Microgaming is sponsoring the award for Excellence in the Use of Technology at this year’s Isle of Man Newspapers’ Awards for Excellence. Julie Blackburn takes a look into the future with Microgaming’s own technology wizards.
‘We are a technology business operating in a world where technological advancement is changing our everyday landscape – so we are delighted to be sponsoring this award,’ says Microgaming CFO John Coleman.
Microgaming are pioneers of new tech. Take mobile gaming as an example, which is currently the fastest growing area of online gaming. Developers of mobile software and games for handheld devices since 2004, and importantly the first to market, Microgaming have ended up well ahead of the curve and waiting for the rest of the industry to catch up.
Ensuring that Microgaming crests the technological wave, the company has a team of people who are tasked with looking into the future to see how advances in technology are going to transform online gaming.
So what will be the next big things? The answer: augmented reality and virtual reality, and having seen the companies work first-hand, I can tell you that they both definitely have the wow factor.
Imagine, for instance, a pack of specially designed playing cards featuring game characters. By downloading an app you can use your phone camera to zap each character, bringing them to life in 3D on your screen. If you love online gaming this is where it just gets better and better.
That is the essence of augmented reality: it’s the enhancement of the world that you already live in. And whilst it’s in its infant stage at the moment, it presents great opportunities to make gaming more immersive than ever.
The best known manifestation of augmented reality right now, of course, is Pokémon Go, which has demonstrated that the technology can indeed be commercialised. Having already anticipated this trend, Microgaming is working on newfound ways to utilise this technology in their software.
Virtual reality moves things even further along, allowing you to enter a completely different world via a headset. Charlie Vernon, one of Microgaming’s product experts, explains:
‘We’ve been playing with virtual reality for three or four years now and we can put you in a completely different place.
‘We’ve got a game where you’re sitting at a roulette table but you’re in space: the dealer is a robot and you look out into the 360 degree surrounding and you see asteroids flying around. But the really innovative part of it is the interaction we’ve developed. Virtual reality is relatively easy when you’re just looking at things, but incorporating the ability to interact with your surroundings is a complex and exciting element that we’ve mastered.
‘In our roulette prototype we’ve been able to add sensors so that your hand movements are replicated on the screen. You can push the asteroids away and you can place chips on the table.
‘It’s still a concept but it’s taken the industry by storm – VR Roulette won a Global Gaming Award for Digital Product of the Year in 2015. At Mobile World Congress, which is the biggest mobile show in the world by far, it was the only virtual reality software that incorporated this sensory element. All the guys from Samsung and other big companies were coming over to our stand to see what we had achieved, so that was a massive pat on the back for our team.’
In addition to investing in new technology, the company is investing in its people and the island with their new building on Circular Road, which will be completed H1 2017.
‘The new office is a huge investment for us and it demonstrates that we are 100 per cent committed to the island,’ says John Coleman.
The company has grown from half a dozen people on the island in 2002 to over 90, and are still recruiting. They’ve outgrown their existing office, so are building just adjacent to their current headquarters. They will link the two buildings together with a unique ‘sky bridge’.
And, naturally, you can already pop on a VR headset and take a virtual tour of the new office, showing what the interior will look like when it’s completed. The 5-storey building will feature a spacious atrium feature, roof terrace, canteen and coffee bar, gym, and even an on-site gallery showing the history of the company, as John explains:
‘We’re still a relatively young company but we’ve already achieved so much that we want to remember and celebrate.’
Indeed – and who knows what Microgaming will be working on by the time VR hits the high streets…