VR yesterday, today and tomorrow: one of the first opinions

    I continue to interview all sorts of cool guys from the realm of virtual reality. Today we’ll talk with Alexander Lukichev, one of the pioneers of VR in Russia. We will discuss motion capture, VR-parks and the business direction of the industry. By the way, we also have a short version for 9 minutes. Link to it under the cut!

    Does VR have a future? Share your opinion in the comments.

    Short version.

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    You are one of the oldest experts in the VR market in Russia. Tell me how you got there when it wasn’t fashionable yet.

    Well, it's probably no secret that I came to VR from the game industry, from the big game business. At most foreign exhibitions, products such as Oculus DK1 gradually began to appear, a cardboard appeared, and the very first content sensations that could be felt and touched appeared.

    And, of course, people were divided into two categories, the first - who believed it, that in the very near future would become a hype, would become some kind of really motivator for companies, companies that would deal exclusively with this would be organized. And the second said that this is too early, it will wait. So, I probably fell into the category of people number one who wanted, probably, some new horizons, new sensations in business. And, as they say, practice began directly from interest.

    Oculus raised a ton of money on Kickstarter. You looked at it and decided that you need to do VR, and, instead of supporting the Oculus platform, you started sculpting something of your own in mobile VR. How did you decide on this?

    Actually, the decision was quite simple, since the status of “developer kit” and the status of “consumer product” until CV1 (consumer version), as we see now, was very far away and it was not clear when. The cardboard at that time seemed to be a very affordable device, that is, by and large, it did not require any special licensing, special use.

    And the second motivating factor was that the screens of mobile phones, the screens themselves were developing at such a crazy speed that the picture that DK1 and even DK2 produced at that time, having appeared, it was already outdated in terms of pixel density, picture quality in relation to that generation of phones (Galaxy S5, iPhone 4 series). That is, the picture on them in the cardboard already looked quite usable, pretty.

    And yet, to enter the mobile development market, that is, to find specialists who work on the same unit, was much easier than trying to build, roughly speaking, a large ecosystem around PC-based history, where ... bring it to the consumer and get some quick money, yes, to show that this industry is effective and can now bring some kind of income ... That is, there was no incentive, there was no Vive, there was nothing that the user could pick up and try. Therefore, mobile VR seemed at that time that niche in which you can experiment and get products no worse than at least what we saw on the PC.

    Now has the situation changed? Millions of cardboards are on hand, tens of even millions, but at the same time, the content consumption is not that high in mobile VR.

    As I said at many conferences, the business industry is always after its formation, when the market basically went through the first stage of formation, when players, pieces of iron, content, and those who consume them appeared on it, these are scales that are always in a nonequilibrium state. First, on one side of the piece of iron, on the other side of the content. And on the unstable market or on the young market, a situation is very often observed when the scales are outweighed in one direction.

    That is, either there are a lot of cool pieces of iron, but there’s simply nothing to show on them, because they haven’t been tried yet, haven’t been felt, and so on. And the reverse situation. Look at how we made wow content and how to show it. On the screen is DK2, which is pixelated and which really hurts the eye, although the content can be many times cooler. Then they say: “Well, when there are 4K displays, everything will become cool.” And in such nonequilibrium states, by and large, the problem arose of mobile VR, including PC-based VR.

    And where is mobile VR now, in what position are the scales?

    Now the market is just ... they can no longer be put in one category. Because, if we recall the chronology of the development of events, at conferences 360-video was shown as mobile VR. This is VR, this is cool. A year passes, someone says: "I am making a 360-video." And they say to him: "This is not VR." All. "I do for cell phones." This is also not VR. Here is VIVE, here is VR.

    That is, the attitude towards the content itself is very diversified and spread across different markets. There is a clear PC-based market where they play Oculus, HTC, where there is Steam. There are their own rules, their own rules for accessing content. At the other extreme is the content of mobile VR, where the same Google already features VR separately, puts a separate tag for them, does a search on VR so that this content is not buried deep in the bowels of the store, but can be used under a cardboard and under the cardboard, they even have a separate story, they put their logo on a number of helmets.

    Fibrum has a separate version of the helmet that received this logo. These are separate markets, separate rules, a separate exit strategy for it, a monetization strategy. But it is worth recognizing that in both markets at the moment there is a sufficient deficit with the end user. Because the figures for the presence of helmets and the millions that we are talking about, especially the PC VR market, they are in a very large percentage in the hands of developers, in the hands of distributors who make public entertainment on the basis of these helmets, we all know the parks located in shopping centers.

    Therefore, if we look at the business from the point of view of the sales market, it has not yet fully formed. A series of devices has not yet been released that will lower the entry threshold. We have all heard about Oculus Go and so on and so forth. That is, there are a lot of devices that put a weight on these bowls in order to somehow balance them and make it more comfortable for the user.

    But at the same time, you say that now these two markets practically do not compete with each other, if we are talking about the user, apparently, but if we are talking about B-to-B scenarios, then they are still pretty much interchangeable.

    Again, I agree, and no. I agree that there are already enough devices that are interchangeable. There, helmets with an inserted S8 Galaxy will completely replace Oculus CV1 for some solutions, and it will give a picture no worse and, perhaps, will be more attractive in terms of the final price for organizing the ecosystem itself.

