Derivco is a technology company based in the Isle of Man that provides support to the gaming supplier Microgaming. At a recent KPMG conference that took place on the island in September this year, Errol Larson and Mike Guelpa from the company took the audience through their take on developments in AR and VR. Here are their thoughts where the market currently stands and what they think the future holds.
On why was Pokémon Go such an instant hit
Unlike most current applications, Pokémon Go is not intuitive. Users have no idea how to play it when they first open it up. They are often forced to ask another user. Many forums have opened up, with some users creating whole websites for the purpose, where they post tips and tricks. Another element of social, which make this game very popular, is the behavioural identity of its users: you can tell straightaway if a person is playing Pokémon Go on their phone. Again, this can lead to social interaction, as you pass a fellow user on the street, outside of the supermarket, for example. You can start a conversation with a fellow gamer. Pokémon Go is the first Augmented Reality game to go mainstream. As such, you play it in a totally different way. Normal video games allow you to build up endorphins in your head, from the comfort of your sofa – as soon as you level up in a game, you get the feel-good factor. With Pokémon Go you are on the go, you have to move to play, so you are creating endorphins through exercise, and through play, which effectively gives you double the feel-good factor. The application is also free – making it wholly accessible to anyone with a smart phone. You go onto your favourite app store, download it, walk away, and you can start to play.
The disruption inherent in AR
The most disruptive part of AR for us is going to be the way that you view media. Look at the Microsoft HoloLens. This was developed by Microsoft in response to the way that they perceived people to watch Netflix or TV. People often multi-task while watching a TV programme. In effect the HoloLens throws up visual screens onto different walls. Because it is a wearable device, you take the screen with you, and walk along as you do other things. The advertising potential for this is considerable: you can be fed certain marketing information into your visual conscious as you go. Take that into the gaming space, and you’ll be throwing up your slots onto the one wall, whilst you can be busy with other things too. Microsoft label their HoloLens ‘mixed reality’, as it combines elements of both AR and VR technology.
The potential benefits of AR for online gaming
Imagine you were a spectator at a live football game, and you took your tablet or mobile device and placed it over the pitch, the AR app could pick out individual players, and pull up some statistics on them. Equally, you could pull up some in-play betting during the match. The difference between AR and a straight QR code is you can interact with what you pull up. For example, for an in-play bet, you just click one button to say, ‘yes, I’ll take that bet’. So AR in this context can be entirely interactive, which could be massive news from a sportsbook perspective.
On the immersive quality of VR
In our workshop during the demos, we had to ask people to sit down. When you stand up, you may fall over because you feel completely out of the current world. The headsets are both audio and visual and you are no longer aware of your existing surroundings. It is a complete escape from the real world. VR is a replacement for the existing world, rather than an enhancement. This too, however, marks its limitations. With Augmented Reality you are still connected to the real world, and for this reason, it is likely to attract a bigger take up.
On the products being developed by Derivco
Derivco has developed a Virtual Reality version of roulette for its customer Microgaming. The setting is outer space, so you’re immersed into a world with meteors whizzing past you. You can interact with the dealer and react as if you were at a normal roulette table. The visual was key: being able to look around and have a complete 360° view was essential for the feel of the game. We used a Leap Motion 3D Controller, which projects your hand movements in front of you, mapping them into the virtual space. It gives you a beautiful end result of being able to move your hands to place your chips on the table. The stereoscopic 3D gives you that depth of rich experience which you just don’t get with standard 2D games.
The hardware vendors have simplified the process
The time to market is relatively short. Derivco utilised Unity to build the programme, which is the same engine used to build Pokémon Go. The hardware used was an Oculus Rift. We added to it a Unity license and then we just started creating. If you plan to develop games in this way, in a very short space of time, developers can be approaching the Apple, Google or Microsoft app stores and publishing their product. Some new partnerships have been cropping up as a result of this leap forward in Virtual Reality: HTC have partnered with Steam, a digital distribution company, to produce the HTC Vive headset. Steam advertise, via their platforms, the content that works perfectly with the HTC Vive headset. Independent game developers are also emerging, and using the tools such as Oculus and Unity, bringing out new games that they have confidence can be sold via Steam.
Answering the question of commercialisation
Pokémon Go has answered the question of whether or not Augmented Reality, for one, will be adopted, and whether it can or can’t, be commercialised. They are making roughly $10 million per day on the app. Most consumers don’t even think that it is augmented reality powering their experience, they just want to play the game
Which of AR and VR will be the most disruptive
With Virtual Reality, you are more confined to the home, so it is less disruptive. Augmented Reality has no hardware limitations. So it’s really a matter of speed – how quickly the developers can work on ideas and get into production. This will determine how well the technology gets picked up by the markets. Virtual Reality has had massive investment already in its hardware so it can only get better. As soon as the software becomes more portable, the boundaries will surely move away.