The team behind Baidu’s first smart speaker is now using AI to make films

The team behind Baidu’s first smart speaker is now using AI to make films

9:01pm, 7th April, 2019
The sci-fi blockbuster Westworld has been an inspiring look into what humanlike robots can do for us in the meatspace. While current technologies are to make Westworld a reality, startups are attempting to replicate the sort of human-robot interaction it presents in virtual space. , which just graduated from Y Combinator and ranked among TechCrunch’s from the batch, is one of them. The “Westworld” in the TV series, a far-future theme park staffed by highly convincing androids, lets visitors live out their heroic and sadistic fantasies free of consequences. There are a few reasons why rct studio, which is keeping mum about the meaning of its deliberately lower-cased name for later revelation, is going for the computer-generated world. Besides the technical challenge, playing a fictional universe out virtually does away the geographic constraint. The Westworld experience, in contrast, happens within a confined, meticulously built park. “Westworld is built in a physical world. I think in this age and time, that’s not what we want to get into,” Xinjie Ma, who heads up marketing for rct, told TechCrunch. “Doing it in the physical environment is too hard, but we can build a virtual world that’s completely under control.” Rct studio wants to build the Westworld experience in virtual worlds. / Image: rct studio The startup appears suitable to undertake the task. The eight-people team is led by Cheng Lyu, the 29-year-old entrepreneur who goes by Jesse and helped Baidu build up from scratch after the Chinese search giant Along with several of Raven’s core members, Lyu left Baidu in 2018 to start rct. “We appreciate a lot the support and opportunities given by Baidu and during the years we have grown up dramatically,” said Ma, who previously oversaw marketing at Raven. Let AI write the script Immersive films, or games, depending on how one wants to classify the emerging field, are already available with pre-written scripts for users to pick from. Rct wants to take the experience to the next level by recruiting artificial intelligence for screenwriting. At the center of the project is the company’s proprietary engine, Morpheus. Rct feeds it mountains of data based on human-written storylines so the characters it powers know how to adapt to situations in real time. When the codes are sophisticated enough, rct hopes the engine can self-learn and formulate its own ideas. “It takes an enormous amount of time and effort for humans to come up with a story logic. With machines, we can quickly produce an infinite number of narrative choices,” said Ma. To venture through rct’s immersive worlds, users wear a virtual reality headset and control their simulated self via voice. The choice of audio came as a natural step given the team’s experience with natural language processing, but the startup also welcomes the chance to develop new devices for more lifelike journeys. “It’s sort of like how the film Ready Player One built its own gadgets for the virtual world. Or Apple, which designs its own devices to carry out superior software experience,” explained Ma. On the creative front, rct believes Morpheus could be a productivity tool for filmmakers as it can take a story arc and dissect it into a decision-making tree within seconds. The engine can also render text to 3D images, so when a filmmaker inputs the text “the man throws the cup to the desk behind the sofa,” the computer can instantly produce the corresponding animation. Path to monetization Investors are buying into rct’s offering. The startup is about to close its Series A funding round just months after banking seed money from and Chinese venture capital firm , the startup told TechCrunch. The company has a few imminent tasks before achieving its Westworld dream. For one, it needs a lot of technical talent to train Morpheus with screenplay data. No one on the team had experience in filmmaking, so it’s on the lookout for a creative head who appreciates AI’s application in films. Rct studio’s software takes a story arc and dissects it into a decision-making tree within seconds. / Image: rct studio “Not all filmmakers we approach like what we do, which is understandable because it’s a very mature industry, while others get excited about tech’s possibility,” said Ma. The startup’s entry into the fictional world was less about a passion for films than an imperative to shake up a traditional space with AI. Smart speakers were its first foray, but making changes to tangible objects that people are already accustomed to proved challenging. There has but they are far from achieving ubiquity. Then movies crossed the team’s mind. “There are two main routes to make use of AI. One is to target a vertical sector, like cars and speakers, but these things have physical constraints. The other application, like Go, largely exists in the lab. We wanted something that’s both free of physical limitation and holds commercial potential.” The Beijing and Los Angeles-based startup isn’t content with just making the software. Eventually, it wants to release its own films. The company has inked a long-term partnership with , a Chinese sci-fi publisher representing about 200 writers, including the Hugo award-winning Cixin Liu. The pair is expected to start co-producing interactive films within a year. Rct’s path is reminiscent of a giant that precedes it: . The Chinese company didn’t exactly look to the California-based studio for inspiration, but the analog was a useful shortcut to pitch to investors. “A confident company doesn’t really draw parallels with others, but we do share similarities to Pixar, which also started as a tech company, publishes its own films, and has built its ,” said Ma. “A lot of studios are asking how much we price our engine at, but we are targeting the consumer market. Making our own films carry so many more possibilities than simply selling a piece of software.”
Nintendo is bringing Zelda and Mario into virtual reality