    But look ... the B-to-B market is currently representative from the point of view of individual specific cases, where the hardware and software part is selected for a specific budget, the customer, his requirements for the quality of the output product, and so on and so forth. Therefore, to talk about some kind of native tools, take only this, take it like this, put it together like this and get a B-to-B case. They are not like that. That is, each case is a set of glands, software and competencies of those people who took up this. Because some simply banal lack of competence for implementation on a particular engine, on a particular technology.

    That is, you want to say that there are those who can abandon the project simply because the requirements for iron ...

    In Russia, you yourself know, few people refuse. They’ll go to neighbors, to friends, to siblings, brothers, they will offer to share ... Yes, the fate of the developer, share budgets, regalia and further on the list, but turn in, put this or that project in the portfolio. We are well aware that the market, for example, of Unity developers with the advent of a mobile phone, Unity to mobile, I’m not talking specifically about VR now, it experienced a significant boom if we take the second pole, the Unreal Engine, which is not very representative on the mobile platform . That is, few projects that were promoted through Epic specifically to mobile.

    By the way, do you think Unreal will come to mobile platforms or is there still not enough performance?

    He is already there, he is already there, but they simply do not see their market there yet. Just because C # developers, Unity, if we look at any game dev hackathon there, how many people, such a rude word “turkeys on Henriel”, and how many of them can put together a person-orchestra into one, let’s say some kind of digestible prototype on Unity, which can be brought to normal production by investing in it for graphics, for licking a game play, for the right pre-production before it goes somewhere to the store, to the store, to some this niche.

    Therefore, here, on the basis of ... if you take these parameters, it is clear that the best, best interaction with VR will show PC-based on Unreal. Of course, there are many possibilities. Because Unreal has been working with the film industry for a long time, its tools are used in the preparation of film animations, cartoon animations, so it is natural that the quality of the output content, taking into account the beautiful picture, Unreal will give more.

    But if we take mass production, when many studios can enter the market and compete, it’s clear that many of them will look at Unity, because the entry threshold, as they say, is the availability of specialists in the market ... Let's go to any game dev position . We need an Unreal developer, we need an Unreal developer ... They are, but, as it were ...

    They are already sitting where they feel good. But the demand for them has long exceeded supply. But if we look at the average level of Unity, I don’t take any leads that they also run for, then ... vacancies ... I’m looking for a company, I’m a Unity-developer… I’m looking for, I’m a Unity-developer. Probably, here you can make some neat conclusions about why and how.

    VR is now out of the hype state around it. For all Gartner cycles, VR is in a state of going to the plateau of productivity, but there is a topic in VR, which now, it seems to me, is at the very peak of its hype. This is full immersion VR. I understand that you know a lot about it, develop projects related to it. Tell me what degrees of immersion in VR now exist.

    Well, if we start with a chronology and remember how full immersion VR began to emerge, the effect of complete immersion is a rather speculative concept, about which many, adding any degree of freedom when consuming VR content, that is, the appearance of hands, some kind of tactile feeling , all called full immersion VR. Now full immersion VR. Naturally, with the development of glands, technologies, and so on, we began to receive more and more opportunities to influence more sensory organs.

    Therefore, any full immersion is all around to close all degrees of human interaction with others ... Yes, the sound, smell, hearing, surround sound is the same, visual picture and tactile sensations. The path is quite simple and no one invented too serious a bicycle, we went along the path of 5D cinemas, when from a flat picture we went along the path of 3D, 5D, like cinema, there are 4D 5D cinemas and so on.

    In the end, we got feedback, gyro platforms, sound, light, and so on and so forth. One of the same solutions was tested when we worked at Fibrium. We made the connection of 360 content with a gyro platform, with synchronization, with synchronization of movements. We got, by and large, a 5D cinema only in 360 format. Then Samsung and many other companies actively used this.

    Was it a successful B-to-B case that could be sold in Russia? I would not say that he was directly insanely successful, who went directly to cloning, to sell, but we also tried ourselves in this niche, realized that it works, and saw that the market also reacted quickly and started to appear already customized solutions that used not only mobile VR, and PC-based, and DK2.

    Various platforms began to appear up to Omni with steps, cubes, balls and so on, and so on ... all the stories that, by and large, copied the same rides as flying on a plane in the cockpit, where there was a 2D picture, improving the quality of interaction. NEXT STEP - This was the biggest problem in VR, that we don’t see our own body or hands, we can tactfully interact with nothing. That is, some kind of adapter was needed.

    A new class of devices has appeared. The first is feedback controllers, the second class of devices are a la Leap Motion devices that could capture hand tracking and create some kind of feeling that you can touch something. All. There was the next era of full immersion VR. Here came the hands, great ... and so on. And, probably, the biggest such, most serious step, which was on my way to full immersion VR, was tracking, of course, tracking, because everyone in the VR environment interacted with the content at the level of 360 images until a certain point . Around them a sphere was created in which all the action took place. But it was impossible to move this sphere and move on it.

    That is, you could even track the movement, but how exactly does a person walk, how does he move

    Yes, although, for starters, it was necessary to track its movement well. That is, everyone looked that there are devices such as Kinect, PlayStation Move. Everyone understood that tracking is very important, that is, interaction. But the quality of this tracking for such systems is not enough to get rid of problems in VR. Leytensi, delays ... needed better tracking.

