As we prepare to close the studio for the Christmas and New Year period, we thought it was time to look back over the year that was 2018 and everything that the studio has created, been involved in and recap the major news.
The biggest news of the year was welcoming our investors to the table, bringing with them initial funds to really kickstart our plans for company growth and expansion of offerings. They have quickly grasped the nuances of agency life in the rapidly advancing field of immersive technologies, seeing the opportunity to allow us to ensure we remain at the forefront of developments and ensuring our clients and partners have access to viable solutions based on suitability and outcomes, rather than hype cycles and buzzwords.
Of course, we couldn’t achieve what we set out to do with the existing, albeit highly effective and capable, team so we set about hiring more excellent development team members throughout the year. First we welcomed back artists Emily and Becky, who had worked with us on Loco Dojo. Then we set about growing our code capabilities and introduced Andrew, Sam and Dino late in the year. However we needed more designers to ensure our learning and training content met learning and business objectives, so we welcomed Matt right at the end to bring UI and UX to the fore. We have another highly talented Head of Learning Design joining us in the new year, so you’ll have to wait until early 2019 for more details. We are still on the look out for a Production Manager though to keep all our deliverables and projects in check.
The investment also allowed us to create a ringfenced, dedicated team to R&D, demonstrators, proposals and pitches, away from the shifting schedules of project work. Starting in August along with the new financial year, The Drawing Board team of three quickly set about creating our first own IP product MVP, Rear Guard, along with demonstrators for new clients and partners (more to also be announced next year) as well as cracking on exploring how Loco Dojo will look when released on the new Oculus Quest headset and once optimised, prepared for release on Sony PlayStation VR too.
It also allowed us to pay membership fees to join some relevant industry bodies and so we are now paid-up members of the VR AR Association, UKIE and The Learning & Performance Institute. By joining these specific bodies, it helps solidify and validate our inclusion within the learning and development, training, simulation, gaming and immersive technology sectors as leaders.
All these new starters meant that we needed more space and to work on the quality of life aspects of the studio for the expanding development team. With a little push, we looked to the building next door that had recently been vacated and offered more agreeable terms for our needs, so everything was packed up, wheeled 50m down the road and unpacked in the new space. Whilst the development team has more space to work within, non-work areas have been removed to their own areas, to increase peace and quiet. Not only that, we were able to create a dedicated VR Lab and demo space for clients, partners, events and more, again away from the development area, keeping the squeals of delight from first time VR users out of earshot. Of course we maintained space for our official PR & marketing partners Virtual Umbrella as well.
Our external presence and recognition within the immersive technology use cases for enterprise sectors continued to expand, with inclusion in a number of industry reports. Our efforts were covered in reports by Dell, Digital Catapult, the book The Super Worker, along with a studio profile on VRFocus. We also sponsored the XR For Business report included in The Times newspaper, which you can download here. Finally, we now publish a monthly newsletter, which you can sign-up to here.
We managed to dial back the event madness after the previous slew of attendance last year but we still gave talks and presentations at XR Connects London, EICS, Future Tech Now, Dublin Games Summit and IT Weekend (Ukraine), as well as exhibiting at the major L&D events like Learn Technologies 2018, World of Learning, Digital Construction Week, Brighton Digital Festival and Global Mobile BroadBand Forum.