Nintendo is bringing Zelda and Mario into virtual reality

8:55am, 5th April, 2019
Labo VR kit may just be a little cardboard experiment, but Nintendo is taking a chance on throwing its most beloved titles into the headset. Today, the company announced that they will be adding support to play two of the Switch’s flagship titles. Though Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild seems to just be gaining VR viewer support, Super Mario Odyssey is actually getting some new content alongside the updates which adds a trio of new mini-games. Both games are getting this update for free later this month on 4/25. Experience 2 beloved games in new ways with the Toy-Con VR Goggles from the : VR Kit! — Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) This is a very strange choice for Nintendo to make, given what an assuredly cruddy experience this will surely be. It made enough sense with the Labo experiences, because those are designed to be fast and fun, tech specs be damned. But when Nintendo suggests tossing yourself into a 50-hour epic like Breath of the Wild, they’re offering you a tacit endorsement that you’ll be able to play these games in VR for a while. I doubt this will be the case. That being said, I haven’t tested out virtual reality Breath of the Wild but something tells me that Mario or Zelda in glorious 360p per eye resolution doesn’t make for the game of a lifetime. There’s also no evidence that you’re going to have any sort of different point-of-view perspective that they’ve enabled gameplay for so you’ll still be playing in third-person which is likely going to be a bit uncomfortable if the camera is automatically shifting while your head remains stationary. It’s hard to rake Nintendo over the coals for giving users this experience for free, but I hope people don’t rush out to buy the Labo VR kits just for this, because I’ve got some doubts they’ll like what they get.
Snapchat launches Mario Party-style multiplayer games platform