    The solution was quite simple, and it lay on the surface. Everyone looked at how animated films were made. For them, quite a long time ago, complicated motion-capper systems were invented: Vicon, Optitrack, and so on according to the list, which allowed us to create animations, what we see. Special effects in Hollywood have been used for a long time. But the main problem was that there was no real time.

    There was content that then went through filtering, processing, combing, so that later on the screen the picture looked wow. The task of VR-shchikov, the very stumbling block and that challenge was to do all the same thing, only in real time. It’s not just VR-shchiks who use the best practices, the one that happened here, probably ...

    For me the most significant situation was when such large vendors as Vicon, like Optitrack, on the other hand, vendors like MSI, Hewlett-Packard VR devices, here’s the very idea when we carry a backpack behind us, go under the motion capture system and get the same full immersion where we see arms, legs, all smooth interaction. That is, it has moved the industry so much that large companies began to produce a class of devices specifically for such a solution.

    That is, Vicon for animation and Vicon for VR are different cameras?

    Yes already. That's all ... you’ll return to this issue, I think, when we talk from the business side, but now there are, if you go to the Optitrack website and go to the Vicon website, the same prerequisites “VR-ready, VR-ready, VR-ready. "

    That is, cameras ... they began to produce a class of devices according to certain technical and tactical characteristics that are not redundant to solve this problem, do not increase the cost of the device several times, that which will not be used in VR, and, at the same time, give away the very same , the required quality in terms of capture accuracy in order to transform this into a VR environment and get the very same capturing, what VR-shakers themselves want from it.

    And do they provide any software at the same time? Is it an SDK ready, or is it ...

    Here was, in fact, the longest path. And many made money on this, including me. At Rent, I made a platform for linking the motion capture system classic (then there was no separation, just the basic motion-capper system), with a single software called Tracker. This is software that processes the data stream from cameras ...

    And transform them into a game engine, on Unity and on Unreal. Because until recently, neither Unity ... Unity was not used at all in the film industry, Unreal was used indirectly enough to solve a number of post-tasks, post-production. Accordingly, our task here was to introduce, cut out, let's say, this very one ... some intermediary programs that increased ping, and bring this ecosystem to simple interaction: they discarded the camera, gave the data, the game engine received it, he drew it.

    And here, just on the market, they appeared ... there is such a Swiss company Artanim, which was practically the first to offer its solution. They came from sports kinematics, just analysts of the movement of athletes, they offered one of the solutions at Vicon. My team was involved in this decision, which was subsequently acquired by VRTech. And so it was all about taking pieces of iron when they are not adapted for VR, and making sure that they easily and natively work with game engines.

    Now, if we even look at the new versions, if we look at where the big vendors are looking, they have already begun to move even in this area. That is, their first step was to adapt the devices and sell ... To simplify, so that it would be cheaper just for these purposes ... Yes, highlight the very key qualities of the camera that are important for VR and give them at a non-space cost. Because the film industry ... the cost of equipment in the film industry is completely incomparable with the costs of the current VR.

    We have few companies that can afford a VR range with a large number of cameras, the cost of which starts from one and a half thousand dollars per piece. And in order to close more or less some kind of digestible area, the number of cameras in the tens, ten or more. Therefore, these are serious amounts and in order to lower this threshold and get a new sales market ... Because the sales market of studios that deal with motion is just a motion-capcher, animation, it is quite small, there are no dozens of new players there every day. And therefore, for such companies it was a challenge. Because it is a new market. But without such an attempt, without a path to full immersion VR, it would have been impossible.

    But on the other hand, they got a completely new market, which, in terms of the number of devices, probably almost overtook what it was before.

    I think I have already surpassed at the moment. I have a suspicion that I have already surpassed. Because VR on the websites of these companies separate sections, separate layouts, sets of equipment, like prefabs, are already packaged, which can be turnkey, as they say, without inventing anything, we thought it through. Now, if you need 120 square meters, a calculator, a few clicks, and the whole set of equipment you already have in your basket.

    That is, you ordered it on a turn-key basis, downloaded it, paid a license and went to work. The question is, how valid is it now on the threshold of money entry ... such systems ... this is a question for discussion, because all the same, despite the current situation, the entry threshold remains quite high.

    It is a question of how expensive it is to sell the time of these cameras.

    I agree, including. Therefore, now there are quite a few independent companies that have fully functional motion capture systems in their arsenal. Not everyone can afford it. And then the next question arises, which probably you and I will touch on anyway today ... Yes, there is cool content, there is expensive equipment, there is the same conditional, close to ideal at the moment full immersion.

    And where next? We are returning to the same market. That is, who will consume this level of content? This is also a very big issue that should be raised and discussed separately. Because in it lies precisely the root of the evil of this full immersion.

    To summarize about full immersion VR, what do you think about the tactile feedback that everyone is trying now, it seems to me? Tactile not in the sense of the joysticks, there are the costumes ...

    I guess I’ll advertise brands not as advertisements. There is a Belarusian company Teslasuit, which is engaged in this direction. There are a number of Skolkovo companies that deal with gloves, vests and so on. Again, all ... we see nothing new from the point of view of ideology. This is the way 5D, here are the very spray, tactile sensations and so on. We are just trying ...

