INTERVIEW FOR STARTUP CAFE
28 March 2016
As the project is getting closer to completion, Alexandru Paraschiv, the project's coordinator, offered an interview for the website StartupCafe.ro and talked about the entire process. Startup Cafe is a media platform that focuses on business insights and models, entrepreneurs and investment opportunities.
We are all proud of this first piece of media coverage for the Populate project in the Romanian press, as the article features insights on how the platform is bringing innovation to the gaming industry, as well as a demo recorded in the AMA Romania studio.
"Technology is in continuous development and, as a result, each new type of hardware is a challenge for us. This is how we ended up developing projects that are adapted for devices that the consumers are used to, like smartphones and tablets, but also for relatively new technologies, like smartglasses and wearable devices", stated Alexandru Paraschiv in the interview.
He admits that the market for smartglasses, games and the content for this type of devices is currently not yet very well developed Even so, he states that the industry is in full expansion, there are many manufacturers that work to build new types of glasses, that already have product models in prototype stage and they are ready to launch them on the market.
See here the entire interview.
INTERVIEW FOR STARTUP CAFE [TRANSLATED]
28 March 2016
A Romanian company gets European funding to develop games for smartglasses
A Romanian team is working on developing a prototype platform to help develop games with asymmetric gameplay for mobile devices. Apart from the already familiar technologies, smartphones and tablets, the prototype platform also uses smartglasses. The project received funding of over 690,000€ from the European Commission. How does the Populate platform work, what is the business model and how did the company that developed the project managed to obtain the funds?
AMA Romania, the company that coordinates the project is the local subsidiary of Advanced Mobile Applications (AMA Studios), a British developer of games and applications for mobile devices and sister company of game developers Ubisoft and Gameloft.
AMA is active on the Romanian market for over 11 years and among the most well-known games created are IQ Booster, Hills of Glory 3D or Babel Rising 3D - that have recorded a few million downloads.
“Technology is in a continuous state of evolution and therefore each new type of hardware is a challenge for us. As such, we have reached a point where we are developing projects for devices that consumers are already used to, like smartphones and tablets, as well as relatively new technologies like smartglasses and other connected devices.”, states Alexandru Paraschiv, Studio Director of AMA Romania and coordinator of the POPULATE project - that managed to obtain funding of over 690,000€ from the European Commission.
The POPULATE project is a prototype platform that helps develop games with asymmetric gameplay for mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, and also for smartglasses used to control the digital character of choice.
Asymmetric gameplay refers to a multiplayer game, where two users play in the same time using mobile devices and smartglasses, each having a unique and completely different experience - one of the players will be in the middle of the action and will be involved in everything that happens “on the battlefield”, while his opponent will have a gaming experience based mainly on strategy.
“The idea of the project came up after our participation at the Google I/O international event in the summer of 2013 when we had the opportunity to come in contact with the Google Glass smartglasses for the first time. At the event, we acquired a pair of Google Glass and being motivated by exploiting new technologies, we quickly realised the potential it had for the gaming industry. During the same year, AMA developed the first game and application prototypes for this type of platform and even created the first game in Europe for Google Glass, called Escape”, Alexandru Paraschiv recalls.
The entire POPULATE project is created on three business levels:
One is to launch the actual game POPULATE, a version of the prototype platform that we are now developing.
Another thing we understood is that, at this moment, the content for smartglasses is not powerful enough and we can come to support the European smartglasses manufacturers and not only, by offering a game that is specially developed for these devices.
A third direction would be to create a framework type platform for other game developers, as the coordinator of the project explains.
He admits that currently the market for smartglasses, games and other types of content for these devices is not yet very well developed. However, he claims that the industry is in full expansion, with many manufacturers already working on developing their prototypes into products that are ready to be launched on the market.
How did they obtain the European money?
The budget for the entire POPULATE project is over 950,000€, but of this total 690,000€ are non-refundable and provided by the European Commission through the programme Horizon 2020. The project is developed by a consortium: Golaem - French software manufacturer, that integrates animations and artificial intelligence to facilitate the control of digitally created characters, Trinity College Dublin - where a team of researchers records and analyzes the players’ behaviour to draw conclusions and publish scientific papers about the influence of various types of animations and the level of realism of the digital characters and AMA Romania - company that is coordinating the entire project and is developing the game prototype.
“From the information we have, POPULATE is the only project in the Horizon 2020 European programme that is coordinated by a Romanian company”, underlines the representative of the company in Romania.
Out of the entire budget dedicated to the project, the AMA Romania studio has around 400,000€, of which the contribution of the European Commission is 70%, and the difference is covered from its own funds. The rest of the money is allocated to the other two entities in the consortium.
“Once the consortium was created, we identified the action and the topic for the project that apply to the subject of the Horizon 2020 programme (Support the growth of ICT innovative Creative Industries SMEs). We developed the project proposal and we followed all the required steps for submitting and preparing the documents on the European Commission portal. In April 2014, we were submitting the proposal and in September we were already receiving the invitation to write down the funding agreement from the European Commission. Once this agreement was signed in December 2014, we started working on the project.”, Alexandru Paraschiv explains. The consortium has 18 months to carry out this project and the deadline for the final presentation is July this year.
As for the challenges on the market, he says that the hardware industry brings new things every year and that is why applications and games must keep up with the most recent types of devices: “On a business level, in Romania for example, people play an average of three games on their smartphone. Not all games that are installed are also played: 8% of the people who install more than three games on their smartphone will play a maximum of three. It is a challenge, of course, to try to increase the number of users and that is why we maintain a high quality for our products.”