Snapchat launches Mario Party-style multiplayer games platform

3:44pm, 4th April, 2019
Snap is unlocking a new revenue stream while giving you something to do in between chats and Stories. Today Snapchat debuts its Snap Games platform that lets you play real-time, multiplayer games while texting and talking with your friends. The platform is based off Snap’s secret late-2017 acquisition of PrettyGreat, an Australian game studio with talent from HalfBrick which built Fruit Ninja. That team built Bitmoji Party, a Mario Party-style mini-game fest, to show off the platform that includes five games from developers like Zynga and ZeptoLab. The games are rolling out worldwide on iOS and Android starting today. To monetize the platform, Snapchat will let users opt in to watching six-second unskippable commercials that reward them with a power up or bonus in-game currency. Snapchat will share revenue from the ads with developers, though it refused to specify the split. It could be a little weird watching ads to more easily beat your friends. But down the line it’s easy to imagine Snapchat selling cosmetic upgrades via in-app purchases akin to Fortnite. Snap announced the new Snap Games platform at its first-ever press event, the Snap Partner Summit in Los Angeles where it also announced an , an . “We wanted to build something that makes us feel like we’re playing a board game with a family of over a long holiday weekend. Something that makes us feel like we’re sitting with friends, controllers in hand, looking at the same screen” says Snap’s head of gaming Will Wu. The Information’s first reported Snap was building a gaming platform and reported it would end up launching today. Snap Games could be considered a real-time spin on Facebook Messenger’s Instant Games platform, which has focused on porting well-known asynchronous games like Pac-Man and other arcade titles to . Similarly, Snap Games don’t have to be downloaded separately as they’re piped in from the web. Users can browse available games by tapping a new rocket ship button in the chat bar. You’re invited to Bitmoji Party — Snapchat (@Snapchat) With Bitmoji Party, your avatar competes with up to 7 friends simultaneously in a series of mini games where you have to stay balanced on a giant record as a DJ scratches it, or avoid getting knocked in the pool. You can also have another 24 friends spectate and rotate in. Winners earn coins they can use to buy dances to stunt on their competition. And with an ever-present chat bar, users can use text or voice to talk trash. Rather than port in known IP, Snap recruited developers to build games exclusively for its vertical, real-time multiplayer format. Those include: Alphabear Hustle from SpryFox – a fast-paced word puzzler C.A.T.S. (Crash Arena Turbo Stars) Drift Race from ZeptoLab – a cutesy racing game Snake Squad from Game Closure – a reimagining of the classic Snake game set in outer space Tiny Royale from Zynga – a top-down battle royale shooter game that feels like a Game Boy version of Fortnite top-down battle royale game Zombie Rescue Squad from PikPok – A zombie shooter Snapchat’s partner games (from left): Tiny Royale, Snake Squad, C.A.T.S. Drift Race Snap’s game platform has huge potential to boost time spent in the app and the ads views that generates because gaming is perfect for its demographic. “In the United States, Snapchat now reaches nearly 75 percent of all 13-34 year-olds, and we reach 90 percent of 13-24 year-olds. In fact, we reach more 13-24 year-olds than Facebook or Instagram in the United States, the UK, France, Canada, and Australia” Snap CEO Evan Spiegel revealed today. This is the age group with the free time and dense social graphs to make use of multiplayer real-time games. The big question is whether Snap’s reward-incentivized video ad views will generate enough cash to keep developers coming to the platform. If not, a limited line of titles could get old quick. Snap has entirely avoided in-app purchases since . There’s understandable concerns that kids could rack up huge bills on their parents’ credit cards. But given how Fortnite has normalized paying for no-utility cosmetic upgrades for this same demographic, with the right controls Snapchat could do the same to make itself and its partners a lot more money. And given you’re always playing with your friends, not strangers, there’s an even deeper urge to buy funny costumes and dances to impress them. Snapchat’s overarching strategy right now is to build an orbit of time-wasters surrounding chat. What began with Stories now includes Discover publications, premium Shows, augmented reality toys, and now games. It may never become a favorite with the 35+ age group. But since messaging is the top mobile behavior, Snap can use it to keep people coming back and then distract them while they’re waiting for a reply or need a social alternative to small talk.
Seattle-area game studio behind ‘Republique’ flies ‘Iron Man VR’ onto PlayStation VR in 2019

Seattle-area game studio behind ‘Republique’ flies ‘Iron Man VR’ onto PlayStation VR in 2019

