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Thursday, 2 November 2017

Guest Blog: VR Goes to Work

After hovering on the fringes of mainstream culture for years, VR was suddenly thrust into the spotlight a few years ago by developers like Oculus, HTC, Sony, and Samsung. As their rapid hardware developments piqued the interest of the entertainment world, the biggest impact was unsurprisingly felt in gaming, with console manufacturers scrambling to be the first to incorporate the tech into their products. As an unfortunate consequence, VR was mistakenly viewed by many merely as a gadget for gamers, a gimmick.


We’ve never seen it that way, and we’ve always strived to combat this misconception by demonstrating the real-world impact this incredible technology can really have. Right from our first VR projects with Pagani and Audi two years ago, we’ve had the pleasure of working within an international community of likeminded developers to apply the cutting-edge of R&D VR innovations to commercial projects with car companies around the world, and with the rate of recent hardware developments, we couldn’t be more excited about our future Virtual Reality projects!


It’s not just in our sector that VR is maturing: recently, its potential business applications have become increasingly clear. The unveiling of Oculus for Business at OC4 is testament to this, with several big-name brands partnering with the hardware firm to give a taster of what VR can really do.


From the initial staff training at companies like KFC, Walmart, and General Motors, to designing state-of-the-art passenger planes with Boeing and Airbus, VR is impacting every level of working life. Staff can now create and test new features and models, practice diffusing potentially dangerous situations, and hold complex conferences all within a virtual sphere, and they can do this from almost anywhere.

Despite these incredible innovations, though, it’s the customer who has benefited most from VR’s dramatic foray into the business world. They can use this technology to design, customise, and test an increasing number of products prior to purchase. No longer reliant on their imagination, consumers are able to see a product in a range of different surroundings, giving them unprecedented insights into potential purchases, and with the recent addition of volumetric video environments, customers can find themselves completely immersed within these life-like experiences.


The only way is up for VR in these exciting times!

If you’d like to join our team and work with us on our upcoming projects, talk to our team at the Develop:VR conference or view our current vacancies.

Chris O'Connor is Technical Director at ZeroLight and will be speaking at Develop:VR with his session entitled Building World-Class Commercial VR Experiences  

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Guest Blog: Virtual Reality is Having Real Impact on the Health Industry

We talk a lot about the potential benefits of VR across a number of areas, talk is all well and good, but actually seeing how it can be applied is when the potential hits home and becomes real. 


Last year at SXSW in Austin, I was lucky enough to meet Sook-Lei Liew, a neuroscientist from USC who had created an incredible VR prototype for treating stroke victims. Combining a swim cap, a standard laptop and an off the shelf HMD she created REINVENT (which stands for Rehabilitation Environment using the Integration of Neuromuscular-based Virtual Enhancements for Neural Training). Yes they worked hard on that acronym! 

This Social VR application uses EEG sensors to provide neuro-feedback when an individual’s neuromuscular signals indicate a movement attempt, even in the absence of actual movement. Stroke patients could retrain their brain to move muscles that have been affected by the stroke - relearning the right brain signals by which to move a virtual arm, which can ultimately lead to them being able to use that rediscovered ability in reality.


I came across a great comment from Mel Slater, a professor of virtual environments, where he talked about the ability to trick the brain: “There is some level of the brain that doesn’t distinguish between reality and virtual reality. A typical example is, you see a precipice and you jump back and your heart starts racing. You react very fast because it’s the safe thing for the brain to do. All your autonomic system starts functioning, you get a very strong level of arousal, then you go, ‘I know it’s not real’. But it doesn’t matter, because you still can’t step forward near that precipice.”

It is the natural reaction that Sook-Lei Liew is utilising with REINVENT, less of a trick, but more like an immersive rewiring of the brain.

As we gain a better understanding of the uses of immersive technology to address key health issues, the number of solutions will grow exponentially. From training surgeons, treatment for depression, to pain relief, the impact immersive technology will have on our collective health will fundamentally change the whole health industry. We’re entering an exciting period of innovation.

James Watson is head of immersive technology at Imagination and will be speaking at Develop:VR with his session entitled Getting Up Close and Virtual with the Automotive Industry: Using VR for the Right Reasons 
 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Guest Blog: The Possibilities of VR

It is 1911 and the Paris art world is alive with excitement about a revolution in art. The Salle 41 artists have just taken part in the first organised exhibition of Cubist works; images that broke down conventional depictions of space, mass, volume and time. Their work, based on ideas developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, went on to drastically change world art, as developments and reactions to it led to the creation of modernism and beyond. The power of the movement broke through to other genres such as music and architecture and has revolutionised culture and society through the 20th Century and into our time.

