with a two-day event scheduled to run alongside Learning Technologies ’17, having been invited to showcase VR to a selected number of guests to Learning Lounge 2017, run by Lumesse.

Lumesse ‘Learning Lounge 2017’ — Showcasing HTC Vive (with a potential tracking-breaking chandelier)

Lumesse ‘Learning Lounge 2017’ — Showcasing HTC Vive (with a potential tracking-breaking chandelier)

This was the first outing for our shiny new Pelicase transportable VR demo rig in suitably fancy surroundings at St. Paul’s Hotel opposite the Kensington Olympia main event venue. It offered a nice quiet space to get away from the busy, loud main expo floor and have quality one-to-one time with leaders and heads of learning and development for a number of corporations.

Our Director of Immersive Technology was also invited to present his talk “VR — Good God Y’all, What is it Good For?” (original title VR: Past, Presence & Future) on immersive technologies, to the guests of Lumesse on the first day, and as part of their internal employee learning event on the second day, as well as take part in a panel discussion looking at future disruptive technologies coming to the training, learning and development sectors.

With the travelling box of VR tricks barely packed up and returned to the studio, it was time to dash over to the British Airways i360 in Brighton to set it all up again as part of our main company’s 10th Anniversary Party. After going for a ride up the tallest free-standing lift (?), giving everyone attending a glorious view over Brighton & Hove and beyond at sunset, drinks were served and our new game was shown others besides the developers for the first time (behind closed, private doors at least).

Make Real 10th Anniversary Party Guests Try Out Our New Oculus Touch Game

Make Real 10th Anniversary Party Guests Try Out Our New Oculus Touch Game

Soon enough it was time to turnaround and head back to London, for three days of Digital Media Strategies 2017, where we had been asked to showcase immersive technologies to the publishing and media sectors as part of our newly designed Make Real VR Lounge.

This was our largest event to-date and really allowed us to stamp our mark on the scene with an impressive booth setup, catering for mobile VR, full PC-based tethered VR and AR experiences via our newly acquired own Microsoft Hololens.

The Make Real VR Lounge Setup, with HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR and Microsoft Hololens

The Make Real VR Lounge Setup, with HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR and Microsoft Hololens

March

In what seemed like the longest month of the year that went on forever, March didn’t let up in terms of events to attend and deployments to be made.

Early on our Director of Immersive Technology was crammed onto a plane over the pond to San Francisco for a very important meeting with Oculus and to attend GDC’17 for a few days. Whilst the meeting was the main point of the trip and all the VRDC’17 tickets had already sold out, he made good use of his time meeting with other VR developer peers and hardware manufacturers to discuss and learn about what’s coming up this year and next, as part of our on-going process to keep ahead of the competition.

A Small Section of the Impressive Oculus Booth at the GDC’17 Expo

A Small Section of the Impressive Oculus Booth at the GDC’17 Expo

Having landed back in the UK the night before, he was then bundled into a van with the rest of the development team to deploy the second and final parts of the PROCAT Digital VR applications. Developed to run alongside the electrical profession materials, previously deployed back in August 2016, the update added the plumbing and air-con & refrigeration support and learning materials. Further functionality to track a learner’s ID, progression and objective assessment scores within the college LMS was also added.

PROCAT Digital VR Applications Deployed Within the Plumbing & Electrical Apprentice Training Areas

PROCAT Digital VR Applications Deployed Within the Plumbing & Electrical Apprentice Training Areas

Then it was time to train and widen the Make Real VR demo capabilities amongst the directors and Ben Dykes joined Sam Watts at the Deloitte TMT Predictions Schools Challenge Final event, having gotten a taste of showcasing the technology at DMS’17.

To round the month off, and to ensure that demo practice didn’t go to waste, Sam and Ben headed to Kineo, City & Guilds for their internal client- and partner-facing internal day of learning and strategy, showcasing current and future immersive technologies to discuss how they can disrupt the traditionally staid training, learning and development space this and in coming years.

Looking Ahead

Early on within the second quarter of 2017, we will be very pleased to announce and release our first full VR game for Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch, “Loco Dojo”, developed solely as Make Real (note that our development leads were responsible for the creation of “Radial-G : Racing Revolved” on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation PS VR, operating as our co-owned studio ‘Tammeka’).

Whilst this blog post goes live, we have already announced the name and given the public their first look at the game but for now, it’s heads down and crossing t’s and dotting i’s ready for the launch at the end of April.

Make Real’s “Loco Dojo” Game Character — Grand Sensei, Voiced by Brian Blessed!

Make Real’s “Loco Dojo” Game Character — Grand Sensei, Voiced by Brian Blessed!

We’re also working with McDonald’s once more to refresh and enhance the 2016 award-winning VR truck experience we co-created with them for their Foodsteps campaign to promote the farming and agriculture industries as part of their supply chain outreach programme.

But that’s enough for now, no more spoilers for what lays ahead in the months to come…