We’re back once again with a new quarterly review, the first of the year 2018. After a welcome fortnight break away from the studio, the team returned fresh and ready for getting straight down to business for the new year, with exciting new projects and events pre-planned for kick-off. After an excellent year overall in 2017, we’re keen to see where and how the emerging immersive technologies improve and grow over the coming year.
Whilst the development team set about designing and developing a complex Microsoft Hololens product for a new client partner (more details to be revealed next quarter), the external facing team got down to doing what they do best; running and attending events, expos and appearing as speakers alongside the usual meetings, proposal writing and pitches with existing and potential new clients and partners.
First up, we attended the Brighton Digital Catapult ‘VR Brighton Meetup #9‘, centered around the theme of the built environment, where we showcased the ‘working at height’ prototype, developed for Vodafone as part of a wider body of works. This continues to test the mettle of the strongest of knees as we ask users to first climb up to the first storey of scaffolding on a construction site, before safely climbing 25m up a mobile phone mast, or monopole as we say in the trade.
The next big event the team attended was ‘XR Connects London’, where we had been selected as one of the entrants for the “XR Indie Pitch” and expo. On the first day we showcased our VR game for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Windows Mixed Reality headsets, “Loco Dojo“, to meet and talk with publishers about funding the port and release of the game on the Sony PlayStation VR system. The second day saw us unveil our new VR game pitch, “Pastimes for Pirates“, to the judges and press and won 3rd place prize of $1,000 worth of advertising credit across the Steel Media network. Our Director of Immersive Technologies was also speaking on stage as part of the XR track about how to successfully blend serious and fun immersive content development.
The last major event of the month was ‘Learning Technologies 2018‘, at Olympia, London. After discussion with one of our learning partners, Lumesse Learning, it was decided not to re-run the VR Lounge this year again at their ‘Learning Lounge‘ event, although MD Robin Scott still provided a thought-provoking opening talk to their side-event about how and when to scale immersive technology into a learning strategy. So we took a booth on the main show floor to showcase our Vodafone working at height prototype and EDF Energy “Reactor Builder” VR applications on Oculus Rift + Touch and HTC Vive respectively.
The month began as January ended, with the Learning Technologies 2018 event before we opened our studio doors one evening to CodeBar Brighton, an initiative setup to enable inclusion and diversity among the local development scene, with programming training and tutors on-hand to provide support to lesser represented individuals who wanted to get into the industry. As an emerging technology with so many creative possibilities, this is something we feel strongly about supporting to enable access to anyone with a desire to work within the sector.
Similarly, in an attempt to inspire and encourage young minds to consider development for games and immersive technologies as a career path, our Director of Immersive Technology carried out two local college presentations, first stepping back into the hallowed halls of his own college from the 90’s, now know as Sussex Downs College, Lewes and then with local college who we already have an established relationship with, MET, formerly known as City College Brighton & Hove. The talk covered Games Industry and Running a Studio 101 and Intro to VR, followed by a demo hands-on session with some VR hardware.
As ever, we’re keen to support local events and companies running them and having recently moved to Brighton to base their operations, the ever wonderful VR PR & marketing company Virtual Umbrella ran the first of hopefully many in the town “VR In A Bar” events, where we showcased “Loco Dojo” but were also able to get our hands on the recently announced HTC Vive Pro VR headset for the first time in UK/EU. We were certainly left impressed and keen to get our own for the studio to deploy to our clients and partners once released commercially later this year.
Back in the studio itself, the team were putting the finishing touches to two large projects for deployment; the EDF Energy “Click Mobile” Oculus Rift + Touch training tool based around the need to install 2M smart meters this year, and the multi-user Microsoft Hololens product, details of which will be covered elsewhere when able to do so. Smaller projects included working with one of our regular partners to update their popular mobile VR experience to the Oculus Go standalone hardware platform, due for release later this year.
The team took a break from development to try out the current best in class location-based VR experience, “The VOID: Star Wars – Secrets of the Empire” at Westfield, Shepherd’s Bush, London. Split into three teams of four, our brave team members became undercover members of The Empire to infiltrate a base and steal plans to empower The Rebels in their fight. Using bespoke VR backpack and tracking technologies, combined with Leap Motion hand tracking, the team got their first taste of the future of VR – truly wireless and free-roaming warehouse-scale VR experiences.
We welcomed the Future Tech Now event organisers to the studio to film a to-camera interview ahead of the show we’ll be attending in April, to showcase our corporate learning and development training immersive technology products, as well as taking part in a panel discussion about the future Super Worker and hosting an expo-floor presentation about our capabilities.
Our Director of Immersive Technologies flew off to Venice, Italy for the two day European Immersive Computing Summit event, where he had been invited to give a talk about how and when to scale immersive technologies within the workplace, as well as how to realistically evaluate and approach learning content design that is objective-driven first and foremost, rather than by technology.
We also hosted a number of members of the charity Stay Up Late and Gig Buddies, who, with some assistance from us towards the tender process and highlighting the potential benefits of using immersive technologies effectively, have been granted access to the Google Daydream Impact programme. This will provide them with a Google Jump 360° camera, associated cloud-based stitching account and bandwidth, as well as a Google Expeditions pack of Google Pixel phone handsets and Daydream VR headsets. Working together over the next 6 months, we are looking to create a series of venue-based 360° films for viewing on VR headsets, to quantify the benefits of VR around immersion, empathy, social accessibility and empowerment for users with learning disabilities to have the knowledge and confidence to attend events with their Gig Buddies, having seen beforehand what each venue looks like, how its laid out and what it feels like to be there when events are active.
Just before the Easter break, our Director of Immersive Technologies was invited to the launch of an exciting new VR platform proposition, ‘Terra Virtua‘, which aims to democratise social VR spaces through the use of blockchain, offering a “Netflix for VR” subscription service. Our game title “Loco Dojo” is set as a launch title for the platform. The launch event was held at the prestigious BAFTA offices in London, UK before a private 3D screening of the new Steven Spielberg movie about VR, based upon Ernest Cline’s book “Ready Player One“.
To ensure fairness, he then hopped over to The O2 to join friends from PwC and Digital Catapult, accepting the invite to watch the film [again], this time in 2D, as part of their build up to the report on the state of the UK VR & AR industry and sectors, to be released very soon.
The development team kicked off and commenced work on a number of new exciting projects for deployment in April and May, details of which will be revealed in the next quarterly review.
So once again, another busy quarter for the Make Real team overall and a positive start to the year with strong signs of things to come. We’re always open to discussion around how you can work with us in bringing immersive technologies into your business objective strategies, whether they be related to learning and development, training, simulation, onboarding or experiential customer-facing content. We’re brimming full of ideas with hard and fast results and learnings to apply to whatever sized budget you have set aside. Contact details below!