    This is adaptive 5D, not tailored to specific content ...

    Of course, we are trying to do it now ... We all remember the story of how beautiful, futuristic exoskeletons look, but how practical and usable they are in everyday life. Here, probably, the same story. To create a product that will perform a number of tasks, for the sake of which it was created and thought up, of the very feedback of some kind, a new chapter, a new checkmark in the full immersion list ...

    That, in addition to seeing hands, interacting, we get some electrical impulses, tactile sensations on the hands with the help of electrical pulses, which creates for us maximum immersion. This is the next stage of full immersion. And again, we return to the issue of usability. That is, it is still prototypes. When it comes to the fact that it will be as simple as putting a helmet on your head, that’s the question.

    It is clear that, having gone through certain stages, move this industry on, make some new one, open a new chapter and write a new step, we all understand that we must either become in a competitive field with what we already have and do, conditionally saying, “but my helmet will be generally the coolest, or mine will be the coolest there,” or do something to make this new chapter appear.

    Do you believe that this will become some kind of consumer product?

    At the moment, I believe that this is inevitable, let’s say so. It will be funded, it will develop. The question is when will it take on the form when it can be removed from the laboratory and put on any other person. If we take specifically the current, current time slice now, I do not believe that this is a consumer market. I do not believe. That is, the consumer market is not there, as well as partly in the large VR market.

    But there probably is a market for parks. I think this is a great reason to go to the parks. Tell us a little about what Engage actually is, what you do.

    Come on, I’m probably going to make a little background, just to ensure that we have a smooth transition from the topic that we discussed to the current one. Parks appear now, like mushrooms after the rain. This is a normal occurrence. We all remember ... I don’t know how the younger generation is, but the generation of my age, 30+, it remembers such a social effect as computer clubs.

    Why did we go there? At home, for the most part, many had fairly weak computers, squeaking devices called a modem, which were through a telephone line. And my grandmother called, as they say, interrupted the connection, I wanted to play Contra on the net, to do something together. There was such a social phenomenon as computer clubs. If we take a cut that is technologically advanced, we went there, because there is a LAN, there is a fairly high-speed Internet and machines that pull modern content that we want to play.

    We see the same social effect now in terms of VR. As if the first attempts were still on the helmets DK1 and DK2, put up a little stand, turn on the chimneys or swings, neighing over how the cries scream. Now it has acquired more, let’s say, user-friendly interfaces in the form of separate locations, beautiful design, caring staff, a variety of content, additional tools and so on.

    But the essence of this has not changed. This is a rental of consumer equipment for that consumer who will never buy it. Because the situation where a person can say "oh wow cool VR", has gone now in the current realities, paid from a thousand dollars for a computer, I very modestly call it, if we want really cool games, then most likely the bar will be a little higher, paid $ 600 by today's standards, and until recently, $ 800 for the same HTC Vive, and got an ecosystem at home worth more than 2.5 ...

    And got a minus one room at home.

    Including. We also laughed at this situation, which in our model of life: “Good evening, dear. Meet this Vive. He will live with us. We are all taking out of this room. ” We even experienced many problems with Kinact. Because in our realities this heel for Kinact was not enough. We are generally silent about Vive, whose effective work reaches 5 by 5, 6 by 6 meters. For the most part, if ...

    Not everyone has such rooms.

    Yes, not everyone has such rooms. Nevertheless, the use of Vive on an area of ​​2 by 2 meters seems sacrilege in relation to this system, which I would like to use on a larger scale. We move on, move on ... We look, we understand that there is such a class of devices. And part of the audience, they got it right away ... I won’t buy it home, I will try it for 200, for 300, as many rubles as you like. And everyone chose his own.

    Someone started making authoring content in order to attract unique content, some additional booths, and so on and so forth. Such centers of attraction are created. Let's look at the other pole. VOID, Zero Latency ... Systems that are built on high-precision cameras, with gyro-platforms, with their own prepared suits, and so on. The average Western check and the average Russian check are two such big differences. It is completely in different niches.

    Questions kapeks, payback, validity of business in the market ... here these questions arise. You can gash the park with cool cameras, with cool equipment, and there are examples of this. But immediately the question arises of how scalable this system is. It can be done in a single execution, 10-20-30 businessmen come, they say "wow, this is wow, I want myself the same." But when they look at the price list, they say “wow”, but ... “I’ll go look for an alternative” ... Well, for now, yes. “I guess I'll go and buy Vive for now.”

    Because the entry thresholds are the same as comparing a consumer who, roughly speaking ... the person who was going to open a KIA salon and there is some Rolls-Royce or Ferrari salon there. They are completely diametrically at different poles. And in order for the business to become a franchise model, a model of the expansive distribution of the same type of parks, such high-precision solutions were even very unadaptive at the moment.

    It’s hard to imagine the franchise of Rolls-Royce car dealerships.

    Yes, it is very good ... But it is easy to imagine the KIA sales franchise in different regions, because such a consumption market is quite accessible.

    I think we need to comment a little. For you and me, The VOID is almost a household word ...