5:47pm, 2nd April, 2019
For the last few years, , maker of the 2013 episodic adventure game , has been quietly working on a top secret project in its Bellevue, Wash. studio. Last week, it that the project in question was Iron Man VR, an exclusive virtual reality game for the PlayStation 4 that places the player directly into the role of Tony Stark. Now we have details about the actual gameplay — and initial reviews are positive thus far: (Stephen Totilo, Kotaku) (Andrew Tarantola, Engadget) (Brian Crecente, Variety) (Caty McCarthy, US Gamer) This is the second major project from Camouflaj, an independent 50-person games studio. Its first release, Republique, was initially released in 2013 after a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2012, and was ported to VR platforms in May of 2018. The studio was founded in 2011 by Ryan Payton, a University of Puget Sound graduate and games writer who eventually went on to work on Metal Gear Solid 4 at Konami. Payton then worked at Microsoft and 343 Industries, where he was one of the narrative designers on Halo 4. Fun day at today :) — Ryan Payton (@ryanpayton) In Iron Man VR, Tony Stark faces off against a new enemy, an unknown woman using the guise of his old enemy the . (According to , the decision to make the game’s Ghost a woman predates the appearance of in last year’s Ant-Man & The Wasp.) Iron Man VR is strictly meant for virtual reality, played with Sony’s headset and a PlayStation Move controller in either hand. In-game, when Tony puts on the Iron Man suit, the positioning of your hands is used to determine how Tony flies with his repulsors. At the same time, however, the repulsors are your primary means of self defense, and you can blast enemies by pointing your Move controllers at them and firing. If you lock onto a distant target, Tony will fly at it to deliver a powerful punch. The armor in Iron Man VR is called the Impulse Suit, and is a unique design for the game created by British artist . Granov lived in Seattle for several years, providing illustration work for Wizards of the Coast, and eventually came to work for Marvel Comics. While there, he illustrated the Extremis storyline for Iron Man, written by Warren Ellis, which is one of the better Iron Man comics in recent years, and began the process of rehabilitation for the character that ended with Tony Stark becoming one of the linchpins of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Extremis went on to become of the first and third Iron Man movies, which employed Granov as a consultant. (Granov also contributed the design for the to last year’s similarly PlayStation-exclusive Spider-Man.) Other characters confirmed to appear in Iron Man VR include Friday, Tony’s AI assistant, and Pepper Potts. The initial releases mention that the game involves coming “face-to-face with iconic allies and super villains as they jet around the globe on a heroic mission to save not only Stark Industries, but the world itself.”
Yoshi’s Crafted World is classic gaming joy, Nintendo-style

Yoshi’s Crafted World is classic gaming joy, Nintendo-style

1:14pm, 30th March, 2019
In 1995, had his moment. The character’s Super Mario World debut was so strong, handed the dinosaur sidekick his own sequel. A surprise divergence from the Mario franchise found the character escorting a baby version of the plumber in search of his kidnapped twin. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island was regarded as an instant classic for the Super Nintendo. The positive reaction was due, in part, to some bold aesthetic choices. The game featured a shaky line style, both in keeping with the playful infant motif and to further highlight that the title wasn’t just another Mario game. Yoshi’s island has received a number of its own sequels and spinoffs over the years. This is, after all, Nintendo we’re talking about here. The company has turned riding out IP into a kind of art form. But while many of those followups were generally well-received, but none managed to capture the pure joy of the original. 2015’s Yoshi’s Wooly World came close, but ultimately failed to meet the high standards of many Mario fans. And the fact that the Wii U was ultimately a doomed console didn’t help matters much. From a design perspective, Yoshi’s Crafted World clearly shares a lot of common DNA with that predecessor and, for that matter, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, with developer Good-Feel being a common denominator in all three. But the Switch title is a far more fully realized and cohesive package than the Wii U title. And like Yoshi’s Island before it, it’s a joy to play. The first time I saw gameplay footage, I’d assume the game was a bit more of an open-world adventure — the Yoshi’s Island to Super Mario Galaxy’s Super Mario World. But while the new title gives you some choices, it never lets you stray too far from the standard platformer path. To this day, side scrollers continue to be Nintendo’s bread and butter, even as it pushes the boundaries of gaming with other titles. At its worst, that means redundancy. At its best, however, Nintendo manages to put a fresh spin on the age old genre, as is the case here. Clever mechanics like 3D world flipping and paths that point Yoshi down roads in a third dimension keep gameplay interesting. The addition of seemingly infinite Mario 3-style cardboard costumes, coupled with the DIY crafted design language, meanwhile, make it downright joy to play. Yoshi’s Crafted World is an all-ages title, through and through. In fact, on first playing, the game asks whether you want to play “Mellow Mode” or “Classic Mode,” reassuring you that you can switch things up at any time. Even in Classic Mode, the game does a fair bit of handholding. But the game’s simple and slow pace is more comfort than annoyance for even older players. The title plays like a casual game, writ large with a fun through line that finds Yoshi hunting down scattered “Dream Gems,” like so many Dragon Balls. It’s never as immersive or addicting as a title like Mario Galaxy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s the kind of game you can happily play in spurts and come back to, after you’re done living your life. It’s a reminder that games can be an escape from, rather than cause of, frustration and stress. And it’s definitely the best Yoshi star vehicle in nearly 25 years.
Sega’s Genesis/Mega Drive Mini arrives in September

