As our favourite fictional time-traveller would say, “Oh boy!” what a year it’s been. After our first year of growth following initial investment saw 2018 move and increase the size of the team, 2019 continued the steady pace as we reached for new goals.
This year we decided it was time the team got some external recognition for their hard work and so we submitted specific projects for some awards. As a result, we received numerous finalist nominations for the studio and projects but more importantly, some key award wins, including: Prolific London – Tech Company of the Year, AIXR VRAwards – VR for Education & Training (Vodafone – Working at Height) and LTAwards – Most Innovative Learning Tech Product UK (EDF Energy – Sentinel).
Continuing our trend of fewer but more targeted events, to ensure we maximised our ROI and lead generation, we packed the van on a few occasions to appear at key events like Learning Technologies, World of Learning, Learning Live, eLN Connect, DCW and DigiFest. It’s not all about being on a booth, so the team took time out to attend MWC, VRX Europe, VRDays and OC6.
As part of our continued growth to meet rising targets, we cast the net wide to bring on more team members to bolster our development team. Right at the start of the year we welcomed Sophie as Head of Learning Design, joining us from Brightwave. Shortly after, Tonia and Jason came on-board within the business development team to help Ben and Robin generate and secure client and partnership leads, allowing Sam to concentrate on The Drawing Board and our own IP products.
Towards the end of the year, Alan and Ryan joined us from Leo Learning as designers, looking to take immersive learning to the next level. Michelle planned her way into Head of Delivery from Kineo, to ensure that our increasingly complex projects were scheduled effectively and running on time, within budgets. Ellie impressed us so much during a stint as intern, she joined full time as production assistant. Cao-Hsin flipped from contract artist to full time just before the year broke, whilst amazing freelancers Jonathan, Laurence, Marco, Rohan, Danny, Paul and Sam all had contracts to help us deliver projects along the way.
Partnerships & Memberships
Following on from 2018, we continued our memberships with LPI, UKie and Immerse UK but decided to mix things up a bit and joined AIXR this year instead of VRARA, for comparison. We were delighted to be selected as ISV Partners with Oculus for Business, to continue our efforts to grow immersive technologies deployed within enterprise at scale. We also joined eLN as industry partners and also showed support for Wired Sussex Talent Manifesto and VWVR to encourage diversity & inclusion.
Our main partnership of the year, after much paperwork and background meetings, having been alluded to previously, was a 3-year MSA and future, longer term investment with Keltbray Group. Having worked with their commissioning teams closely to create a number of Microsoft HoloLens networked applications in 2018, we will now be working together to create a series of construction-orientated training applications throughout 2020 and beyond, across a range of immersive technologies.
Tools & Tech
It’s been a great year for releases of new immersive technologies, bringing ease-of-use and reduced friction to devices commercially available since 2016. We’ve seen many of our VR projects switch from PC VR (Oculus Rift & HTC Vive-based) to standalone VR (Oculus Quest and HTC Vive Focus Plus), including our own IP products like Rear Guard. We’ve also seen a huge deployment of mobile VR headsets like Oculus Go to various clients over the year, including Lloyds Banking Group, EDF Energy, Vodafone and McDonald’s.
We’ve seen AR and spatial computing devices released and platforms mature, having welcomed Magic Leap and HoloLens 2 into the studio, as well as having deployed a number of mobile AR apps for CITB, Deloitte // Zurich Insurance and EDF Energy, plus our regular HoloLens experiences for Keltbray.
The R&D team on The Drawing Board have been busy stabilising and growing our own internal set of tools to streamline, improve production processes and reduce development time of our soft skills VR applications, with character pipelines, facial and body mo-cap now carried out with ease, to bring low-cost lifelike human avatars to our training content.
Finally, building upon the freedom offered by standalone VR devices like the Oculus Quest, we’ve been working on our own shared-space, co-location system to allow multiple users to collaborate within the same space, connected to each other within the same virtual space over the network. The first use case for this has been with the immersive theatre prototype ‘Time Machine’ we built with The Old Market // TOMTech for Creative XR, the programme run by Digital Catapult and Arts Council England. This has been further enhanced for deployment at scale by early-stage exploration and integration of the emerging 5G technologies.
Products and Deployments
Below is a brief outline of the major projects and products delivered by the Make Real team this year, either in full or very near to completion with final amends required in early 2020. There are a number of developments that can not be included within this annual review due to sensitive nature of purpose, deployment or client. We also started our immersive technology consultancy workshops with The Big 4, enabling global organisations to better understand how, where and why to deploy AR and VR for training.
