Making society inclusive by design

On my travels, I often have really interesting experiences, insights and great conversations with the people I meet along the way. In the last few days I travelled through a few storms from the Beast to the East, a bomb cyclone and storm Emma, I think I might have met them all on my to Boston and Hartford in the USA for the Hartford insurance tech hackathon. On the way over I watched a few great movies Marshall and Same kind of different, both addressing racism, prejudice and other unsavoury practices in all of our societies where divides exist.

I have to say living in Europe and viewing the USA from a difference allows for a lot of generalisation and obviously not understanding the nuances in so far that they don’t exist to the same extremes in Europe or just exist differently I guess. It’s not until you have deep conversations and the occasional more superficial conversation with the local waiter or taxi driver. From a distance looking at the political situation makes it easy to have an opinion. But watching the news from the Fox and CNN angles is like watching two different universes in the same location.

I had a brief conversation with a taxi driver who was a staunch Trump supporter and he blamed everything that was wrong with the USA on Obama, I didn’t push for it or question it, but I reckon he also blamed the bad weather on him. Immigration was the main bugbear in his rhetoric. He was white, in his 70’s and could barely afford to live in his original city.

I also had a way more meaningful conversation with Erik Evans, a great facilitator for the event I was attending and motivational speaker. He is black and even in his lifetime experienced slavery, working for the people in the KuKuxClan and real hardship and racism just purely because of the colour of his skin. In the current regime, he feels open racism is encouraged and promoted in more than one way. The stories he told me, were just heartwrenching. For me, he was a great facilitator, great at the work he is doing and I appreciated him for that. I like to think that for me colour really is not the deciding factor, I would, however, judge on skills. I have some great multi-coloured friends group all over the world and I love it like that. Usually, they are people passionate about their work and really good at it too.

Either way, the conversations touched me and made me question whether it would be possible in our work with gamification, whether we could create an inclusive society by design. I do a lot of research on inclusion based on gender, age and I will from now on include colour. From my understanding, a lot of society in the US was built with exclusion in mind and segregation at its core. In other parts of the world, class or privilege is the dividing factor or gender, in the parts of the world where women can’t or are not allowed to have the same rights as boys or men.

So here is the thing, I wonder can we design a society where we are inclusive from the reset, I would love to say outset but that would imply we can build some kind of utopia from scratch. I am not sure if it can work, but I guess we would have to give it a try to find out. I am not sure what it would take to realise. My idealistic self would love to think that we could change perceptions, by having people walk in the other persons’ shoes through means of virtual or augmented reality, experiencing the world through their eyes. The trigger would be an observed injustice from an observer or the person in question, he or she could then trigger an equal experience to the bystanders or active players in the experience to let them in on how they felt. At the end of the reverse experience, we could get both parties to rate their emotional reaction, their willingness to change and a question of what would have made this experience good or acceptable.

I am not sure if the really staunch believers in the rights of one side would change, but at least they may open their minds to different experiences. I find it fascinating and enriching to travel and meet people and learn how they see the world through their eyes. Often the people with pre-conceived ideas, have not opened their eyes and minds to travel or see the world through a local person’s eyes or even had conversations to that effect. It isn’t always easy and it will make you question your belief system, but I guess that maybe we have to challenge those very norms to actually make a difference.

I am not sure if we can make this kind of system happen in our lifetime, maybe it may take a few generations. At the same time not trying is like accepting what we currently have as good and I know in my heart that it isn’t. As an idealist and dreamer, I would love to have a magic reset wand that just can move the unsavoury behaviours out of this world. I guess as one person I can do my best to make the world around me better and to be aware of my prejudices, privileges and be respectful and open to those of others. Yet somehow it leaves me unsatisfied that it isn’t enough.

It is a more philosophical post, and whilst what I would love to see happen through new technology may not solve everything, but it could be the ripple that moves a few people to change their views and behaviours. That to me makes it worthwhile. So, who is with me on this and willing to give it a try even locally? What else can we do?


