Monthly Archives: October 2017

Understanding your Demographic and what business can learn from the iGaming

Probably the two most hotly contested spaces on the internet right now are Dating and on-line gaming and gambling. Tapping into the strongest of human emotions is clearly a winner especially where money comes into the equation.

What can other businesses learn from the experience of the successful on-line gaming businesses and their drive to win new clients and steal those of their peers?

Developing strong brand identities

Strong brand identities and the ability to have that brands URL stick in the minds of the potential new user are one, admittedly very important, thing, but it’s the way that iGaming companies target their specific demographic that is usually the key strength of the most successful players in the space. The top brands employ teams of data scientists who live and breathe the data coming from their sites. They aren’t just looking at age, gender and the usual residential address factors. They are analysing spending patterns, which slots games the players are wagering upon the most and the frequency of visits to each area of the site.

Developing a precise marketing plan with the data

With the magnitude and quality of that data, they are able to coalesce the perfect marketing plan for users in a specific demographic. Scott Manford the CEO of Wizard Slots, a leading UK based online casino, says “It’s imperative that we understand not only what slot and table games each of our players prefer to use, but also the time of day, and indeed days of the week they like to play and what interests them in new games and concepts”.

Indeed, getting into the players head and understanding what they like, and don’t like about a site is critical in a successful online gaming operation. “We assess heatmaps for a broad section of our player base and analyse what areas of our sites are causing blockages or bounces for different groups of players and in turn which promotions or new features draw the attention of players. Allied to significant A/B testing we then trial new concepts across wide demographic groups before we fully roll out any new games or promotions”.

These operators also analyse the retention of players, understating the motivation to either leave the site, or where a boredom threshold is reached.

Ultimately their plan is to never lose a player, as Manford goes on to say “The cost of acquisition for us is very significant, so we always adopt a philosophy of your best customers being your existing customers, and hence we strive to retain players for as long as possible, by giving them the utmost in customer care and attention and gifting them with free spins, promotions and even things like claiming special bonuses on their birthday etcetera” . So more than just understanding what slots games their players like – it seems the casino operators ty to understand the life cycle of a player and the motivations to play, wager, and indeed grow bored with each and every aspect of the interface.

Deciding on your marketing channels with this data

This depth of understanding means that new promotions might only be marketed on targeted social media for instance, or on TV adverts at a specific time on a specific channel, all with the objective of getting the maximum exposure to the precise demographic who have already demonstrated a receptivity to the messaging of that promotion in a controlled environment.

The ultimate goal is to try and ensure that not a single cent of marketing budget is spent on speculative or “brand building” exercises – but rather delivers a targeted, attributable and maximised Return On Investment for the Online Casino operator. Whilst some brands do combine some overall brand messaging in their marketing messaging you can be assured that they are also measuring the efficacy of this.

So what can businesses in other sectors learn from some of this behaviour and experience. Well aside from the usual platitudes of “know your customer” and “your best customer is your current customer” possibly the biggest take away is that you need to try and target your marketing message to the groups who you most want to attract, and more importantly knowing who those people are by analysing the current profile and conversion of your existing customer base. Once you understand what parts of your offering appeal to the subtle variations in your customer demographic you will be much better placed to target your marketing spend to the areas where you will get the best ROI.

Why you should care about website accessibility

For a lot of companies, the accessibility of their website is a factor that features much further down the list than a lot of other required or desirable factors.

On the surface, configuring your site so it can be used by those with additional needs might seem like a lot of work for little reward – but when you realise that 8.5 million people in the UK are registered as having a disability, not ensuring access for all can have a big business impact.

To understand why accessibility is vital, it’s important to understand what it means for a website… We recently caught up with the amazing team over at Think Zap who are a team of Glasgow web designers, here is what they had to say about website accessibility, and what it means for your business!

What does accessibility mean?

For lots of people, the term accessibility conjures images of ramps, lifts and dropped curbs that allow easy wheelchair access to a building – and while correct, both the architectural application and the image of a wheelchair user put too narrow a meaning on the term.