    The VOID is an American virtual reality park, which is built on a motion-capper system quite expensive. Now they, in my opinion, use Optitrack. Which made their feedback in the form of a bib combined with a helmet, thinking through the safety issues of feedback. At the site there are gyro platforms that create the effect of moving on the elevator and other such other stories. That is, it is really a high-tech, very expensively prepared, large investment project, which is now the face for, for example, the Disney company that has licensed Star Wars.

    What was first? They first made the park, and then signed with Disney, or was it a joint project initially?

    They had a completely different approach. It is clear that making a no-name story on such expensive equipment would be quite difficult. And their first thing was Ghostbusters (Ghostbusters). They were placed, for a second, in Madame Tussauds. That is, this is a landmark place, a serious licensed content supported by Sony. We got a symbiosis, serious raised investments to create a hype around us, beautiful videos, very high-quality media content. This is really a classic example of how to properly spin some new wow ... new story.

    And they did it ... The first part of the time and money was spent on attracting attention to themselves. When the amount of hype around them grew into potential quality, they got all the necessary tools to monetize this hype. And now ... even now they have been working for more than a year, even a little more ... there are no questions about such a hyper-expansive distribution that VOID will be in every city with a million-plus population. He continues to be the very golden VR youth, which, if it appears, will most likely be such iconic places as, relatively speaking, a joint project of VOID and Disneyland Paris, for example.

    That is, it is expensive, high-quality, in an adult way. And they go there in order to get there. This is a place of interest. Amusement parks that are being built in Russia and expanding to Europe, they are built on a slightly different principle. They don’t go there for VR, they go there for shopping, movies, food courts and other, some other entertainments. And he should organically integrate, as one of the place of interest for the passing traffic, for the conversion of the person who is passing by, he saw and said: “Oh, some interesting thing. I’ll try and come in and touch, touch. ”

    But it’s clear that The VOID attracts familiar characters, familiar universes. How much does an amusement park need it ... a VR park in a shopping center? It’s clear that going past the park is just VR entertainment, you will have some thoughts, and if you see a familiar character there, perhaps the conversion will be different. What do you think about character licensing?

    I admit honestly, I understand perfectly well that the period when the word VR created a hype and created a conversion, it is already leaving. That is, now it’s just to say that I have a wow VR park, no, this is not enough to get such a direct conversion, when my eyes are wide, my pulse rises and the person says: “Ah, is this VR? I’ll run away and watch soon ”... Unfortunately, this is no longer there. Naturally, now there is a race among the parks, not of the VOID plan, but of a consumer park, on passing traffic, so that for the same money, for about the same check, give the most interesting, including familiar sensations, familiar characters, familiar cases, universes and etc.

    Naturally, potentially, a person who sees a familiar brand or favorite universe, favorite content, he is already motivated to convert from a passing meme ... “Oh, something else new and interesting came up around my story, a new kind of experiment ". Naturally, we are looking into this area, but we have to understand a very important thing that most serious licenses, serious titles, these are large guarantee payments, this is a serious financial burden.

    Therefore, parks that distribute Steam content are unlikely to even think about it. The maximum of what I saw was the attempt by Cinema-VR to make licensed content for Viking and so on. That is, some ... win on the hype of the release of a new film, familiar to some universe. We are also looking at this. And I can’t announce some things now, let them remain a little intrigue, but from what we can say, we look, naturally, in the direction of children's VR, because the children are already so advanced ...

    That is, in those years when we beat the nettle with a stick, now they solve problems on the iPad. Therefore, now they are very responsive to new technologies, to new experiences ... Well, the children are a good audience, because in Russia there are international brands for children. Of course. And most of these brands also look towards VR. We communicate with many children's brands. And, for example, one of the ready-made results ... I really hope that before the new year we will give children's content in the form of Fixics.

    This is a separate story, sharpened not under ... not a cartoon plan, but it will be a full-fledged VR immersion for a group of players on the subject of Fixics. I will not disclose all the details of the gameplay. But this kind of content even claims to become monobrand parks. That is, "Fixikov Park", for example, which is based on VR-technologies. I do not exclude such possibilities that one of the businessmen will look in this direction. I have an audience ... around, relatively speaking, there is a trampoline park, a children's entertainment zone, some Kidzania, something else ...

    Yes, I’m mostly children ... I don’t need any choruses and so on, let’s do there either mono or double brand location, put on growth figures, make the atmosphere attractive for children, including VR-experience. I ask many, but is VR harmful to children? If you follow certain rules, then ... I took my children to one of the children's parks. We will not advertise which ... Kidzania ...

    They are now using Gear-VR to create, to complement the experience, the environment that is now. My children are 3 and 5 years old. Well received. Interesting VR. They had a story about tourism there. And some moments ... an avalanche, some kind of experience that they should get, they were shown to them in VR, and they were insanely happy. Therefore, it seems to me that these kinds of stories they will now be very popular.

    But then again, the children will be led to something related ... there will be some cartoons, or in the morning I hear “Masked Heroes”, dad, or “Fixies” turn on soon. ” It's a little ... Kids are responsive to brands. They are on children's channels ... They watch the Disney channel, they watch quite popular things, where certain content from the brand studio is very competently and qualitatively promoted.

    Therefore, of course, we are looking to make the brand recognizable. I, as a person who, even without watching these cartoons, already almost know from "Masked Heroes" ... By name. Who runs in what costume, simply because I see what my children are watching, what they want, and so on.