Gamified recruitment in MR by Jaguar LandRover

Car manufacturer Jaguar Landrover has gone all gamified in their search for new software engineers and they have done it through a mix of virtual reality, augmented reality and reality and on top of that teamed up with virtual band Gorillaz to add some virtual, musical and visual edge. From my perspective it is an awesome example of how new technology can be used to inspire. Not only will this style recruitment process challenge people to prove their skills, it will also build an edgy employer brand for some time to come.

I knew Jaguar Landrover already applied the latest of innovative technologies in their manufacturing processes from collaboration on new models in virtual reality to impact testing with augmented reality. Their collaboration with Gorillaz is also not new, but may not have been known to too many outside the world of car manufacturing.

Gorillaz, always had an innovative animated edge as well as great music. They launched their mixed reality app  earlier this year as an interactive lead-up to their fifth album, Humanz. The app was created to be a musical, mixed reality scavenger hunt, similar to Pokémon Go. It shows the real world with objects from each band member appearing around the room that leads users to the band members actual rooms, creating an immersive story. Now, the app features an update with the addition of a Jaguar Land Rover recruitment area, where those looking to be hired can enter their missions.

They designed a two part quest, where the wannabe employees, have to undertake a series of challenges, some coding related others where solutions can be found online. The key motivation of the company is to start recruiting now for the car manufacturing needs of the future, where software will be more and more essential to the workings of the car. They also wanted to appeal to more people from outside the car manufacturing industry to have a go at designing a car. Here is a short clip that explains their thinking and spot the diversity effort while you are in also…

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If you want to see how the quest kicks off for a candidate, you will find the entry invite below

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First, users must look around at the objects projected into the real world and find the fictional band member, Noodle’s, helmet which is featured in the announcement video from Jaguar. Clicking on the helmet will take users to Noodle’s basement where they must use their phones to look around the room and find the screen with a 90kWh lithium-ion battery projected onto it. Once users click on the screen, their test with Jaguar begins.

The next mission is to locate the lithium-ion battery after reading Jaguar’s description of it and begin to assemble the Jaguar I-PACE Concept, the company’s electric sports car. Piece by piece the users must locate different items around the room in order to fully assemble the car. This task is fairly simple and mostly serves as a way for users to learn about the cars they would be helping to build. Once they put together the car, they can then choose to accept a further mission, by clicking on the Jaguar located in the room, a game is launched. During this game, they are met with a series of code puzzles that they must crack. If users complete the tasks correctly, and in a timely manner, their results are sent to Jaguar to be recruited.

In my view it is a fabulous example of combining the latest technology into a great gamified recruitment quest, which earns you the right to be interviewed.

Reflections from SXSW

After delivering our own panel session at South by Southwest, I have managed to squeeze in some panel sessions and keynotes. The dilemma of choice across a variety of tracks is hard to manage. Queue length has become one deciding factor and where can I realistically get to in the time frame in between sessions another.The quality of topics and delivery varies vastly, but I hit lucky a few times with great content and fabulous delivery, also walked out of one or two thanks to poor delivery or the topic going way over my head.

What it has made me realise is that my own curiosity has me constantly seeking out new things I can learn from and thanks to that I feel surprisingly well clued in to what is happening. I am hopeful about the opportunity of virtual reality after listening to a panel where one of the ladies was using it for helping medical staff and carers see the challenges their patients are faced with through the virtual reality headset. It is funny that we have to go that far for others to realise from first hand experience what it is really like to not see through the left of both your eyes. Our ability to learn and adapt is great, so as humans we can adjust, but empathy alone doesn’t cut it. It goes back to walking a mile in the other persons shoes and reality to truly have perspective.

A session on a behavioural psychology analysis of Brexit was tragically and hilariously funny both in equal measure. But in fact it pointed out how the leave campaign used many more subconscious motivators that had stronger emotional responses and the remain campaign looked at keeping the status quo. Only the status quo for younger audience they had measured correctly for the older generations ‘the good old days’ is their status quo, so a miscalculation of large sorts.

