As the nights draw in and we contemplate what Halloween costume to wear, fireworks to buy and whether we’ve saved enough for Christmas presents for the dog, it’s time to look back at the last three months; heady warm Summer evenings, typical British weather and lots of folks on holidays meant that there wasn’t much going on in the studio, or so we thought…
In the previous quarter, we revealed that we had been nominated for a number of awards this year, and whilst many of the ceremonies still to come, there were a couple that hosted their glamourous evening events. We were delighted to be chosen as winners of the Prolific London “Tech Company of the Year” award, specifically highlighted for our work with the local community, charities with technology support and how we treat the team here in the studio, as well as the innovative solutions we provide clients and partners. Whilst we didn’t win the category award, we were selected as “Highly Commended – Innovation in Business” by the Brighton & Hove Business Awards, meaning that the decision was really close!
We were also delighted to discover we have been shortlisted for two further awards with Learning Technology Awards 2019: 1. “Most Innovative New Learning Technologies Product (UK)” for our work with EDF Energy and the ‘Sentinel’ training deployment into their fleet of nuclear power station control room simulators across the network. 2. “Best Use of Simulations or Virtual Environments for Learning” for our work with Lloyds Banking Group and the ‘Personal Vitality & Resilience’ VR training deployed on Oculus Rift and Oculus Go throughout their branches as part of their soft-skills training program.
We welcomed Magic Leap into the studio to show their MLO Creator’s Edition spatial computing AR headset, which lead to the decision to purchase a couple of devices for The Drawing Board R&D team to experiment with, now that they are officially available for sale in the UK. They’ve just arrived so expect further news around what we’re looking at in this space within the coming months.
It being the summer months, we managed to find a suitable day to take the whole studio out for a series of activities for our Summer Party, which saw some of us doing outdoor go-karting, loosing arrows with archery before heading over for a BBQ, some quality time with goats and delicious, free award-winning ice-cream courtesy of Sam R’s Dad’s van. This time of year also means the end of the financial year and totting up our totals against our targets and as expected, we beat all of them. As a massive thank you to all the team in the studio getting projects out on time, to high quality and within budget, we gave everyone an Oculus Quest standalone VR headset to call their own.
Finally, throughout the summer months, we hired a number of new starters into the studio; Alan joined us from Leo Learning bringing a wealth of learning design with him. Tonia joined from Happy Finish, strengthening our business development efforts and last but not least, Ellie joined as Production Assistant, having excelled and proved herself more than worthy during a couple of weeks of work experience prior.
We are always looking to strengthen our positioning within the growing sector, either through leadership and best practice or through means to wider our awareness amongst peers, so we decided to join the new AIXR membership group, whilst our Director of Immersive Technologies was invited to sit on the Enterprise Steering Group. You can read his first related blog post here.
We also jumped at the chance to continue working with Wired Sussex to ensure we help shape the recruitment and employment needs of the local immersive industry, bridging the gap between the development sector and education with the Talent Advisory Group. Part of this saw us signing the Skills & Talent Manifesto.
We also joined eLearning Network as Industry Partners to help existing L&D sector groups and organisations grasp immersive technologies effectively by leaning our expertise and knowledge to the wider pool of elearning providers.
It was time again for one of our favourite events, Develop: Brighton, located on our doorstep 5 minutes walk away. Whilst we weren’t physically present this year in the expo area, we took the opportunity to allow members of the team to go down to relevant talks and meet with our gaming peers in the networking areas and events to discuss how immersive technology can be incorporated into games, and how elements of games intersect with our learning design. We may even have gotten a couple of tasty projects out of it, more news to be revealed in the coming months.
The rest of the events were learning and development heavy, with talks and demos given at Learning Live by LPi, another industry body we are members of, and the eLN Creative Workshop, which saw our Head of Learning Design, Sophie, giving a talk and hosting roundtable sessions. We launched our own-IP training product at RWM (Recycling Waste Management), in the guise of ‘Rear Guard‘, which we have mentioned before in these quarterly reviews. This has been well received and is looking at first stage deployments within a number of waste management organisations to help improve loader and vehicle reversing assistants’ training and safety on the job.