    Adults are also responsive to brands.

    Of course, of course, the fact that to please the child with what he loves is conditionally “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” ... I myself in childhood ... That is, some things ... I could sell it, simply because it is ninja turtles. And it doesn’t matter what lies farther in the depths behind them. Psychology is about the same. What I’m talking about now ... I’m probably not going to talk because of a number of agreements, but we are in addition to Fixiks in the very near future ... More adult ...

    In the very near future we will show a few more licensed things. And, of course, we look at this, and believe that the model where some recognizable licensed products act as headliners is the future of parks, of course. Because this is the only opportunity to stand out now among the same proposals. Yes, including standing out among the same ones, and this is a tool to increase conversion, of course.

    I understand that your product is franchised. Yes? And anyone can come to you and make your own park. Absolutely right. The ideology of the Engage product was precisely, if very simple, a fleet of boxes. This is a ready-made business. And how much does such a box cost for a person?

    Depends on the format that the person chooses. We work with completely different formats, ranging from 120 square meters, and large areas up to 360 square meters. Our ideology was to give greater cross-country ability, more interesting solutions from the point of view of full immersion, and at the same time to remain in franchise pricing close to Vive.

    Now our franchise starts at about 2 million rubles. Because if you compare with the prices of simple parks on HTC Vive, which are two hundred million, three hundred million, five hundred million ... We do not fly away very much in price, but we give a completely different, high-quality experience, because the content is completely ours.

    Are you constantly updating content?

    Of course yes. We have rules for updating content for franchises. That is, they once in a certain period receive a new set of content, without paying anything extra, just to the arsenal. They have a second line of options to receive (in addition to the standard no-name content), sign an additional agreement on the licensed content they choose, which, they believe, can increase their traffic and sales.

    Naturally, this is an additional financial burden, because there are licensing fees in favor of the owner, so they will receive potentially less from the ticket, but as they say ... But then they will increase passability, perhaps. But, increasing traffic, yes ... If they know their client. Therefore, we present two tools.

    That is, of course, we are working on our own content so that everyone can find the gaming experience that is close to him. Be it a shooter, quest, hiden objekt, some kind of teamplay, exit room. And at the same time, naturally, under these mechanics, under already developed mechanics, we are looking for good licenses to turn this content into more attractive, without changing, as they say, the technological component, to give exactly the experience in terms of recognizable places, locations, licenses, naming and other things.

    How risky is the investment to open your own park?

    Again, if we are talking about this category of parks, here, the first one, however, depends on the chosen place, of course. Because you need to understand that each shopping center needs to study what its audience is, that is, what is the average check, you need to understand which users there are more.

    That is, a center in which there is Kidzania, a trampoline center, and so on, and a center where some luxury shops, and a cinema are represented by a maximum of two halls, although this, probably, is already gone. Roughly speaking, of these centers of attraction - only cinema. These are two completely different shopping centers with completely different approaches. Rental rate and other, other, other factors.

    But, I’m not afraid to voice some key indicators, we always talk with people who come for a franchise from the position “everything will not be very good, as we would like.” Average conversion, average passability, average, average, average, average. We average a lot of indicators. And even with such parameters, with our current prices (basic, licensed) and equipment costs, financial models collapse within one year. That is, in fact ...

    That is, to open a park, for example, is better than opening a restaurant in the same shopping center?

    In many cases, yes. Because to larger areas and, being the center of some kind of anchor of new technologies, shopping centers meet to meet them, they understand that giving this kind of entertainment, giving this, roughly speaking, rental rate, will attract customers more and will be more profitable for them than to put there another ... They have restaurants anyway. Yes, they always have a lot of restaurants, and many are even crowded out, because they create too much density.

    Those who monitor the VR market in Russia are already aware that you have raised the next round of investment. Congratulations on this.

    Yes thank you.

    Tell me what this investment will go to. You have a company, you have a product, you have your own parks. What will it be?

    Firstly, as I always say, there is no limit to perfection. The Engage box is a thing that you can ... I would not say, to improve endlessly, but, of course, it consists of a number of components, each of which deserves special attention. If we take component-wise the key things that our company performs, this is directly the technological part, the hardware. We use our own cameras that are undergoing changes. There was a version of cameras number 1. Now new parks, which have opened just recently, are already coming out on the second version of this equipment, which is faster, more precisely, has better performance, while remaining at about the same price category.

    Do you use this equipment only in your parks? Or are you licensing it for someone?

    Now at the moment we use it only in our parks, but, as a separate thing called SmartTrack technology, where our software is used in conjunction with cameras, it is likely to be a separate product in the near future, it can be presented for use in other industries , including in B-to-B cases, if the market needs it.

    We are now focused on making Engage the most headlining product. It was worked out on all sides, from large things like hardware, software support, content updating, production of own content, various integration with additional external devices that go out so that the park could use other controllers from other manufacturers, so that it really was a park out of the box when you don’t have to think anything. It has a reasonable price, it has a financial model and it has all the necessary tools to load it into a car and, as in Ikea, bring it, deploy it on the spot and get a working installation.