The one session that I will be looking into much further was one on how to design and develop for augmented reality. The speaker, Meron Gribetz from Meta, challenged us to think a lot further than old style icons for clicking, which is what we do see popping up a lot. He asked us to design for a zero learning curve, so that we intuitively understand and make it part of our life and with that enhance our life, which is the essence of the term augmented.

He had 9 principles:

  1. Think spatial
  2. Minimise abstractions
  3. The world is your file system
  4. Touch to see
  5. Do not disturb
  6. Avoid surprises and magic tricks
  7. The holographic campfire
  8. Public by default
  9. Augmented reality not mixed

For each principle he shared, there was a neuroscientific research based reason. It made a great deal of sense and really inspired me to think more about this for gamification design and any augmented reality work we do. I am hoping he will bring out the book or course on the topic, so I can do some more deep diving.

For me when I have that kind of realisations it is a conference worth going to, and successful for both challenging, inspiring and reflecting. Let’s hope the next few days are just as good and I can write you some more reflections about it.


Trend watch from SXSW

It is my first time visiting South by southwest in Austin Texas and for me it is like nothing I have visited before. You have a combination of music, film, technology, education, creativity, design, etc all melting together in one big pot. Across a few venues the city is completely consumed by this festival, conference, exhibition.

My first impression is that anything goes as far as fashion, although the uniform is jeans and t-shirt for the mostly young male visitor. The ladies I have met so far are strong and interesting with all sorts of viewpoints. Being part of an all-female discussion group made me feel that women globally experience similar issues and at the same time the first world issues are different depending on region and age.

Although I have only managed to enter a few talks and mainly hung out so far with my fellow panellists. The trends that are apparent are distinctly around are virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Most talks about AI are fully subscribed and the amount of VR and AR stands in the exhibition definitely give some insight into the possibilities or lack of for that matter. Augmented reality keeps disappointing in the way it is adopted with lack of creativity in my view. So note to self we may have to address this. Virtual reality is still all about the headsets and content remains an issue because it simply is expensive to create right now.

Artificial intelligence in this company stands out like the sexy kid on the block, even if it has a whole range of other issues attached to that such as the question of ethics and how will we interact when our world can be mainly run by robots and algorithms. The challenge of artificial intelligence is that it still needs to be originally programmed by humans and that the lack of diversity in the base programming may well cause further disconnect than we already see in society today. AI can learn over time and adapt, but only if it left exposed to a variety of experiences from different viewpoints male/female, young/old, cultural and national or even regional differences. Saying that it is exciting to see the potential of it. It will disrupt our world to a larger extent than ever before in my view with more.

Imagine the low end process driven jobs disappearing to a robot, quite a few roles completely disappearing and the world of work adapting to mainly creative and mind pursuits. Maybe the whole idea of giving all citizens a wage and allowing them to work or not on top of that would be a major paradigm shift. It would also require governments to actually employ people with business experience of managing this as a not for profit long term sustainable system. I am not sure how or if it can work, but the one thing I am sure of is that artificial intelligence will disrupt much more than we currently think of. Maybe not in my lifetime but with the rapid change of technology I wouldn’t be 100% sure of it, more the resistance to change of most humans will be what will drive a slower take up.

I finally found out what Facebook wants to actually do their Occulus purchase and it turns out it os for 360 social media creations, so your friends could feel in your presence even when they aren’t. I guess that’s why they are training us in to watch live videos from everyone to get into the habit of wanting to attend when someone happens to invite you in a 360 movie. Personally I am not sure if I would be all that interested considering the intrusion of push live video already.

It is a brief post today, with a further update probably next week when I have absorbed more sessions, heard more people and had my own experience of being in a panel.

