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“Play is a fundamental part of life.”

Sten Duindam is one of our hugely talented AR developers. He came over to London from his native Netherlands to join the Arcade team in 2018 as a part of his Creative Technologies Masters course at the University of the Arts Utrecht. We asked him to share some of his thoughts on the tech landscape…

I’m a programmer but my job is to use technology to make the world a better place.

I make sure I can code with the very best, but what really excites me is learning how all the pieces of a technology puzzle fit together. That starts with people, their behaviours and desires, and only then moves on to designing and building solutions. Technology is the means to an end – what I love is understanding how it all comes together to solve challenges.

The technology of today and tomorrow shapes our reality and redefines it constantly.

Everything around you is tied to the internet in one way or another, and I love it. The way we have access to huge datasets on the go is particularly interesting for the curious mind like myself. As a creator, a fascinating aspect is the way we gain insights into behaviour at both societal and individual levels. We can model ‘average’ behaviours and design our experiences around them. I’m very much against using private data of users for commercial ends, however generalising the data and stripping it from private details to create general behaviours and insights is super valuable in optimising experiences to be the most fun, educational and best they can be.

Phone being held

Millennials are digital natives but that’s nothing compared to the generations coming up behind us.

I got my first flip-phone when I was 11, so that I could contact my parents from school. My little brother has had a tablet and a smartphone since he was 6, mainly for entertainment. Children are getting access to digital devices even earlier, and it’s going to have a profound effect on our attitudes to technology as a society. It’s amazing how quickly the role of mobile technology shifts, from mainly being a communications device, to entertainment, to a toolbox and a huge source of almost endless information. You could say we have augmented ourselves with the power of computing.

Play is a fundamental part of life.

It is a very strong tool. A lot of older generations look down on playing as it is still often associated with children or immature behaviour. I strongly disagree. Many day-to-day tasks are not fun at all so we decide to “gamify” it. Gamification has some negative associations but it’s really just adding elements of ‘play’ to our lives to make them more fun. The best experiences today use elements that feel like a game to their users so that these tasks are more enjoyable. And unsurprisingly get much better results and engagement.

Play is something we grow up with and how we learn our first skills in life like exploring, trial and error and creating. It then tends to be let go and exchanged for books and studying, which is a shame! Only recently are we exploiting the power of gamification to enhance existing tasks to improve results and stimulate the end user. It’s just about being able to enjoy life more, and play is the key.

There are few things better than gamification done well.

I really like HackShield by Flavour, a Dutch gamification and applied gaming business. They created a game where pre-school students would learn about the dangers of using the internet and cybersecurity. An amazing target audience because they are used to playing highly interactive games with lots of feedback. So applied games are very hard to get ‘just right’. As they have to compete with these entertainment games.

Evil video game character
HackShield by Flavour

The most important thing is that Gamification knows no limits. It can be used in companies for the most mundane tasks, but also in the government. Digital or traditional.

Augmented Reality is a new dimension in play.

AR brings a whole new set of experiences to the table and allows the target audience to use their phone or wearable device as a window to the digital world. That in turn allows us as creators to connect with users in new unique ways. There is so much space around us that can be used for visuals, feedback or engagement anchors. Creating memories tied to places, route planning in 3D AR space or bringing concerts to your living room, to name just three opportunities.

The aspect I love most is the potential of AR experiences to change how you feel about the world around you. One thing that the AR component of Pokémon Go did very well is create the idea that, even when you are not actually playing the game, you’re still thinking about the creature that might be around the corner: the world stays alive, even when you’re not ‘in’ it. It shows that the immersiveness of AR is so powerful that it can spark your imagination to effectively bring the digital world to life. This is the power of AR in play.

Sten Duindam is MD of Arcade Netherlands. Contact him here:

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