    Naturally, the individual components of this system can be separately licensed, used separately in other industries. And including these things, we take investments. There is a line of RND, which deals with pieces of iron and their use just to improve SmartTrack technology, there is a content division that regularly produces, including processes our licensed, partnership relations, where we can release, really, as a headliner, some then a product with a license, with good quality, and so on. There is a direction that we started quite recently, but I see a very big future behind it, in the form of a constructor for game mechanics.

    What it is?

    This is a product for development companies, an SDK system, a tracking system emulator and a set of prefabs for interacting with hardware, which, roughly speaking, you can impose textures and try to model to make your own content.

    So you want to make an Engage park app store?

    Relatively speaking, yes. Our little Steam, where are we ... I’m talking about this at many game dev conferences, now many developers are afraid to go to big VR simply because they don’t see the return on this market. Investments are no longer very different from the production of a fairly good game product, and the conversion to purchases, purchases, purchases one-time, in a copy, they are quite few.

    In mobile VR, the problem is different: hacks, hacks and uploading APKs, which reduce developer income. If you give the market a new market, give developers a new opportunity, another Steam platform, it is more like, in my opinion, the model of Apple TV, where you are offered, you can buy the final copy or rent. This is the same rental, when the park rents content, installs it, makes money on it, paying royalties to the content-owner. And then this is a challenge.

    The longer the movie is in the rental, the longer the content is in the rental, the more revenue it brings, and this is a greater incentive for the developer to create such content, to collect game mechanics and keep track of updates, including of our platform, so that its content was valid for as long as possible with minimal investment.

    That is, modernizing it, supporting it, live time in order to keep it at the maximum of some length. It’s too early to say that we all will be Engage app store tomorrow. Of course not. But we are also looking into this area, we are talking about it with investors. And they also share our views that this could be an additional source of income. Both for developers and for us. Because now, roughly speaking, before the end of the year, we are likely to withstand the very case that we have now, open 10+ parks for different models of partnerships, franchises, and so on.

    That is, we will have 10 working locations, not only in Moscow. We are already represented in Moscow, in St. Petersburg, in Nizhny Novgorod. On the approach such cities as Voronezh, Krasnodar, Yekaterinburg, perhaps some more. This is the first direction - to close cities with over one million people, to create a certain unified network here, and, naturally, for which we attract money and where we want to move, these are other big markets. The first target is the United States market.

    We want to go to other checks, we want to go to another market, we want to give our product there. We are ready for this competition simply because we have occupied a fairly comfortable niche between the simple rental of consumer equipment and high-tech large parks. We are simultaneously competing with them and, at the same time, we are not competing with anyone. Because we are, we occupy that layer in the middle.

    And, probably, this, from the point of view of investments, is what we have become attractive for, because we are quite independent. Having our own equipment, we are not dependent on anyone. Unless only from helmets, which, in principle, are quite comfortable to be replaced on the market for devices that will perform this task, a sufficient number. Well, the price of helmets still drops every year, and noticeably.

    Yes, things, such as motion capture, their own equipment for this, and a rather comfortable capex price, which allows us to make the park comfortable enough for payback, for financial modeling, we have all these things present, and this made us potentially interesting to people who ready to give money for us to grow not only upward, along the narrow path of RND technology and so on, but also expansively, in a horizontal projection, multiplied the sales market and made a backlog just for those ideas ...

    Go to the developer and say that “at Eat me a network of 100 parks ”is completely different than“ I have two parks. ” Well, cool, yes. For 100 parks, how much can your application win ... The same story as with cinemas. When people make a film, they understand how many places it will be rolled.

    Naturally, VR is still very, very far from this. But the prototype of financial modeling and the prototype of this economic path can already be traced by a dash-dotted line and try to model it on our environment, on our industry. This is not the first actually investment that you raise in VR. Yes.

    Tell in principle what investors who invest in VR look at, what kind of people they are, maybe. Are they somewhat different from investors in other areas?

    You know, it seems to me that right now VR by the model of investing in it was not very different from any other hype things that passed through the investment field. At first, when a hype is created, many try to get into it.

    Have you not invested in VR yet? Phew, sucker, I already have ... Ten projects. Well, ten is not ten, but, roughly speaking, I already touched the hype. Burn out, so burn out. I tested it somewhere. Moreover, at the startup stage, when there are no serious IPs, there are no serious developments, usually the investment volumes are available even to business angels who can invest in one solo and get in advance ... naturally, the high-risk industry is enough, but with minimal investments, it is possible to receive, n-times, disproportionate to investments and the classical mechanisms of capitalization growth of a company, to get simply through hype.

    A competent exit is done and tripled, ten times increased and so on. Considering that the market has more or less begun to stabilize, large players, medium players have outlined on it, all the metrics necessary for the investment field have appeared, data and understanding of what is happening, of course, investment has become more disciplined, better.

    At such stages, VR-projects do not take, they take only at such stages, and so on, and so on. The second thing - VR is good in that it, like in a big puzzle, contains completely different components. Do you make helmets for VR? You're in VR ... it's an investment in VR. Do you make VR content? This is an investment in VR. Do you make a platform that connects hardware and content? You invest in VR too. That is, it shared who specializes in what.