Trend watch: Escapism into VR

According to research by VR firm Geekzonia, reveals one in five Brits (17 per cent) would prefer to be living in a virtual world to their existing reality. The survey of 1,000 people in the UK, carried out by OnePoll and commissioned by Geekzonia, revealed 22 per cent cite Brexit and Trump as reasoning for wanting to live in a virtual universe.

Other drivers for preferring to live in an alternative dimension include wanting to visit extraordinary places such as Mars, Gotham City and Mordor (46 per cent) and to meet favourite fictional characters such as Superman, The Hulk and Captain America (33 per cent).
In our experience more companies are exploring virtual options for tourism and virtual meetings. We also work on a number of initiatives of bringing gamification into virtual reality. In learning virtual reality has a place to simulate on boarding for example, there are amazing use cases of it in the medical world and where it is at its most powerful when it is used in combination with live reality. Hence creating a mixed reality experience for example a doctor performing an operation whilst being watched in VR by a number of peers and having the opportunity to seek input from other specialists worldwide.
The poll, which looked at the level of interest people have in escaping reality for a virtual realm, also examined how they would
develop their avatar to represent them in this alternative dimension. An avatar within these massively multiplayer virtual worlds is a person’s representation of themselves, as they wish to be perceived by others users.

 The results revealed that body confidence transcends into the virtual world, with the majority of respondents (39 per cent) admitting they would make their VR avatar look like themselves, only better looking(!). These findings are the same as what was seen in 2nd Life which provided a virtual world in the early 2000s, when people are left to free choice they will still choose a similar version to themselves, only slightly better.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘virtual vanity’ hits women harder. 45 per cent of British women, in comparison to 30 per cent of men, state they’d create their avatar as a ‘taller’, ‘slimmer’ or ‘more muscular’ version of their current self.

 Reflecting this, 29 per cent of men in comparison to only 19 per cent of women, said they’d make their avatar as-true to themselves as possible.

Other popular avatars of interested included ‘becoming’ a fictional character (25 per cent), not even human (nine per cent) and a celebrity (four per cent).

Are you spending more time in the virtual world?

 If you like posts like these, you may love our Technologies Update specifically for HR & L&D professionals

In Focus: Life like conditions

Simulations and virtual reality are often used as the tools to create lifelike conditions, so players can learn their art or improve their skills based on situations that are as real as possible. In other forms of learning or training, on boarding this is rarely included. Partly because for years the technology to enable mimicking conditions wasn’t there or at least that was the excuse.

However I used to create life like conditions in a training scenario, whether it was through time challenge, increased difficulty levels or scenario’s from treasure hunts to actual negotiation tactics, unusual ways of explaining regular things, etc. In effect I was using game mechanics to create the dynamics one would find in real life leadership or sales conditions. So I know even from those experiences that building in an element of reality or life like-ness gives the learner the chance to experiment and equally reflect on their performance in those situations.

In some of our recent gamification work we are using time pressure, difficulty levels and in one case we even contemplated having a water level gauge for tablets involved. The purpose in each case was to actually train the employees in the conditions they were very likely to experience in reality.

Training and on-boarding if done before a person joins in reality or to improve their skills level, needs to be relevant and where possible give the person insights into where they may require to adapt behaviour.

What have you use to create life-like conditions in your gamification work?

Viewpoint: virtuality

This week has been immersive in a virtual sense of the word. I had the privilege in meeting a number of virtual reality providers and virtual world providers and I have to say, what is in line or actually possible is amazing. I have been downplaying the reach of virtual reality a bit in favour of the augmented reality relative. The reason for it is that virtual reality requires a specialist headset or goggles, often on top of that headphones and motion controllers. I personally always felt that the costs involved and tech savvy required to make it all work and navigate around is a bit out of reach for most people. Now I still see cost for the complete virtual experience as a barrier to mass consumption, but with the things I experienced this week I can see that for some purposes the return on investment into equipments and content will be made back quickly by a reduction in travel cost and ease of spreading wider knowledge in a practical sense.