Accessibility extends to any ‘occupation’ – that’s to say any task or action that a person may want or need to undertake – and the term ‘disabled’ or someone with ‘disabilities’ extends well beyond physical limitations – and into issues relating to differing cognition, mental function and sensory needs.

So, in website terms, it’s useful to think of ‘accessibility’ as simply making the site accessible and useable for anyone – regardless of any impairment, reduced ability or external conditions.

A broad spectrum

A broader look at the population’s range of abilities sees a wide variety of conditions that should be accounted for in web design:

  • Visual issues – including people who are blind, have reduced vision, colour blindness or sensory sensitivity to colours and light levels.
  • Auditory issues – people who are deaf, have a reduced range hearing – or have sensory issues that relate to particular noises and pitch levels.
  • Physical issues – including musculoskeletal issues leading to reduced movement, any inability to use limbs that ruling out standard device control methods and any cognitive issues leading to difficulties in movement.
  • Learning disabilities – leading to issues with movement, understanding of content and ability to interact with devices.
  • Autistic spectrum conditions – resulting in sensitivities to site design, colours and noises.

Environmental limitations

While we tend to think about accessibility as being human conditions that limit access to sites, there are also environmental conditions that can limit a person’s ability to access and use a website:

  • Old technology that doesn’t cater for the latest design features
  • Speech driven search and browsing owing to user’s situation
  • Limited network speed
  • Working in areas of high noise or light interference

Benefits of accessibility

Before considering any business benefits, there’s a significant moral and ethical argument for ensuring accessibility for people of all abilities and in all conditions.

A great deal of companies put their ethical responsibilities before any business considerations – and this should always be taken into consideration when something as significant as a company’s web presence is in question.

Limiting access can damage your reputation

Social media makes it extremely easy for your bad decisions around accessibility of a site to become a much more widely publicised problem than you would intend. Your decision to limit accessibility is not shared by social media platforms – meaning you can make it hard for people to use your service – but you can’t stop people telling the world about your ethical shortcuts!

The law

While there haven’t been any significant cases against which precedent can be set, limiting people’s use of your website based on your ineffective design could find you in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Effectively, neglecting to provide a service to a disabled person that is otherwise accessible to others is unlawful discrimination. This principle applies regardless of the type of organisation you are or the service that you offer.

Business considerations

Even if ethics take a backseat to cold business decisions, the numbers that drive accessibility should speak for themselves. 8.5 million people in the UK are registered as being disabled – with an additional unknown number handling access issues without medical support.

8.5 million people represents more than 10% of the population of the UK. If your company decides that accessibility isn’t a priority, they’re effectively turning away 1 in every 10 customers who try to access the business online – the web version of door security turning away every tenth customer who tries to enter a shop! A stark image, but effectively the same.

What does accessibility look like?

There are hundreds of possible adaptations that allow equal access to your website – although they tend to break down into categories:

  • For people with limited vision: Adaptations should be made/available for colours, contrasts, text size and font type, i.e. text should scale up without losing quality or readability.
  • For people with no vision: Consideration should be given to how the page is presented and how a screen-reader would interpret the different elements. This should include image alt tags, title tags for links and audio descriptions for any video or animation content.
  • For people with limited hearing: If you have audio content on the page can it be represented graphically? I.e. closed captions or subtitles – or signing alongside video.
  • For people who have physical restrictions: Does your site offer feasible control options via the keyboard? Do you allow forms and fields to be autocompleted?
  • For those with learning difficulties or disabilities: Is you content easy to comprehend? Is it broken down so it can be read by people who might struggle with large blocks of text? Is your site compatible with software that will read text aloud?

Meet customer’s needs

It’s a fundamental for business owners everywhere; build a product or service that answers a market need. To think that a huge number of those same business owners then have websites developed that preclude their business, product or service from many of the customers they are trying to find is unfathomable.

Accessibility means you’re:

  • Abiding by the law – and getting a significant head start on any further legal changes should they occur
  • Accessing extensions to virtually every demographic – with a collective spending power of £100billion+
  • Creating a site that is more useable and friendly to all – not just those from whom accessibility is a must.

These are the kind of goals that marketing teams work for hundreds of hours to achieve. Save yourself your hassle by putting website accessibility at the top of your to-do list.

