Top 10 Gaming Startups This Year
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Virtual reality led innovations in the gaming industry this year with the proliferation of companies such as Oculus Rift. One of the most popular new businesses was Icaros from HYVE, a ‘bodytainment’ system which combines a VR headset with a futuristic looking workout station that lets users enjoy adventures such as flying through space or deep sea diving while exercising. For many VR fanatics, VOID was also a highlight — it will be the world’s first virtual reality theme park, using Rapture headsets and wearables to provide immersive, interactive gaming.
There was also Stompz, a pair of VR shoes that let users control their in-game movements with their own feet. The common problem of motion sickness experienced while gaming was also offered a remedy: the VIRMO pill containing ginger roots that helps combat the nausea, headaches or dizziness resulting from mismatched motions during VR.
Following the footsteps of VR is AR — immersive augmented reality experiences. Night Terrors is a horror game app that will transform any house into a petrifying hellscape using environment mapping, gyroscope sensors, and the player’s own smartphone camera and flashlight.
For the Minecraft generation, a DIY hacker toolbox by Piper was a kit containing a Raspberry Pi 2 mini computer, which teaches them about building real electronics while playing their favorite game. Startup Hackaball joined this trend of educational gaming with their programmable ball, which is a throwable computer combining the thrill of physical play with an app for kids to invent and program new games.
We also saw new businesses attempt to counter the often negative, antisocial stigma attached to gaming. A virtual reality hang out space by AltspaceVR let users share experiences as avatars — they could even watch Netflix and share interesting Reddit threads with others.
Meanwhile, GamerLink connected gamers with similar playing styles and skill levels, which also facilitated the social aspect of gaming to enhance online multiplayer experience.
Consumers are always on the look out for new ways to gamify their physical exercise routines. In China, Timi Run Everyday proved to be a popular option for players to exercise and earn in-game rewards in return. A walking challenge took the form of a story-themed game called Step Ahead: Zombies, which let office workers escape an invasion through IRL activity. For those with back pain (perhaps from too much in-seat gaming), Valedo is a wearable device that gamifies physical therapy.
Some consumers will still prefer tangible rewards for exercising. Using wearable technology and 3D printing, Exertion Games Lab’s Edipulse will print chocolate according to how much the user worked out. The more they exercised, the more beautiful and cheerful the chocolate will be — it will even print a sad face if their activity was lacking.
Mental health is another issue the gaming industry has been addressing, especially when it comes to youth and children who often find it hard to communicate with those wanting to help them. Triangle of Life is one such app, developed by students at the Entertainment Technology Center of Carnegie Mellon University and Allegheny Health Network. The game, targeted at children who have suffered from traumatic experiences, teaches them healthy cognitive coping skills, and helps to replace negative thoughts with positive reinforcements.
Continuing the trend of gaming going beyond offering just entertainment, we also saw That Dragon, Cancer, a crowdfunded point and click adventure game created by Ryan Green, which tells the story of his son Joel’s four year fight with cancer. We even saw a game designed to educate players about ancient heritage through Never Alone — which was supported by the Cook Intel Tribal Council and transforms a traditional native Alaskan story into a two player puzzle platformer.
Extreme sport computer games often mimic the real world experience of skating and BMXing, but Iddo is a smart BMX add-on that is giving that tradition a 180. The device uses sensors to recognize real world tricks and track laps, connecting the data to the user’s app and enabling them to record and share their achievements. It can also sense light, temperature and humidity so the rider can assess their optimum performance conditions.
While it’s strictly speaking not a gaming device, we were impressed with the Uno Noteband, which is a wearable that uses Spritz’ speed reading technology to give consumers instant notification updates. For those unfamiliar with Spritz, it is a system of text ‘streaming’ that lets any user speed read. Could this be used for quick in-game notifications from other players, or incorporated into existing gaming wearables to allow players to be notified without being distracted from their activity?
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