I know this sounds a bit high level. But basically I tried out some of the functionality of the Immerse Learning platform. I ended up putting my joysticks into a machine locking and unlocking bolts, opening compartments with instruction from someone in the room next door. He could see my every move and what I was doing. I got feedback from the system through the joysticks when the bolts locked into place. I could see what I was doing. I threw blocks across the floor and could be playing with blocks or tools with someone else anywhere in the psychical world with connection to this space. I can see their tools being used for on the job support for repairs of physical machines, medical operations sampling and sharing. So whilst I was the only person carrying out the tasks, there could be a large number of people looking in and also a few more people from different locations stepping into the virtual world and working together.

The whole touching of the blocks and throwing them around was a fun experience, then actually seeing how I could work on a machine and afterwards being how he could see my every move and getting feedback visual and sensory of bolts going into the right place, made the whole experience very realistic. The Immerse Learning platform has the bonus that you don’t have to download something to make it work, which for most corporate firewalls is a bonus and avoids a lot of red tape.

The other environment I got to play around with extensively this week and even showcase to a potential client is edorble, basically provide 3D virtual worlds for educational purposes. Their graphics are beautiful, the interface is easy to use and navigate, even someone with limited computer experience can create an avatar and walk around, which is not always the case with virtual worlds. In previous cases I have ran into walls, not found what I was looking for or not understood how to navigate my avatar. With Edorble this was a total breeze, I downloaded their application onto my laptop and within a few minutes I was exploring the world with an auditorium, campfire, private hub classroom type of space. So when it was time to meet the guys from Edorble in the world and see how two or more people could interact, the same positive easy to flow experience carried forward. Basically if you are in the education world right now and want your students to experience 3D classrooms and project work, get in touch with the guys (do tell them you found out about them on my site all the same :-)). They are looking to recruit more pioneer teachers and educators to use their tools.

With further talks to the founders, they are keen in building out their pioneer base in the educational sector and have more people experience their world. I am putting our new relaunched membership also known as The Gamification Nation on their platform so my clients have the option to experience forward thinking technology first hand. Their tools are VR ready and inclusion onto Hololens technology is also on their roadmap.

I personally believe the forward thinking nature of both companies totally stretched my mind of possibilities. I also revise my statement that augmented reality will be bigger. After what I saw and experience or immersed myself in this week, the future is definitely in mixed reality, a blend of current available technology, augmented and virtual reality and good old school face to face reality. Blended learning in mixed reality is going to take our learning experiences to a whole new level, with speed of learning accelerating and test environments allowing paths to mastery to be achieved much more easily.

Where do you think blended learning, VR, AR and mixed reality is heading?

Gamification Mechanic Monday: To avatar or not to avatar

Gamification Mechanic Monday: To avatar or not to avatar

Avatars are often a game mechanic to allow personalisation in a game, you  can choose it’s gender in some cases and adapt it’s appearance, from skin and hair colour to dress code typically. When it comes to business, I often receive the question in business should we allow avatars.

I would allow it and then see what happens. In very creative businesses often have the greatest creatures as avatars, in more traditional environments you mainly have images that are very similar to the person in real life. Here on my blog i have the standard gravatars and in online communities I encourage the person’s own picture to be uploaded. One thing I would discourage however is slogans or logo’s.

When it comes to avatars in the virtual world 2nd life what tended to happen at its peak popularity is that most people created an image that resembled themselves only better, with the bad bit edited out and improved. It meant slightly slimmer or more rounded, different hair colour or styles etc.

In business most of us will want to be recognised as ourselves. Social media is a clear case in point, I wouldn’t accept friend or contact requests from anyone with a question mark, a slogan or a logo. However if there is an image and there are people I know in common, then there is a higher likelihood of connecting. When you have met people in the past or recently at meetings, images trigger the memory and will definitely increase the likelihood of a connection.