 

 

Broadening the Boundaries of Education – The Learning Benefits of VR & AR

Both Virtual reality and Artificial reality are set to change the future of higher learning thanks to the countless practical training applications. The augmented and virtual reality landscape is not set to be an asset for only academia, but skills development, risk management construction and training.

Educators are quickly learning that any subject can be paralleled within virtual reality. The safety of such training alone is reason enough to begin relying upon immersive simulations. Here we’ll be taking a closer look at the benefits of virtual reality within all levels of education and across all sectors. We are seeing exactly how and why the industry will be worth an estimated 40.4 billion US dollars by just 2020.

The Growth of AR & VR 

From roughly the start of 2016, virtual reality was estimated to bring in $2.7 billion in revenue whereas just one year later its earnings skyrocketed to $7.2 billion. AR Games such as pokemon go android have also help establish AR as part of the mainstream tech world.

This massive growth has even impacted the artificial intelligence sector, as virtual reality hinges on it for efficient delivery of an automated experience.

The Global X Robotics and Artificial Intelligence fund alone, just one major player in the industry, has grown over 30% in a little over six months. All these movements are doing is highlighting the massive impact which virtual reality is beginning to impress upon our lives. As the technology becomes more commonplace there is a higher availability of developers and interest in simulation for training, distance learning and skills development. Let’s see which industries are showing the most significant expansion within education.

Distance Learning and Virtual Worlds

Virtual reality learning environments (VRLE) are excellent for long-distance learning. Never before has an educator been given the opportunity to share an interactive space with their learners in this way. Social virtual reality learning simulations allow for collaboration of various educators and students all within the same rendered classroom.

With the cost of entry-level smartphone based virtual reality being extremely low, devices such as Google Cardboard afford the disadvantaged an opportunity to receive proper education. The most basic example of affordable VR learning is the 360 degree videos available on free platforms such as YouTube. The chance to be walked through a battlefield or escorted through the Whitehouse while being narrated your syllabus fascinates learners. The knowledge retention of virtual reality-based education is outstanding.  These videos are only beginning to show what is possible given a bit of innovation and creative thinking.

Combat & Military Training in Virtual Reality

Whereas cutting edge military simulations are understandably not common knowledge, the public has been made aware of a few leading exhibits. VIRTSIM is a prime example of a military technology which has been shown in glimpses to the public. Developed by US defence contractor Raytheon, VIRTSIM uses full-body motion tracking to facilitate a massive virtual reality world which is used for military and emergency personnel education.

Their simulation includes muscle-stimulation via electric shock and full free and natural movement within an area comparable in size to a basketball court. With completely custom software and a hardware cost of over $100,000, this is high-end virtual reality. The University of California, Los Angeles is even promoting military developments for the US using VR. Their recently released 360-degree video entitled ‘Leaders Made Here’ allows prospective cadets to become immersed in a glimpse of training from the first-person perspective of a US Army officer.

Virtual Reality & PTSD

Realistic training simulations are not the only benefit which virtual reality holds for the military. Psychology has also found its uses through the treatment of PTSD, or posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychologist and Director of Medical Virtual Reality at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, Albert “Skip” Rizzo, has been successful using this technology to assist those returning from war.

His virtual reality-based exposure has successfully treated those suffering from all forms of trauma, PTSD and both sufferers of cognitive and motor decline. Once more psychologists grasp the potential of virtual reality and the scope of treatment available in a custom-created environment, it becomes inevitable that we will see great therapeutic value from this technology.

VR for Healthcare

The healthcare training functionality of virtual reality technology is invaluable. Surgeons and other medical staff are given the chance to carry out dangerously precise procedures with no risk to human life. Similarly, complex operations such as organ transplants can be simulated and practiced by the operating surgeon beforehand.

Developments such as Medical Realities for the Oculus Rift offer a full range of cost-effective surgical and medical training solutions. Access to a safe training environment of this calibre is a rarity in underdeveloped areas. This technology also allows surgeries to be broadcast via the virtual landscape. For example, the Royal London Hospital pioneered the way when Dr. Shafi Ahmed live-streamed a cancer surgery in 2014 via Google Glass. Today the practice is far more commonplace.