Early works in the Autumn Cubist Exhibition, Paris 1912

It is 2017 and the revolution of AR/VR/MR is about to begin. In as significant a way as the Cubist’s broke conventions of perspective, so AR/VR/MR is transforming our relationship with that thing we hold most highly in our culture - the flat screen. We can now enter amazing unseen worlds, we can bring digital creations through into our world, and interact with them in our visual spaces, we can be immersed in stories and experiences in a way beyond anything that has come before.

Immersive gameplay and narrative in Pixel Toy’s Drop Dead on Gear VR and Oculus Rift

I have to admit I was cynical at first of the possibilities of it all - another 3D TV, another gimmick - yet as we developed Drop Dead at Pixel Toys, the possibilities of VR became so apparent - how a Samsung phone in a relatively simple headset could deliver a hugely accessible, immersive VR experience to a mass market, how we could tell stories in such a fresh way. Still the barriers of technology are falling continuing to fall at a dramatic rate: Apple’s significant entry into the AR field with AR Kit will surely speed the adoption and integration of augmented content into mainstream life - particularly as marketers (for they are the primary drivers of mass acceptance surely) begin to invade our lives with interactive enhanced messages.

Image from the Royal Academy’s Virtually Real exhibition in January 2017

A wonderful thing is that our Picassos and Braques are out there right now: artists, developers and creatives taking these nascent tools and pushing them every day to new extremes. Like Cubism and Modernism before, this won’t be limited to a single genre but will be suffused through contemporary culture. VR is already embedding itself into training programmes for doctors, firemen, even fast food outlets. It is entering the world of manufacturing, business, entertainment, games, art. The Royal Academy of Arts, once the bastion of traditionalism, recently hosted an exhibition of VR artworks created by some of their students, and plans further exhibitions in the near future. Jaguar Land Rover use hi-definition VR content to shape their cars as part of their pre-production design and as part of their customer facing sales strategy.


Ultimately the reason for this now inevitable revolution is that VR/AR/MR changes our relationship with the world around us, in much the same way as modernist principles did last century. We need to simply embrace the enormity of that and as developers prepare for the opportunities that this technology affords for creatives, businesses and consumers.


James Horn is lead artist at Pixel Toys and will be speaking at Develop:VR with his session entitled - Drop Deadline - A Visually-Excellent, 60fps, Narrative Mobile Shooter to a Fixed Deadline With a Small Team

Friday, 23 June 2017

Develop:Five - Chris Parsons, Revelation Games



Every week, we ask some of the best game development minds five questions in a feature we are calling Develop:Five. This week, Chris Parsons of Revelation Games answers our five question blog feature.


1. What’s your earliest memory of playing video games?
My earlier memory is starting up my TRS-80 before breakfast, inserting the Donkey Kong cassette tape, having breakfast, getting dressed for school, and coming back to the computer when it had just finished loading. At that point I usually had 5 minutes to play before I had to leave for school! It was about 1983 I think.

2. What are you most excited or annoyed about in the games industry today?
The barrier to entry has never been lower, which is both a good and a bad thing. Whilst I’m delighted that the rise of the “free" engine has made it easy for people to make good games, it’s just as hard as ever to make a great game, and great games get missed amongst the sea of good ones, which is a shame.

3. Tell us about a life-changing or special moment you've had at Develop:Brighton in the past?
I’ve only been once, but really valued the camaraderie and humility of the UK indie dev scene - some great conversations and mutual support.

4.  What are you most looking forward to at Develop:Brighton 2017?
Meeting more developers like myself and sharing tips and stories!

5. Which game developer would you most like to meet and why?
Shigeru Miyamoto - a legend of design. I’d love to pick his brains about the essence of great game design and thank him for writing the first game I remember playing!

Chris Parsons
Chris Parsons makes deep, characterful and procedural games with friends. After beginning his career in AAA games 20 years ago, he built a software development company from scratch, before coming back to games in 2011. He released Sol Trader in 2016 and is the early stages of his next game: Ealdorlight.

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Find out more about Develop:Brighton and Mark's talk here

Friday, 16 June 2017

Develop:Five - Mark Sorrell, Rovio

Every week, we ask some of the best game development minds five questions in a feature we are calling Develop:Five. This week, Mark Sorrell from Rovio answers our five question blog feature.

1. What’s your earliest memory of playing video games?
Playing Superman on the Atari VCS when I was about four in 1980ish. It was the first game I played where you could walk off the side of the screen and it didn't loop or block you, there was actually another part of the world to explore. Which at the time was basically witchcraft.

2. What are you most excited or annoyed about in the games industry today?
I'm mostly excited about the incredible breadth of experiences and possibilities in the panoply of things that we call videogames and mostly annoyed about the lack of words to describe them. Having spent considerable time in Finland, Finnish has different words for playing a musical instrument, playing without explicit purpose, like a child does, or playing a competitive game, along with others. In English we have none of that subtlety, which leads to a lot of needless arguments and slows down the progress of the medium(s).

