We’re officially now halfway through 2018 already and it’s time once more to look back over the past quarter and what the Make Real immersive technology development team has been up to. The start of the year was busy throughout the first quarter and whilst we said we would partake in fewer events throughout 2018, the opportunities are still coming thick and fast.
In order to make the review more readable, we’ve broken it down into categories this time, rather than an onslaught of words associated with each month. Hopefully you’ll agree it’s more engaging and clearer to understand what we’ve been up to, or even allow you to skip over parts you don’t find interesting!?
Related to the ‘Super Special Stuff’ below, we took on new hires, ready to continue building up the development team and expand our offerings to our clients, partners and range of new IP products TBC. First up, we welcomed the return of Emily as Junior 3D Artist, who worked with us during the development of Loco Dojo. We’ve been itching to bring her back into the Make Real fold and whilst she’s been working freelance on a couple of products here and there, it’s great to have her back full time! (We also see another Loco Dojo team member return next quarter..)
Secondly, we took on freelancers Rob and Laurence, who have been helping out on the various Vodafone products we’ve been working on this year. Whilst Rob went on to join our education partners Immersive VR Education over in Ireland, Laurence got his teeth into prototype hardware development for a secret demonstrator that will hopefully come to fruition later this year.
But the hires do not stop there – we are also currently looking for a Unity developer to join a new team we’re forming looking at rapid prototyping, R&D and development of our own IP products. As our current Senior Designer, the mastermind behind Loco Dojo, Pete has stepped up to lead this team, we will also be looking to hire a replacement for him in the Senior Design role on the L&D side of the development team focus.
In our drive to improve pathways into the industry and continue our involvement with outreach programs to local schools and colleges, we also welcomed Thomas for a week of work placement as part of his school curriculum. Next quarter we’ll be hosting Benjamin for a week as well. Similarly, to improve and grow our position within the creative, consumer content space, we joined local UK gaming champions and support body UKIE. We’ll be joining many other relevant industry bodies over the coming months to continue raising the studio profile globally.
Although we’re hiring new development team members, we still have some spare space in the studio currently and so we reached out to locally-based, globally-badass VR PR & Marketing Agency power-couple Sammy & Bertie, who founded and manage specialist company Virtual Umbrella, to offer them some hot-desking space and forge new partnerships that benefit both companies.
Make Real was also heavily featured in a couple of large-scale reports published on the usage and benefits of immersive technologies within the workplace. Firstly, Dell EMC produced the report “Making VR Real” (almost perfect title) looking at the training, learning and development and simulation in the workplace. Secondly, Jonathan Tustain, event organiser of Future Tech Now Show we attended, looked at how immersive technology can give employees superpowers in his tome “The Super Worker“, available to download for free. Finally, Digital Catapult and Innovate UK commissioned a report into ‘Creative Tools & Workflows for Immersive Content Creation‘, featuring our Top of the Crop Hero VR experience developed for McDonald’s UK.
The quarter proved to be busy with events for the external team once more. They made appearances and held demonstrations of immersive technologies at an emerging technology showcase for SSE, the fantastic Future Tech Now Show held at the gorgeous London Business Design Centre, some rapid speed pitch & match sessions at The London Games Finance Market, a special invitation to demonstrate at the CEdMA conference, a revisit to local pub The Elephant & Castle, Lewes for an evening talk Intro to VR Pt. 2 and another technology showcase open day with out-of-home, event specialist partners Creative Technology, and the HTC Vive sponsored VR Education Day at Windor Forest College, then a brief respite back in the local pub Hare & Hounds with local pop-up VR Arcade GOVR Brighton and LatestTV, before swinging by the VR World London 2018 event and subsequent VR AR World London 2018 and last but not least, demoing VR to the attendees of the Wired Sussex Talent Fest 2018. Internally, we hosted Codebar:Brighton once more as part of our desire to increase diversity and equality within the software development scene in Brighton.
Our first studio dev/pub VR game “Loco Dojo” continues to grow from strength-to-strength in the home user but also particularly the location-based VR Arcade sector, with over 300+ locales now offering the game, usually multiplayer, to their customers new and returning alike. We have been tracking the usage stats across a variety of them and Springboard VR has the widest deployment currently, where we have the game in over 30% of the 275+ locations using the platform and regularly feature in the Top 20 Played Games each month, with it tallying up the 2nd highest average gameplay time across all titles available in their catalog! Other LBEVR platforms carrying the game include Steam Cyber Cafe, CTRL-V, VR Junkies, SKonec, VRKade and a number of others currently in the process of negotiating licence deals with us.
Continuing with our support for the recently released Oculus Go standalone all-in-one VR headset, launched at the beginning of May, we took the final submission steps to launch the mid-range version of the ‘Vodafone – Working At Height’ VR awareness trainer application on the Oculus store. This was created as part of a scale-able series of VR applications with a fully immersive and interactive version for Oculus Rift + Touch, the mid-range VR version for Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR and an interactive 360° video version for wider deployment. This will be available on the Oculus Store in July for all owners of Samaung Gear VR and Oculus Go VR devices to experience.
We are in the process of creating a series of off-the-shelf training, learning & development and simulation immersive applications available to purchase and deploy whether you have the hardware already or require it to be pre-loaded on VR-Ready PCs. These will look at construction site health & safety and well-being, working at height and provide assessment tools for electrical, plumbing or refrigeration and air-con maintenance training. Get in touch to find out more about this range of products, available at a lower cost than creating bespoke content tailored to your specific needs.