Just before the end of the quarter, our Director of Immersive Technology made his annual trip to San Jose, CA for Oculus Connect  to hear from Oculus and Facebook what new technologies, advancements and products we could expect to offer our clients and partners within the next few months and coming year (those that we didn’t already know about anyway). Lots of useful meetings were had to ensure we remain at the forefront of Virtual and Augmented Reality offerings to our enterprise partners.
We let out a big sigh of relief when we shipped out 75 VR-Ready Laptops and Windows Mixed Reality headsets for Network Rail, enabling studio security to lessen a little, along with the insurance cover! Hardware prep took a lot of setup and testing, whilst internal security was heightened to ensure access to so much equipment was limited.
Our currently largest scale VR deployment partners Lloyds Banking Group got their hands on the 3rd VR training application we have been working on, ‘Relationship Management’, increasing scope and scale considerably from the previous experience, ‘Personal Vitality & Resilience‘, with over 1,500 lines of VoiceOver acting dialogue and increasingly complex feedback and training playback systems incorporated. They’re also expecting another big deployment of VR hardware, in the shape of Oculus Go and Quests this time, alongside the final delivery.
One of our largest developments this year, ‘Drive Safe’ for Vodafone, went live on the Apple iOS and Google Play digital stores, as part of their internal soft-launch roll-out.
Whilst technically delivered last quarter, we continued to polish and squeeze every last frame of performance out of the Unreal-engine developed ‘Porsche : Origins’ VR experience on Oculus Quest.
We also soft-launched the first part of our CITB – Highways innovation in training solution, developed in partnership with Highways England and BAM Nuttall.
Squeaking in before the end of September, we soft-deployed an HTC Vive and Vive Tracker VR rugby experience for Vodafone, which will have it’s full launch appropriately in October.
On the gaming front, ‘Loco Dojo‘ continues to dominate the LBEVR sector (VR arcades) with increasing revenues each month but also with launch on the Viveport platform for HTC Vive, and the Viveport Arcade and Infinity subscription services. Delays with SDKs and other developments has seen the rollout of the Vive Focus Plus edition, in English and Chinese, pushed back a bit but we expect to see this go live soon, before finalising the Sony PlayStation VR version ahead of the holidays.
Sticking with the VR Arcade sector, we also signed a deal to create an exclusive, short-form version of the game, called Loco Dojo Fiesta, for the new turnkey solution “DOJO”, offered by Belgium startup, AlterEyes. Expect more news next month as they launch the product at IAAPA Orlando, FL.
We hosted our usual Codebar: Brighton meetup for aspiring developers, feeding them pizza and providing desk space for the mentors and learners to get to grips with a wealth of development environments. Some of our team were on-hand to give advice on developing 360° and VR content.
Having financially supported the filming and production of Sammy Kingston’s very personal story about growing up as a child of an alcoholic, it was an honour to attend her 360° film premiere of “Anonymous” finished project at Lighthouse Arts in Brighton, before it went on to the Raindance Festival later in September.
In the studio, we filled every available last desk and chair as we welcomed Joe, Finn, Kai, Ellie and Emma in for work experience sessions, getting to learn all about design, 3D art and development of immersive content. As mentioned in the news section above, Ellie impressed us so much with her enthusiasm and grasp of what it takes to excel in production, she is joining us as a Production Assistant in October!
Whilst happening on October 4th this year, we have once more signed up for One Special Day by Special Effect charity, where we will be donating all units sales and gameplay minutes revenue from digital stores for home users and VR arcade customers accordingly, for Loco Dojo. Furthermore we donated an Oculus Quest to the Special Effect raffle held during Develop: Brighton to further support and raise funds for the charity.
That’s about it for this quarter – even though we were operating like a Stephen King book (Skeleton Crew?) throughout the summer months, we certainly still managed to pack a whole load in.
Now we’re preparing for the next bout of events, with the finance pitching sessions for CreativeXR – The Time Machine, with our partners The Old Market//TOMTech. Back to L&D, we’ll be at eLN Connect, World of Learning and Digital Construction Week shortly afterwards, where we will be demoing and speaking once more about our immersive learning solutions. November will see the glitzy events for the VRAwards and LTAwards, where we are nominated for five awards across the two ceremonies, so fingers crossed for success! The studio will be closed over the Christmas period until after New Years Day, I think even the team are starting to look forward to some quality R&R with friends and family care of Make Real.