Medical students can study seasoned professionals from every angle, viewing the procedure as if they were present in the room. The newly launched HP Z back is a new technology which allows for full roaming in a virtual environment. The relatively low cost and across-the-board capabilities are toted to make it perfect for job training with telemedicine a prime application. We are soon to experience even more complex procedures at higher levels of immersion than ever before seen.

Virtual Reality – Evolving the Study of Art

Every area of arts, culture and education has been touched by the deployment of virtual reality. Recently the University of Virginia started up revolutionary art history classes, headed up by instructor Eric Hupe. This resourceful Italian renaissance art and culture instructor has begun including virtual reality in his classroom. He allows students to explore custom-created renderings of frescoed walls and art found in early renaissance Italy. The ability to show art students the magnificence, detail and beauty whilst standing before perfectly recreated inlaid wood panels and elaborate frescoes from the 14th and 15th century is unmatched by any other art class. Yet despite being unique in the execution, many other art instructors are turning to virtual reality to expand their creative horizons. Google has even released what is termed the ‘Tilt Brush’ to assist virtual artistry. Granting a glorious canvas in full virtual reality, this tool allows you to paint in or on a full 3D room. The entire area is available to your imagination. The possibilities are near endless. This marks just the beginning of artistic innovation within education and expression.


How VR Development Impacts Corporate Infrastructure

As one looks closer at the impact of virtual reality, it soon becomes clear that corporate enterprises have long been looking for this technology. From aviation to motor manufacturing and even natural resources, every industry can find practical training benefits by integrating virtual reality.

Fuel giant BP recently partnered with Igloo Vision to lower their risk at the Hull, England-based refinery. By running emergency procedures in a VR simulation maximum safety is guaranteed. Even the titan of aviation, Boeing, has begun investing in virtual reality.

Their venture capital arm Horizon X has poured over $3.5 million into an augmented and virtual reality start-up named C360 Technologies. They hope to facilitate improved employee training as well as an upgrade to their autonomous systems. These are but two of the many examples of how much change VR research and development brings. The European sector alone has grown to 487 companies as of midway through 2017. This number will continue to rise as the industry surges forward around the globe.

Public Virtual Reality Education Platforms

Expeditions VRGoogle Expeditions VR is a premier virtual reality learning experience which transports learners through guided educational 360-degree 3D tours. It allows students from around the world to visit historical landmarks while connecting multiple people to the same lesson through either Google Cardboard or a Daydream headset.

ClassVRClassVR is a highly flexible virtual reality platform which allows educators to develop their very own virtual reality classrooms and simulations. It gives easy access to an interface which makes over 500 preset subjects and their learning material available to be compiled into custom VR lessons. It even allows you to capture your own scenes and other multimedia content. Remote learning is made easy and cost-effective through this innovative development.

Virtual SpeechVirtual Speech has a singular focus, the development of public speaking skills and interview training. It is a great example of how virtual reality can be used to deliver specific training to remote learners. A better correspondence course on interpersonal communication is hard to find. Training real life skills in a virtual environment relieves most of the inhibiting pressure, while leaving just enough realism to simulate speaking in front of large amounts of people.

KinfulKinful is a platform which describes itself as a social-emotional learning curriculum. This setup encourages students to exchange interactions regarding their life and learning experience. The intercultural benefits of connecting learners from around the world are invaluable to long-term growth. Using Kinful, students can literally view the world through another’s eyes, in addition to meeting their peers in a virtual classroom.

The Future of VR and Education

Virtual reality is expanding in all areas.  Yet it is said that while virtual reality may be big, augmented reality has an even larger role in training and skills development. The ability to superimpose objects, people and machinery within a true-to-life environment grants immersion like no other virtual experience can.

Students will soon be capable of interacting with virtual objects and learning implements. This concept, termed embodied learning, grants far more potential than conventional means of education. Students are no longer forced to rely on interpretations of academic descriptions but can instead observe a rendering which looks and feels authentic.

Life is a journey of experience and both virtual and augmented reality allow for experiences which are normally out of reach of most individuals. By broadening the boundaries of our perceived reality we are extending the limits of education, innovation and inspired creation.