As we struggle with our wardrobes deciding whether to wrap up for April showers or predicted heatwaves, it’s time to look back at the first quarter of 2019 and review what we’ve been up to.
The new year started how the previous year ended, with a number of new hires joining us as part of our continued funded growth plans. First up we welcomed Sophie, who joins us as Head of Learning Design, bringing with her years of industry experience and excellence delivering training solutions for the L&D sector. Shortly afterwards Cao-hsin came aboard to bolster the art team capabilities, re-uniting her with other ex-employees from Relentless Games already here. Finally Joe brought some organisation and scheduling mastery to the client-facing teams as Production Manager, whipping us all into shape and order, ready to grow and deploy ever-increasing sized developments this year onwards.
Talking of larger developments, we were pleased to be selected for two programme consortium groups as part of the next phase of the structured funding into construction immersive training from CITB. First up we join BAM Nuttall and Highways England, then secondly partnering with Morgan Sindall, Tideway and TunnelSkills. Further details will be announced as development nears completion later this year.
As part of our ongoing desire to educate and inform, using real-world use cases centered on previous deployments we’ve made with immersive technologies, we ran a 3-day workshop with one of the Big 4 consultancy organisations for their own internal L&D teams. We will be announcing further masterclass programmes in the near future, if you are interested in ensuring your L&D team fully understands the business use cases for deploying immersive technologies to meet actual learning objectives.
The start of each year is always busy with L&D events, with much of the industry gearing up for Learning Technologies 2019, freshly re-housed at London ExCeL Centre. Following on from our highly successful debut last year, we returned full-force this year with a busy booth space but also a private suite offering VIP sneak peeks at the future of immersive technologies, away from the hubbub of the expo floor.
Our Director of Immersive Technologies was also personally invited by the Microsoft Mixed Reality team to join them in Barcelona, Spain for the MWC19 event and their official announcement of the HoloLens 2, with a chance to have some private demo 1-2-1 time with the impressive device.
There were a number of other events we attended, including JISC DigiFest in Birmingham, the 1st of the Brighton Digital Catapult #VRBrighton Show & Tell nights, the 2nd Vive Developers Day in London, a VR/AR night at Eagle Labs, Brighton and an intimate dinner with Brighton Digital Learning Directors, organised by Wired Sussex.
Following on from our initial soft-skills prototype delivered to Lloyd’s Banking Group last year, we completed development of the first full application, based around their training for Personal Vitality + Resilience skills and awareness. Using our three-tiered platform approach initially deployed as part of the Vodafone ‘Working at Height’ application, the full VR experience is available on Oculus Rift + Touch, with over 60 Oculus Go devices around the country and via a web-based 360° experience through their LMS.
Our ongoing work with EDF Energy continued into the new year and beyond, with the first deployment of an Apple iOS iPad tablet sales toolkit application to assist the sales and marketing teams enable enterprise energy users understand the cost savings available to them. We’re now working with the same department to deliver an exciting and engaging Augmented Reality gamified experience, which we’ll have more news around as development wraps up this quarter.
In relation to attending JISC DigiFest19, we also worked with London-based The Fred Company 360° film makers (who we supported last year around their Grenfell VR project) to create an interactive narrative experience deployed on Oculus Go devices for the event, telling the story of Natalie 4.0, a student utilising future education technologies.
At very short notice, we came on-board to work with Deloitte and Zurich Insurance to create an Augmented Reality application, highlighting the benefits of their new Smart Home range of services, for an internal event.
Our internal R&D team, The Drawing Board, have also been busy, creating a new Virtual Reality input demonstrator, using our natural gesture system developed for RearGuard, to showcase marshalling for helicopter crews, “HeliWave“. This has been going down a storm at the events we’ve demoed it at so far this year.
They also created two Virtual Reality demonstrators for large automotive corporations, one taking users back to the very start of the company, whereas the other suggests how immersive technology could be used to train existing and future mechanics working on the latest electric vehicles. More will be revealed around these as full projects are signed-off and development advances throughout the year.
Our main gaming product Loco Dojo continues to go from strength to strength, coming up to two years since the initial release of the title on Oculus Rift + Touch, HTC Vive and Windows Mixed Reality headsets, highlighting some of the key differences between the traditional games industry releases and VR games.
The Drawing Board team have been busy putting the finishing touches to the highly optimised build for the Oculus Quest device, due for release in Spring 2019. Whilst the game is finished and ready for launch, we just need the greenlight from Oculus to get onto the new digital storefront.
All that optimisation carried out however means that we are also beavering away on getting the game ready for the Vive Focus Plus device, announced last month, releasing later this month. Alongside that release, the game will also appear on the Viveport PC VR storefront for consumers and VR Arcade operators and their new Netflix of VR service, ‘Viveport Infinity‘ subscription service, with a Chinese localised version available too.
To further extend the game reach and platform support, related to the optimisations done, we’ll also be commencing the development of the Sony PlayStation VR version of the game, for release later in the year as well.
One area we have seen exponential growth for the game outside of home consumer space, is within the VR Arcade space. The game is available on all major platforms, having clocked up over 500,000+ minutes (nearly 10,000 hours!) of gameplay time across the 475+ global VR Arcade locations it is available in throughout 2018, and early statistics for 2019 show am expected significant increase in both these metrics over the year ahead.
The Drawing Board team have also been busy implementing the original feedback, improvements suggested by BIFFA and a number of other new features for RearGuard, our vehicle reversing operatives training application, for the waste management sector. More details will be available as we head towards release, around platforms supported and package purchase options.
VR4Good // VR4Impact
We sadly had to pack up and say goodbye to the Google Jump 360° camera provided by the Google Daydream Impact programme for our work with Stay Up Late charity last year. However, through other projects, we have now purchased our own Insta360 Pro 2 8K camera, so we will look to continue this partnership throughout 2019 and beyond.
Our support of Codebar Brighton continues with bi-monthly hosted evenings booked in for the rest of the year, the first being in February where we were able to have a Unity developer mentor on-hand for the evening.
Squeaking in right at the end of March, we worked once more with Playing Field // IntoGames in association with local college Dv8 Sussex, to take part in an experimental new form of work experience for the games industry. A student-led development team worked with the Loco Dojo designer and brief to create a new mini-game for the game sequel. They had 5 days to design, development and present the prototype back to the Make Real team at the end of the week. In keeping with the silly sense of humour in the game, we were very impressed with their process, organisation, team work and ultimately, mini-game working prototype idea.
As ever, a lengthy post detailing our whereabouts over the last three months, and as usual, that’s just the stuff we can talk about! Look out for our regular monthly newsletters (sign-up here) in the meantime whilst we continue development on new projects for Vodafone, Lloyd’s Banking Group, EDF Energy and CITB and prepare our own products for launch in the coming months.