AMA Romania has reported a turnover of 550,000€ last year and the company estimates for this year an increase of 30%. The company has a local team of 20 employees.
ARTICLE IN DAILY NEWSPAPER ZIARUL FINANCIAR
21 July 2016
Top business daily newspaper in Romania, Ziarul Financiar, featured an article about AMA and the POPULATE project. The project coordinator, Alexandru Paraschiv, talked about the wearables industry, the use of smartglasses for a new kind of gaming experience and future plans of releasing the game prototype on ORA-2 smartglasses, due to the partnership between AMA and wearable technology manufacturer Optinvent.
See below the entire article that was published in the printed issue of Ziarul Financiar newspaper and also online on Business Magazin.
Games and applications developer for smartglasses and watches, AMA Romania, estimates a turnover increase of 30% in 2016
AMA Romania is the local subsidiary of AMA Studios, a company that develops mobile games and applications for smartglasses, watches and headsets. AMA Romania has reported a turnover of €550,000 last year and estimates a 30% increase for 2016. The company has a local team of 20 employees involved in the development of games and applications for mobile devices. “I strongly believe that developing games and applications for entertainment can showcase the strong points of these revolutionary devices (wearables), encouraging a different user behaviour in the same time”, says Alexandru Paraschiv, Studio Manager of AMA Romania. He adds that the development process of applications for wearables is not fundamentally different from the one of smartphones, but it is necessary to take into consideration the technical specifications and limitations. “In the case of smartglasses, we think of how the game will behave having, for example, a specific accelerometer, gyroscope and also a much smaller projection surface and processing speed than a tablet or a smartphone.”, exemplifies Paraschiv. Such a game prototype developed by AMA that involves the use of a wearable device is POPULATE Project. The game prototype works on several types of mobile devices (smartphone and tablet) and supports smartglasses as a controller, and this will be released on the ORA-2 smartglasses, as part of the future plans to exploit the platform. “The POPULATE project aims to develop a prototype platform that will help develop a new kind of gaming experience. The platform uses a software solution of generating digitally created 3D characters and simulation of crowd behaviour.”, states Paraschiv.
COVER STORY IN BUSINESS MAGAZIN
Recent developments in the wearables industry drew the attention of top weekly business magazine in Romania, Business Magazin. A twelve-page cover story discussed the value increase of the wearables market and also provided case studies and interviews with various stakeholders.
In this article, Alexandru Paraschiv, POPULATE project coordinator, was proud to talk to Business Magazin about the POPULATE game prototype and the use of smartglasses in the entertainment industry.
The material was published in the print issue of the magazine on 18th of July. Read a translated version below .
MORE THAN WATCHES AND BRACELETS
In Romania, as well as in other countries, new innovative products appear with application in fields as infotainment, medical and fashion. Google announced through Google Glass the first smartglasses for the average user, but the product faced numerous technical and ethical difficulties, and the release was postponed. But the glasses found their place in the medical and automotive industries. The fate of the smartglasses is uncertain, whether a new version or another prototype are being manufactured. “In order to become part of the mass market, my opinion is that on the one hand the device needs to be easy to use and have an affordable price, and on the other hand the user has to benefit from a wider range of applications, including the ones for entertainment, explains Alexandru Paraschiv, Studio Manager of AMA Romania, a company that develops software for mobile devices. [...]
BEHIND THE SCENES
What makes the wheels of these gadgets spin is the software, a subject rarely discussed. Maybe they are following the same course as smartphones, where at the beginning everyone was talking about design and features, and now the attention is more on the applications and games. AMA Romania is the local branch of AMA Studios, mobile games and applications developer for smartglasses, watches and headsets. The company has a local team of 20 employees involved in the development of games and applications for mobile devices. AMA Romania has reported a turnover of €550,000 last year and estimates a 30% increase for 2016.
“I strongly believe that developing games and applications for entertainment can showcase the strong points of these revolutionary devices, encouraging a different user behaviour in the same time”, says Alexandru Paraschiv, Studio Manager of AMA Romania. He adds that the development process of applications for wearables is not fundamentally different from the one of smartphones, but it is necessary to take into consideration the technical specifications and limitations. “In the case of smartglasses, we think of how the game will behave having, for example, a specific accelerometer, gyroscope and also a much smaller projection surface and processing speed than a tablet or a smartphone.”, exemplifies Paraschiv.
Such a game prototype developed by AMA that involves the use of a wearable device is POPULATE. The game works on several types of mobile devices (smartphone and tablet) and supports smartglasses as a controller, and this will be released on the ORA-2 smartglasses, as part of the future plans to exploit the platform. “The POPULATE project aims to develop a prototype platform that will help develop a new kind of gaming experience. The platform uses a software solution of generating digitally created 3D characters and simulation of crowd behaviour.” states Paraschiv. For the POPULATE project, a consortium of companies was created of AMA, Golaem - a French company that develops software for digitally populating backgrounds and surroundings with characters for films, TV shows and commercials, and Trinity College Dublin, a group of internationally active researchers in the field of computerised graphics and visual effects. The project received funding from the European Union through the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation. The game is not yet available for download; so far, AMA has released three games for the smart watches Gear and Gear 2 from Samsung, called Puzzle 2, Abalone and Escape, and these games have 34,000 downloads until now. [...]
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Numerous gadgets and technologies, for sure. [..] “I believe the next interesting device will come either from entertainment or from the medical industry. It seems to me that both have a high potential for evolution.” thinks Alexandru Paraschiv, from AMA Romania. [...]
20 July 2016