Products & Deployments
Training, simulation, learning and development
EDF Energy Click Mobile – Designed to raise awareness of environmental risks of newly training Smart Meter installation engineers [Oculus Rift + Touch]
EDF Energy Sentinel – Designed to enhance training of nuclear power station control room operatives, increasing compliance of fleet operation between output and market values [PC]
Lloyd’s Banking Group Soft Skills Demonstrator – Showcase app to highlight use cases for VR in field of soft-skills training, proving very popular at L&D events [Oculus Rift + Touch / Oculus Go]
Make Real Rear Guard – Designed to provide training and safe practice for vehicle reversing operatives to assist with reducing fatalities and serious incidents at work [Oculus Rift + Touch]
PROCAT Digital VR Applications – Updated version deployed to HMP Chelmsford as part of a new post-release training scheme for prisoners [HTC Vive]
Severn Trent Water Leak Resolution VR – Demonstrator to showcase the possibilities of using VR for training and development within the water utilities sector [Oculus Rift + Touch]
Vodafone Driver Safety & Awareness – Series of apps to raise awareness of driver safety and good practice for driving standards [Android / iOS / Oculus Go]
Vodafone Working at Height – Designed to raise awareness within the management team of the risks and health, safety and well-being issues associated with maintenance crews working at height [Oculus Rift + Touch / Oculus Go]
Games, entertainment and live
EDF Energy iMap VR – Designed to demonstrate the current status of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant construction and final development views in 360° [Android / HTML5 / Oculus Go]
Investec Rugby Drop Kick VR – Live event installation inviting attendees to attempt to catch and drop kick three virtual rugby balls and score a goal [HTC Vive & Tracker 2.0]
McDonald’s Foodsteps 2018 – 3rd year of operation updates to mobile VR content, adding a new 360° film about Chicken McNuggets and porting the experience to the new Oculus Go headset [Oculus Rift / Oculus Go]
Solvin Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Risk Reward Calculator – Installed at S.S. Great Britain “Being Brunel” exhibition, a one-armed bandit arcade machine merging digital and physical setup
Our studio dev/pub game ‘Loco Dojo’ was nominated for games awards, including TIGA Awards 2018 “Best Social Game” categories. Whilst the title didn’t win any awards this year, it’s a credit to the team to receive the nominations. The game has steadily grown in popularity since we made it available across a range of VR Arcade platforms however, and the revenue and global success gives us a strong direction for future developments.
As part of XR Connects London, at the start of the year, saw one of our new game prototypes, ‘Pastimes for Pirates’ pick up 3rd place in the Big XR Indie Pitch competition, giving us confidence in the title concept to take forwards and seek funding for full development across all VR platforms. You can read a series of developer diaries over on VR Focus and keep an eye out for future announcements in 2019.
Right at the end of the year, we scored a double-whammy by being selected as “Immersive Company of the Year” and our Director of Immersive Technologies as “Immersive Pioneer of the Year” in the annual Virtual Perceptions – Immersive Perspectives Awards! It’s a credit to the ethos and hard work of the team towards how we approach, design and develop immersive content to be chosen.
VR4Good // VR4Impact
We’re also incredibly proud of the various ways we have been working with local organisations and charities to push VR4Good // VR4Impact, highlighting the positive use cases of immersive technologies, including Stay Up Late / GigBuddies and the Google Daydream Impact project, creating a series of 360° VR films of venues to allow those with learning disabilities, autism, Asperger’s and social anxieties gain confidence to visit venues in the real world and have a better social life. We’ve witnessed the incredible power and potential of VR working with members of Blind Veterans UK, taking part in their technology day special events, as well as continued to donate to and support Grenfell VR Well-Being project. We will continue to support Codebar Brighton, hosting them bi-monthly to increase inclusion, diversity and equality within the development scene. Similarly we’re looking forward to continuing the work started with Playing Field and IntoGames, to increase pathways into the games industry for non-university degree routes and low-income families. On a similar note, we joined once again for One Special Day, the fundraising activity organised by Special Effect charity, to allow gamers of all abilities play the games they love most.
We already know some key events that will occur early on in 2019, with more new team members joining us and a calendar of events stacking up. Early on in the year we’ll be at Learning Technologies 2019, in their new home at London ExCeL, once again with our own booth showcasing our latest developments and products for learning & development, training and simulation. New clients and partners who came onboard in 2018 will see the fruition of our labour as we reveal new projects for deployment. With the imminent release of the standalone Oculus Quest VR headset, offering full 6DoF Rift-like experience without the VR-Ready PC or all those cables, we’re sure it’s going to be a big hit in 2019!
That leaves us to thank everyone who we have had the pleasure of working and meeting with throughout 2018 – whether we’ve deployed a project, discussed plans for 2019 or just opened your eyes to the possibilities, we wish you a merry Christmas and we’ll see you in the new year.