Learning & Development, Training & Simulation
Antycip Skyscraper Motion Simulator – Integration of MiddleVR and high-rise 3D databases for building sway motion simulation. [Unity, VR]
Brightwave // Network Rail Trackside Safety – Awareness application around the importance of trackside safety for rail maintenance crews. [Unity, Windows MR VR]
CITB Highways – Suite of training applications around apprenticeships for highway construction maintenance safety. [Unity, Oculus Quest VR / Android tablet AR]
CITB Tunnelling – Suite of training applications around apprenticeships for tunnel construction maintenance safety. [Unity, Oculus Quest VR / Android tablet AR]
Clare College, Cambridge Campaign for Old Court – 360º film and interactive 3D content about the need to raise funds for critical repairs and renovations necessary to the buildings for future generations and greater accessibility. [Unity, Oculus Go VR]
Deloitte // Zurich Insurance Smart Home AR – Event-specific mobile AR application to showcase the benefits of Zurich Insurance smart home services to employees and event attendees. [Unity, iOS AR]
EDF Energy Enterprise Sales Toolkit – Sales toolkit application to enable teams to highlight benefits of enterprise energy solutions and cost saving initiatives. [Unity, iPad AR]
Honda EV Maintenance Trainer Demonstrator – Collaborative instructor-led training demonstrator around EV battery maintenance. [Unity, Oculus Rift VR]
JISC Natalie 4.0 – 360º film about a day in the life of a future university student to showcase where education is headed. [Unity, Oculus Go VR]
Keltbray Slinger Signaller – Complex gesture input trainer for construction site crane lifting operations. [Unity, Oculus Quest VR]
Lloyds Banking Group Personal Vitality & Resilience – Soft-skills training around ego-states and team communication to improve co-worker mental well-being and care. [Unity, Oculus Go / Quest / Rift VR]
Lloyds Banking Group Relationship Management – Soft-skills training around client interactions for product sales teams. [Unity, Oculus Go / Quest VR]
Make Real Rear Guard VR – Gesture input based training for vehicle reversing operatives within waste management, two-person delivery services and the fire service. [Unity, Oculus Quest / Rift VR]
Orsted Offshore Turbine Safety – Health & safety training around correct traversal procedures and process for moving from boat to offshore wind-turbines. [Unity, Oculus Quest VR]
Porsche Origins – Staff on-boarding experience where Ferdinand “Ferry” Anton Ernst Porsche introduces users to the 356, the first road car to carry the name Porsche. [Unreal, Oculus Quest VR]
UK Power Networks Cable Maintenance Trainer – Complex maintenance trainer around cable repair and replacement. [Unity, Oculus Rift VR]
Vodafone Drive Safe – Health, safety and well-being mobile serious game around correct procedures, vehicle care and driver awareness to encourage employees to drive safe. [Unity, Android/iOS]
Games, Entertainment and Location-based
AlterEyes Loco Dojo Fiesta – Bespoke 10-minute version of Loco Dojo specifically for the ‘DOJO’ LBE VR turnkey arena platform. [Unity, HTC Vive Pro VR]
CreativeXR Time Machine – Immersive theatre prototype blending projected, VR and AR content to form a collaborative narrative experience for 8 audience members, based upon H.G. Well’s Time Machine, delivered over 5G. [Unity, Android tablet AR, Oculus Quest VR]
Make Real Loco Dojo – Multiplayer social VR party game updated for further commercial store platforms. [Unity, HTC Vive / Cosmos, Viveport VR]
Vodafone 5G Rugby Kick – Updated rugby drop-kick experience to showcase benefits of 5G within the Vodafone Business Centre suites. [Unity, HTC Vive & Tracker VR]
Vodafone & Keltbray Brokk Smash – Time-challenge-based game experience to clear the construction site using a remote controlled Brokk robot. [Unity, Microsoft HoloLens MR]
VR4Good // VR4Impact
Continuing on from our efforts last year, we wanted to ensure we carry on enabling pathways and we are able to support and hire people from a wide range of diverse, inclusive, equality backgrounds. In order to do this we have to ensure that all stages of learning have immersive technologies on their roadmap to open the realms of possibilities to people at every level.
Aiming for the younger age groups, we attended CoderDojo: Brighton to inspire minds as to where programming skills could lead to. We worked with local college Dv8 Sussex to trial a remote work experience programme, which produced excellent outcomes. Internally we hosted a number of work experience placement students and interns, firming up our approach for the next year. To widen the net, we supported Codebar: Brighton throughout the year with studio space and pizza to encourage a more diverse group of developers to get into programming.
Utilising technology for good, we welcomed Grace Eyre members into the studio to try out VR and talk to us about how they would want to be able to use the technology. We visited Blind Veterans UK once more for their member activity days. Finally we donated the sales and LBEVR revenues for Loco Dojo as well as an Oculus Quest to the Special Effect One Special Day. Finally we are working with Bounce Back to look at how we can deploy more VR training for inmates in the prison sector.
2019 has been the busiest [calendar] year for the immersive studio to date and we’re expecting 2020 to continue the trend and our growth plans. We’ll be hiring a number of developers, another biz dev team member, people persons and likely more learning designers in order to allow us to continue delivering our award-winning immersive learning applications, as well as continuing to develop our own off-the-shelf content for delivery to enterprise establishments. We’ll also be updating and launching a new website with updated case studies for all the projects we delivered this year, and much more!
As we end the year, a number of high profile projects are currently underway for deployment in early 2020, for existing and exciting new clients and partners alike. More details will emerge throughout the year as they reach completion, covering built environment, utilities, healthcare, finance, automotive and more. We’re looking forward to extending the reach of immersive technologies within enterprise and entertainment, through our hardware partnerships and out-of-home plans.
That leaves us to thank everyone who we have had the pleasure of working and meeting with throughout 2019 – whether we’ve deployed a project, discussed plans for 2020 or just opened your eyes to the possibilities at an event. We’re bullish on the benefits but will continue to ask ourselves, and you, why [does this idea need to be] VR!?
Happy new year, here’s to a great 2020.