3. Tell us about a life-changing or special moment you've had at Develop:Brighton in the past? 
In truth, there is no one stand out moment. Develop has been more like a clock, parcelling out my time in the industry, allowing me to see how things have changed, how I've changed, how the industry has changed, and how it hasn't, catch up with old acquaintances and meet new ones. For me it's less an instrument of change and more a device to measure it.

4.  What are you most looking forward to at Develop:Brighton 2017?
I know you want me to say Tetsuya Mizuguchi but the real answer is the ten minutes directly after I've finished my talk. The buzz when you come off stage is _the_100_emoji_

5. Which game developer would you most like to meet and why?

I have no idea what his English is like because my Japanese is non-existent, but presuming we could actually communicate, Yasumi Matsuno, the game director of Final Fantasy 12, which for me is the most forward thinking and visionary game ever made. I want to know how he managed to believe in his vision so completely.

Mark Sorrell is Head of Studio at Rovio's London Studio, a new venture set-up to build mobile F2P MMO games. Over the last two years, Mark has helped Rovio complete the transition to a true F2P company, as Vice President, Product. This comes after a career spent making games for unusual platforms, customers and business models. 
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Find out more about Develop:Brighton and Mark's talk here

Friday, 2 June 2017

Develop:Five - Leanne Bayley, We Heart Dragons

Every week, we ask some of the best game development minds five questions in a feature we are calling Develop:Five. This week, Leanne Bayley from We Heart Dragons answers our five question blog feature.


1. What’s your earliest memory of playing video games?
I spent a lot of time as a kid watching my mom play games on a ZX Spectrum (that apparently only worked in thunder storms when I wanted a go!), but I think I got into games with either Alex Kidd or Sonic the Hedgehog on the SEGA Master System.  I honestly can't remember which I played first, but these were the two games that cemented gaming as a hobby for me.

2. What are you most excited or annoyed about in the games industry today?
It still really annoys me that mobile games are judged as not being 'real games' by so many people.  We all know not to judge a book by its cover yet so many people will dismiss a game because of the platform it's released on.

3. Tell us about a life-changing or special moment you've had at Develop:Brighton in the past?
Develop:Brighton 2015 was a pretty special year for me.  My team won the Develop Game Jam with our pebble themed game Tiny Golem and my soap box rant about why hiring parents is good for your studio won me a talk slot for the following year!

4.  What are you most looking forward to at Develop:Brighton 2017?
Catching up with and making new industry friends is always a highlight of Develop:Brighton!  This year I'm also looking forward to my talk on how we have done F2P with Glyph Quest Chronicles and showing off our newest project Space Krieg.

5. Which game developer would you most like to meet and why?

Hidetaka Miyazaki, because Dark Souls! 

Image result for Leanne Bayley from We Heart Dragons
Leanne Bayley is co founder of award winning micro indie games studio, We Heart Dragons.

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Find out more about Develop:Brighton here

Friday, 26 May 2017

Develop:Five - Tanguy Dewavrin, Atom Republic

Every week, we ask some of the best game development minds five questions in a feature we are calling Develop:Five. This week, Tanguy Dewavrin from Atom Republic answers our five question blog feature.


1. What’s your earliest memory of playing video games?
That would be a Space Invaders arcade cabinet in a Café in Evian, where I spent my summer holidays, in the early eighties. I was too little to have pocket money so I kept going back to my mum to ask for more coins to play!
2. What are you most excited or annoyed about in the games industry today?
I am really excited about the possibilites of VR and the technical and creative possibilites it offers. It's mind blowing, but it just needs 1 game to capture everyone's imagination and really take off. Like Mario 64 sold the N64, or Wii Sports for the Wii: I can't wait to play the Mario 64 of VR!
3. Tell us about a life-changing or special moment you've had at Develop:Brighton in the past?
I like going back to Develop:Brighton every year to catch up with my peers and old friends from the industry. It's a nice break form the daily grind, and lets me step back and look at the bigger picture, by taking in others' perspective on our industry.
4.  What are you most looking forward to at Develop:Brighton 2017?
I'm really looking forward to the indie sessions: indie developers are the lifeblood of the industry, indie devs are so creative and it's vital that good indie games should manage to find their audience.
5. Which game developer would you most like to meet and why?

I'd like a chance to bump into John Romero to tell him how much his work inspired me to work in this industry! 

Tanguy Dewavrin has been a videogame developer for the last 24 years. He worked for Kuju, Argonaut, EA, Sony, on games like Geometry wars, Harry Potter, Catwoman, South Park... Started as an Artist, he then became Lead Artist and Art Director; he managed teams of up to 15 people. Founded Atom Republic Ltd in 2012 to specialize on virtual worlds content, and later co-founded Atom Universe in 2014 to make the world's first and only cross-platform virtual world.
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Find out more about Develop:Brighton and Tanguy's session here