    Someone venture looks more at IP, which can be capitalized completely non-linearly to the market. And its market sale can take place far ... He has no burdens in the form of some indicators there that are inherent in other industries. Business angel investment ... Which I felt, got ... Sorry. As they say, guessed, did not guess with investments. Therefore, now I need to look for, in my opinion, those niches where there are more requests from the market than offers from the market. Then it becomes an attractive story in order to invest money in it, because it will give the market a demand, and not cut "I will make my own, with my own rules, with my own ...".

    We ourselves know the famous saying. Here, most likely, finding investments will be much more difficult. And the second very important story - there is an understanding that the venture era in VR, in Russia, at least, is going completely downhill. Because everything that could be rendered was already rendered. Something new is strong ... something that venture investors can believe in is not enough.

    Therefore, now the majority has rushed to issue tokens, ICOs and further on the list. Because there is not enough other way to attract, somehow monetize without erosion of shares. I, probably, can be, on the one hand, a happy person, because I was in the right place at the right time, as they say. Probably, this is simply because I started this way from the very beginning and roughly understood where to dig, what would be interesting for the market.

    Therefore, I ended up in those places where it was enough to invest money. If you follow, then they are quite key. That is, it is the mobile VR hype and the way, the first steps to full immersion VR, a platform that made it possible to make full immersion in a completely different interpretation. And now - an expansive one, just busy in the right price category, what is developing now is a park-entertainment industry that will grow.

    And I’m sure that her life span is not calculated in months, and even, perhaps, in the form in which she is, while respecting the flexibility of those who operate it and adapting to current market demands, she has a pretty good live time to invest money in it now and get a quick and tangible financial result. Well, and, as we said, unlike computer clubs, which died due to some natural reasons, not everyone will have a desire to allocate a separate room to make a VR-room at home.

    I agree with this statement, just giving the simplest example. HTC has paid a lot of attention to positioning as a consumer product. That is, they at many conferences, at many presentations talk about what it is for the consumer, this is home, this is there. But at the same time, they literally reacted to the market in just a few months, putting in a box a license to earn money with this helmet. The license is such and such, operating in the parks - you can, need, love, know, want, and so on, and so on.

    Naturally, the market cannot be convinced that we have made a consumer product, and it will be a consumer product. The market itself often regulates itself and shows where this product is applicable and where it is in demand. Therefore, the natural reason for the death of a computer club is that it did not give too much new in terms of experience, it simply gave what was not available due to financial and economic reasons.

    One way or another, it will be ... then it would be acquired by a consumer, we would somehow buy a normal computer and the Internet. With helmets a little different story. Indeed, a part will remain in the park, where 200-300 rubles a week will be enough investment to receive this experience and, given the race for the quality of service, the quality of the content, most likely this experience will probably remain better anyway. than if you buy it home.

    And park history on a horizontal scale will remain in all its representations and will probably die from below when Vive becomes such an affordable device that, really, it will not need any extra costs for it and, possibly, the standard of living will increase, corners will appear into which it can be placed. He will die from below, but he will still live in this format, I think, for more than one year.

    Since we are talking about consumer devices, Windows Mixed Reality is a platform with slightly more affordable hardware requirements, with no external sensors, already on store shelves. What do you think, how much will this affect the consumer market?

    Any device entering the market has the biggest problem among consumers, who cannot understand why it is for him. When the answer is formed, why do I need to have that device at home, and, read on, what content-base it has under it, that is, what tools it has. Because we use the iPhone, for example ... or just a mobile phone, any smartphone, we use it as a notebook, photo viewer, camera, phone, media player, game console.

    We each find the whole arsenal of what ... a media combine that can satisfy any of our requests. With any input device, if you position it only for the game, it should be an n-set of games to attract ... some kind of case, that is, a helmet along with the game, so that an out-of-box person opens and immediately understands where he can touch it, touch it and evaluate its technological advantages.

    Speaking from the point of view of hardware, it’s a cool new wave, a new class of devices that ... We used to share VR and AR. Now we have added a third category to it — Mixed Reality. Yes, this allows us to get the related experience that we have there with motion capture systems, simpler, more affordable, more comfortable from the point of view of organization, but, again, everything is around content and around packaging in a case. As we say, while she outweighed the scales, she declared herself, look, op. There is a piece of iron ... There is a piece of iron.

    What is here? And now, when a reasonable answer appears to what this piece of iron can in terms of content, correctly selected content? And in this, by the way ... I tell many vendors who are manufacturers that it’s not enough to just give the market a good price, some performance characteristics are good, and the entry threshold is good. All must be given together. That is, talk with developers, attract them, convince them that this is a new tool that is convenient for you. And speaking of tracking, we all know, well, maybe some of our listeners don’t know, there is inside-out tracking, there is outside tracking.

    All categories of motion capture are outside, when we place tracking equipment and track everything from the outside to the inside. Mixed Reality systems, which are based on the Windows platform, and a number of companies are working on insider tracking when we are wearing a helmet.

    That is, the helmet itself is a supporting tool for capturing the environment around it. And from this point of view, when there is no additional equipment, difficulties with its operation and calibration, this class of devices looks very promising. To solve, of course, a certain number of tasks. But content, content, content.

    When the ecosystem is filled with both software tools and hardware tools, what they give together is a universal solution, a Swiss knife, as I always say. Then yes, this is a new page, a new chapter. They will occupy their niche. And, frankly, I'm considering a scenario when they appear in parks, including parks, perhaps.

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