Sega’s Genesis/Mega Drive Mini arrives in September

11:05am, 30th March, 2019
Whether you call it the Genesis or the Mega Drive, 16 bit system holds a special place in the hearts of many a gamer who came of age in the 80s and 90s. Like the NES and Super Nintendo before it, the console that gave us a ring-hoarding hedgehog is about to get miniaturized. Sega announced the Genesis/Mega Drive Mini last year, only to delay sales in order to fine tune the retro console. This week at Sega Fest, however, the once-mighty game maker — and game selection. The Mini is due out just ahead of the holidays on September 19, carrying 40 pre-installed titles. Along with the release date, the company announced a quarter of the titles, carrying some familiar names like Sonic the Hedgehog, Ecco the Dolphin, Altered Beats and ToeJam and Earl (full list below). When it hits, the system will run $80 here in the States, the same price as the SNES Classic. The full game selection (so far) is as follows: Ecco the Dolphin Castlevania: Bloodlines Space Harrier II Shining Force Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine ToeJam & Earl Comix Zone Sonic the Hedgehog Altered Beast Gunstar Heroes
20 years for swatter who got a man killed

20 years for swatter who got a man killed

3:44pm, 29th March, 2019
Tyler Barriss, a prolific and seemingly unremorseful repeat swatter and bomb hoaxer whose fakery got a man killed in 2017, has been . This hopefully closes the book on a long and disturbing career of random and mercenary harassment and threats. Not to linger on the crimes committed by Barriss, but to refresh your memory: Barriss accumulated dozens of charges generally relating to calling in fake threats in order to get police or SWAT called to a location or shut it down. Among his bomb threat targets was the FCC, which had to clear the room during a major net neutrality vote because of a call Barriss made. Nearly at the same time, as part of a conflict relating to a $1.50 Call of Duty bet, he called the police claiming he was armed and had shot his father, and was at an address in Kansas, where he thought his target lived. Unfortunately the target had moved well before, and when the police showed up, they shot and killed the current resident, Andrew Finch. , facing up to 25 years in prison. The sentencing today reflects the defense’s plea that he get 20 instead, no doubt in return for cooperation and the guilty plea. It should not go unnoted here that Finch was unarmed and on his own doorstep when police killed him — with an assault rifle — reportedly because “he was reaching for his waistband.” Apparently the officer also “believed he saw a gun come up in Mr Finch’s hands.” Well, which was it, up or down? Was he reaching for the gun or raising it? Is it common for Wichita police to shoot someone within seconds of them answering the door, without assessing the situation — for instance, where the children are? As is sadly often the case in such shootings, the police are entirely without credibility here, and the officer involved . Justice seems out of the question, but the family has filed a lawsuit over the matter. If the police weren’t already considered a serious danger to others, swatting wouldn’t be a thing. The chance that police will escalate is highly unpredictable, though of course being a person of color adds considerably to that risk, as a fraudulent gun in the call will cause the police to hallucinate weapons with even greater frequency than usual. The whole case is sad and depressing, from the astonishing pettiness of Barriss and his associates to the total lack of concern over the consequences of his actions — extending, it seems, even to his prison term: he has been in before and attempted to get online and continue his hoax habit even while incarcerated. Barriss, it seems, is a symptom of internet culture less extreme but as inevitable as the Christchurch killer. All the worst parts about being online rolled into one and given form — and means to kill. Here’s hoping we find a way to reverse the trend.
Amazon Prime members get a free year of Nintendo Switch Online through Twitch Prime

Amazon Prime members get a free year of Nintendo Switch Online through Twitch Prime