This quarter saw the team wrap up a number of projects for a variety of clients big and small. The first up was for local friends SOLVIN, who we collaborated with and other local electronics whizzard Paul Hayes, who we’ve worked with previously on a variety of projects, to create the “Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Risk / Reward Calculator” one-armed-bandit style physical installation, for the SS. Great Britain ‘Being Brunel‘ exhibition in Bristol, UK.
Next up it was time to revisit the Balmoral Show in Northern Ireland once more for the McDonald’s ‘Follow Our Foodsteps 2018‘ campaign VR truck, to deploy the latest content updates to the mobile VR and touchscreen device applications. Related to this, we also worked with the McDonald’s UK agricultural team to update the Samsung / Oculus Gear VR content to work on the newly released all-in-one VR headset, the Oculus Go, to deploy at five farms across the country for the one-day ‘Open Farms‘ event.
We also worked with the EDF Energy HPC team once more to update the HPC Information Map application we had previously deployed, to Android tablets and TVs across the various information/visitor centres and the website. Also running on the newly released Oculus Go VR headset, the updated application was taken overseas for the World Nuclear Event held at the end of June in Paris, France.
Finally, we worked with Investec to create a crowd-pleasing, short VR experience based around one the key sports they regularly sponsor, rugby, for their booth at various investment, funding and stock brokerage shows around the world throughout 2018. The first event was held in Milan, Italy with special guest Francois Pienaar, ex-captain of South Africa rugby team. The second event was held in Orlando, Florida, US with another US-based event later this year. Using the roomscale 1:1 tracking of HTC Vive and the Vive Tracker pucks, attendees were challenged to catch 3 rugby balls before drop-kicking them over the goal. We worked with our new studio-buddies Virtual Umbrella to setup, operate and pack down each event.
VR 4 Good/Impact
We believe in the power of VR for change and positive benefits to humankind, be it through learning, engagement, awareness or serious fun and part of what we do externally with selected groups, helps us enable others to experience this for themselves. Although it was earlier in the year we worked with Grenfell VR, we’re only allowed to talk about it now in light of the year anniversary since the terrible fire that took hold of the tower-block in London last year. Whilst we only donated a VR-Ready PC and some copies of Loco Dojo to the charity, we expect to continue working with the team and their outreach program using VR to help affected families come to terms with the outcomes of the fire and the trauma of losing their homes.
Alluded to in the last quarterly review, we received the Google Jump 360° camera hardware as part of the Google Daydream for Impact program we are working on with local charity Stay Up Late, to produce a series of films at various social and entertainment venues. The idea being to test the impact of VR on their members with learning disabilities to see whether virtually visiting a location before attending in the real world, to get a layout of the space, location of exits, toilets, what it feels like when busy etc will help increase social confidence to allow them to have a more active social life. Working with a few local venues to carry out test filming sessions, we first went to The Old Market, Hove, where we have previously curated the #TOMTech #vrLAB events as part of the Brighton Digital Festival in 2016 & 2017, to film onsite before attendees of a Brighton Fringe Festival show arrived and during the performance.
Our Director of Immersive Technologies was invited to attend the technology day being held at the local Blind Veterans UK centre, to showcase and talk about VR and let some of the residents try out the various headsets. Whilst not knowing what to expect, incredibly we discovered that even elderly veterans who are registered severely vision impaired or blind were able to see and interact with the VR experiences, despite struggling with day-to-day vision in the real world. We think it was a combination of the bespoke lenses the VR headsets use along with the closeness of the screen wrapped around a user’s vision with a wide field of view that enabled it. It was a very moving event for all involved and led to the executives signing off on purchase requests for their own HTC Vive and Oculus Go headsets for residents and visitors to make more use of.
Finally, continuing our arrangement with Codebar:Brighton, we hosted another evening of keen learners and their mentors to enable a wider, diverse and equality focused accessible development pathways.
Super Special Stuff
The main event of this quarter for Make Real was the wrapping up and finalising of equity investment into the studio and business overall, which was publicly announced mid-June to our clients, partners and wider learning and immersive technologies sectors via a press release, which can be found in full here. The process of securing the investment has been going on in the background, obviously out of the public eye between the company directors and investors for a period of time, so it is a great relief to finalise the contracts, agreements and receive the initial investment payments, allowing the new company strategy to be put into action.
As per the press release details, the investment will allow Make Real to grow and expand operations within the immersive technology content sector across the two main verticals of focus: training, learning & development and simulation, and the games and entertainment sectors. Part of the growth plan includes the creation of a new internal R&D team, internally labelled ‘The Drawing Board’, which will enable the studio to research, evaluate and prototype new hardware, software and the commencement of our desire to create a range of our own IP products for enterprise and consumer markets. More of which will be announced over the coming months.
We are actively hiring mid/senior-level Unity developers with experience of creating content for VR and AR devices, with a background in rapid prototyping, R&D, IP product creation and associated areas, so if you want to work with a team looking exclusively into the future, get in touch!
To wrap up, it’s been another eventful quarter for the Make Real immersive technology studio and there many more exciting project, products and more to talk about when they are nearer to release and deployment. Stay tuned on our social media feeds for interim news as it occurs.