Link it to your corporate culture and remember that people buy from people, they know like and trust. A smiling face pictured from the front is what most of use saw in the early days of our existence with a mum or dad or relative looking in and hoping you would recognise them. It is still in neuroscience research a trigger that makes people more receptive to engage. So share that smiling image.

Gamification stuff we love: Virtual reality adoption

Gamification stuff we love: Virtual reality consumer adoption report 2016

Virtual reality is seen to be a growing market for non-game applications, especially in the tourism and marketing of properties the interest is significant. At least that is what we experience. In learning VR is used where real experiences are harder to re-create such as for example living and working on a platform, medical interventions, life in combat, etc. The emotional experience virtual reality offers is life-like. In fact our brain doesn’t see it as different from a real life experience.

In the infographic below created by Greenlight VR, the overwhelming feeling of virtual reality is positive with consumers. Once people have experienced it, they find that they can see opportunities for it. The main applications as per the research are similar to what we find in enquiries namely in tourism, closely followed by movies and live events. Price, durability and availability of quality content are seen as the main decision swayers for people investing in VR or not. We think the future for VR will be interesting to follow and how it will find its place alongside augmented reality, which thanks to Pokemon Go has been given an almighty boost.

Greenlight VR surveyed, mainly the US market, about the adoption of virtual reality for non-game purposes in 2016. The report is for sale through their website, here is the infographic with some highlights.


Gamification stuff we love: Pokemon Go

Gamification stuff we love: Pokemon Go

Although it hasn’t been officially released in the UK and Europe the Pokemon Go vibe has reached these shores nevertheless. For the Company Of Thought I have been writing about augmented reality in e-learning for the past year. I predicted that it would be bigger than virtual reality in this space, once people would find useful applications for it. Pokemon Go certainly has found an application for augmented reality to enhance walking with smart phone gaming.

What is fun about it, is that people have willingly opted in to play the game and now that it is all over social media and the news the uptake will just mushroom. Interesting how a number of first movers and images posted on social media instigated other curious members of society to download the app. The feedback of people having sore legs from walking further and reporting it on social media is again stirring more people into action. In the markets where Pokemon is freely available in the app stores even some non-gamers are trying it out with mixed responses. Spin off services to drive people around to go and catch Pokemon are also being made available in San Francisco for example, which is rather bemusing. Obviously you will find how to play guides on YouTube by a range of players.

From a gamification perspective this is an ideal example though to make walking more interesting and to have people doing it freely and happily, going further than their original norm. Walking for some people is perceived as a boring activity (I have friends who love it and wouldn’t need an app to get started). The thinking is often that it serves no real purpose in a world where achieving seems to be a more engaging sport. With Pokemon go the achievement need is satisfied in a fun manner by catching little bug like creatures and the added quest of finding more of them. The more Pokemon you catch, you then receive the power to level up.

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What is rather ingenious is that the positive endorphins that come from walking are reinforced with those relating to catching creatures. The frustration of not catching any is then what drives others to keep trying. In the early stages of the game the ease of catching is lower and increases as you go. Currently the game is being played with mobile phones, however the apple or android watch systems could provide the next and potentially more personally safe way of playing. One of my female friends in the US also tried it on her daily dog walk and she reported feeling a sense of belonging to the group of players, when they acknowledged one another in the local area. I also had an Australian friend who ditched the app quite quickly after downloading it, so he could just enjoy a normal walk again. He also made the comment that walking has already had a few overhauls with golf and orienteering for example.

Introducing game elements to walking indeed isn’t new. Including our mobile phone and virtual creatures in an app in the process is new. The key to making this work though are the motivational drivers of initially curiosity to see what the hype is all about and for the first time users it may also be curiosity to try out something new and novel. Thanks to early achievements and rewards, the game hooks players in. The rarity of some of the special creatures is making people stay out longer and go further and try harder. Belonging to a tribe of players and playing with friends gives an added bonus of enjoyment as well as a bit of peer pressure.

Where would you see scope for a version of Pokemon Go for some business gamification?