4:06pm, 28th March, 2019
You may have forgotten about , but the company is adding an interesting new perk for Nintendo Switch owners. The company is giving out up to one year of , the subscription service that lets you play online multiplayer games and access NES games. If you’re an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscriber, you automatically become a Twitch Prime member once you — Amazon owns Twitch. Twitch Prime gives you access to free loot, such as in-game skins for Apex Legends or Call of Duty Black Ops 4, as well as free (mostly indie) games. As part of Twitch Prime, you can also subscribe to a Twitch channel for free — the streamer still gets compensated. Twitch Prime also gives your more options to customize your chat experience. Nintendo and Twitch are partnering to offer a complimentary Nintendo Switch Online subscription — it usually costs $20. But you won’t get 12 months at once. You can go to to redeem three months right now. In two months, you’ll be able to redeem another nine months. Twitch and Nintendo probably hope that you’ll forget about the second part of the perk, so don’t forget to set up a reminder. The offer expires on September 24, 2019 for the initial three months, and on January 22, 2020 for the additional nine months. The good news is that it also works if you’re already a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber. You’ll just get additional subscription time.
Drake invests in esports betting startup Players’ Lounge

Drake invests in esports betting startup Players’ Lounge

1:57pm, 28th March, 2019
Drake’s latest collaboration isn’t with Kanye or Kendrick, it’s with Marissa Mayer. The rap superstar has joined a bevy of Silicon Valley investors, including Strauss Zelnick, Comcast, Macro Ventures, Canaan, RRE, Courtside and Marissa Mayer, to fund , an esports startup looking to pit gamers against each other in their favorite titles with some friendly wagers on the line. The startup has just that it closed $3 million in funding. The company, which has been around for five years, got its start as an esports startup looking to organize real-life matches at bars in New York City to play FIFA. That’s obviously not the most scalable business of all time, but last year after joining Y Combinator, the company really dove into a new model that looked to create an online hub for gamers to battle each other in titles of their choosing, with money on the line. The company has a heavy emphasis on sports titles, like FIFA 19, NBA 2K19 and Madden 19, but there are also some heavy hitters like Fortnite, Apex Legends and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Gamers can set a match or join one in head-to-head challenges or in massive 500-person tournaments. The wagers are often a buck or two but can swell much higher. Players’ Lounge takes 10 percent of the bets as a fee. Because it’s a game of skill, not chance, there aren’t many issues with gambling regulations, though a few states still don’t allow the service, the company says. The startup plans to use their new cash to beef up their library of playable games and add to their development team.
Paul Allen’s immersive Holodome gets interactive with new zombie-hunting game that founder tested

Paul Allen’s immersive Holodome gets interactive with new zombie-hunting game that founder tested

9:43am, 28th March, 2019
The new immersive reality game “Dome of the Dead” was developed for Vulcan and Holodome by Seattle-based VR studio Endeavor One. (Vulcan Image) In the months since Vulcan, Inc., inside Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture, 38,000 people have stepped into the 360-degree immersive reality experience. Now, almost a year later, Paul Allen’s company is unveiling an interactive twist that the late Microsoft co-founder got a glimpse of shortly before he passed away. “Dome of the Dead: Escape the Bayou” takes Holodome beyond the passive nature of its previous content offerings and allows users to take up arms against advancing zombies. The first-person-shooter game — which will be available to the public starting Friday at MoPOP — lets up to four players experience the high-tech surround video and sound inside Vulcan’s creation, without the use of a headset. The objective was to create something that appealed to a wide range of gamers, and for it to not have a big learning curve. And that made sense when it came to Allen himself, who was described as a “curious gamer” who was very much interested in virtual reality and interactive experiences. At Vulcan’s studio in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, Allen got to see and try a very early version of the game last September, just a few weeks before he died on Oct. 15, at age 65. “He was fantastically curious about this,” said Kamal Srinivasan, director of product development at Vulcan and Holodome’s product manager. “Before this game got rolling he definitely wanted to understand, ‘OK, what are the different kinds of games?’ He loved it. That’s why we’re very excited that we got it completed.” The latest iteration of Vulcan’s Holodome will snap together like LEGOs and feature a redesigned entryway. (Vulcan Image) “Dome of the Dead” was created in a tight 6-month timeline by , a Seattle-based VR company founded in 2014 by veteran game developers. Here’s the official description of what to expect: What was supposed to be a safe use of alien technology to purify the earth’s waters somehow turned into humanity’s ultimate fight for survival — and now you are in the middle of it. In “Dome of the Dead,” an intense 4-person cooperative shooter game, you and your friends must work together to escape the onslaught of alien-zombie hybrids prowling the infested Bayou and reach one of the last safe zones in existence. The 10-minute game is pretty much what you would expect from reading that — lots of bullets flying and zombies exploding. Srinivasan said in the month or so that they’ve been testing it at the museum at Seattle Center, they’re measuring success in “screams per minute.” “If you think think about VR multiplayer games, you’ve got to move,” Srinivasan said. “In this, we’re moving the scenes around you.” Previous content inside Holodome wasn’t quite this heart pounding. The passive experiences were more cinematic, and were meant to wow visitors with sound and video absorption, as well as vibrations underfoot which played to the sense of touch. But while user scores were high overall and feedback was positive for experiences such as “Death Planet Rescue,” “Justin Timberlake’s Montana,” and “Seattle Seahawks: Art of the Play,” MoPOP’s Holodome visitors voiced a desire for more interaction, and Vulcan listened. Developers set out to build something that wouldn’t require users to wear a bunch of tracking gear. “Dome of the Dead” fits that bill, because players are tracked inside Holodome just by the plastic guns they carry, each with a color-coordinated laser pointer for taking out zombies and keeping up with each shooter’s score. The weapon used in “Dome of the Dead” is the only device needed to track a player inside Holodome. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) “Our foundation has been in VR, so the idea of ‘VR without a head-mounted display’ was an immediate appeal for us as game creators,” said Tom Doyle, co-founder of Endeavor One. “Our history as first-person-shooter console developers meant we got to apply our years of know-how, and translate that type of entertainment to the emerging Holodome platform. That being said, like all things new, it was exciting and with lots of valuable lessons from the development process. Being first means there are no rules.” Endeavor One has created original VR entertainment titles for console, PC and mobile and most recently helped Microsoft Studios and 343 Industries launch Windows Mixed Reality with the release of “Halo Recruit.” In three stages during “Dome of the Dead,” the action gets progressively more intense, but gamers are battling the top score more than trying to stay alive in the swamp setting. Despite swipes from creatures that appear to leave bloody marks across the combatants, you can’t be killed, you don’t lose any power and you never run out of ammo. I found myself holding the trigger down for the duration, spraying everything that moved. Player scores are show on a scoreboard inside Holodome after a round of “Dome of the Dead.” (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Doyle cited two major components in what makes the game appealing to casual and hardcore gamers. “First is the shared social aspect,” he said. “Social co-presence in VR is only merely representative in its current form. In the Holodome, being able to stand side by side with other players makes it a much more human gaming experience. “The second component is the concept of ‘immersive reality’ — the full high definition sensory experience is something that really needs to be seen to be completely understood,” Doyle added. “There is nothing on the market quite like it. With ‘Dome of the Dead’ we wanted something both action-packed and suspenseful to introduce the public to Holodome and showcase it as a gaming platform.” Along with content offerings, Holodome itself is also evolving physically. The latest iteration of the dome being built in Georgetown is 20 percent bigger than what’s used at MoPOP and it can snap together like LEGOs in three days and come apart in one day. The door to enter has been reimagined and so has the vibrating floor. When asked whether Vulcan will continue to develop Holodome in the absence of Allen, Srinivasan said it was the billionaire’s vision to bring the concept to life. “It’s business as usual on the Vulcan side of things,” Srinivasan said. “There are no changes on the Holodome directive. We’re going hard at our potential customer segment. … Our vision was, ‘Can we create a shared immersive reality without isolating and without a headset?’ That’s what we’ve been out to prove and we are well on that journey to make sure we can do that.”