29 May 2009

Origin Oman Showcases Local Fare

Think about the last meal you ate. Where did it come from? Chances are it traveled further to get to your plate than you have over the last few months. “Just take a look at the labels next time you go shopping, asparagus from Thailand, chicken from Brazil, milk from Saudi Arabia, bananas from the Philippines, lamb from New Zealand, the list goes on,” says Origin Oman’s Hamida Al Balushi and organizer of the recent 150 Kilometre Meal held at Knowledge Oasis Muscat.

Al Balushi argues that food production, distribution and consumption patterns have undergone a major transformation over the past 50 years. Just between 1968 and 2008, world food production increased by over 90%. “Today, we’ve identical products being shipped backwards and forwards with heavy environmental costs. Moreover, changes in our food systems have been a contributing factor in climate change,” suggests the Origin Oman Marketing Co-ordinator.

But It is not just business that is responsible for increased food production and distribution, consumers also play a major role in pushing up food kiometres. Research estimates that the average adult travels over 300 kilometres each year by car to shop for food. In fact, over a 12 month period studies show that even a small family of four emits 4.2 tonnes of CO2 from their house, 4.4 tonnes from their car and 8 tonnes from the production, processing, packaging and distribution of the food they eat.

But according to Al Balushi: “Consumers can make a difference by simply investigating where their food has come from and buying food that has been produced locally. In fact, Origin Oman’s 150 Kilometre Meal clearly illustrated that great tasting food is being produced right on our doorstep and we should be encouraging people to buy it.”

There are lots of places where you can source locally produced food – ranging from fruit and vegetable markets through to the large supermarket chains. Supermarkets are becoming increasingly aware of the demand for local produce. The Origin Oman campaign works closely with many of the large stores who have a policy of sourcing local produce wherever possible. “For instance, Carrefour, Lulu, Khimji Mart and Al Fair all heavily promote local produce and feature Origin Oman prominently in their stores,” smiles Al Balushi.

“Our research,” continues Al Balushi, “revealed that the interest in local food is not confined to the well-heeled, affluent and emerging young middle classes. Origin Oman found that more than 49 per cent of consumers would buy local food if it were more readily available and easy to find. This is fantastic news for Oman’s food and drink sector.”

“Organizing a high profile event like the 150 Kilometre Meal brings us into contact with a variety of people and organizations,” says Ibtisam Al Faruji, Origin Oman’s Marketing Director, adding: “Given the initiative’s’ success, we’re keen to forge closer ties with Oman’s catering sector, particularly hotels and restaurants who recognize the value of promoting local food on their menus. Indeed, we encourage hotels and restaurants to promote their local sourcing by publishing the names of local suppliers on their menus and websites.”

Oman Botanic Garden’s Dareen Matwani and 150 Kilometre Meal diner believes: “Choosing local food is a great way for consumers to increase the circulation of their Rials. By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in our community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, tasty and abundant food.”

As local food becomes an increasingly popular concept there are signs that many producers, including farmers looking to add value to their produce for perhaps the first time, believe that creating a ‘local’ product is enough to guarantee a profitable future. Sadly, this is not so and all those working in this sector must ensure that anything ‘local’ also has quality, proper provenance, traceability and, above all, good taste. “Labeling a vegetable ‘’Omani’ and selling it through a local outlet won’t ensure that it commands a premium, unless it’s produced to the correct specifications and has quality attached. A poor specimen won’t encourage repeat sales and will tarnish the special image of local food,” warns Al Faruji.


What are the Benefits of Buying Local Food?

More nutritious and better-quality food. It is easier to monitor quality and freshness of supplies by buying direct from farmers and producers. Fewer vitamins are lost the less time food is in transit and the quicker it reaches the plate. Chefs can see how animals are reared, produce is grown and items like cheese are made if they are produced near by.

Increases a sense of seasonality. If a chef buys ingredients that are grown locally, then it is going to be seasonal and, therefore, bought when the items are at their cheapest and in peak condition.

Good traceability. It is easier to monitor production and welfare standards with food that is produced just down the road. It's more difficult to carry out checks with farmers and suppliers across the other side of the world.

It's cheaper. The shorter the distance food travels, the lower the costs in aviation fuel and diesel.

Green. Transporting food long distances uses enormous quantities of fuel, which adds to pollution and global warming. Purchasing local foods is generally more sustainable than buying from countries where rainforests are being felled to plant crops.

Economically friendly. Supporting the local economy is advantageous to all parties.

Interesting, tasty products. Locally produced foods are more likely to be made by artisans who put a greater emphasis on producing food with flavour than large manufacturers, who are generally driven by profit.

Great marketing opportunity. Chefs and caterers can promote local sourcing on their menus. Tasty local items like hamour, lettuce, lobster and tomatoes are enticing to customers.

07 February 2008

8:30am – 9:00am Opening Speech
The Future of the Digital Environment
Professor Lizbeth Goodman, SMARTlab, Digital Media Centre, University of East London

Session 1: 9:15am – 10:00am
Gaming & Entrepreneurs: A Case Study
Kevin Corti, PIXELearning
PIXELearning’s Business Game was developed specifically as a teaching aid for UK schools that, from 2005, were required to deliver 5 days of enterprise education to 15 and 16 year olds every year. The majority of teachers who had to deliver this part of the school curriculum had no business experience and were struggling to meet the demands placed upon them.

The Enterprise Game is aimed primarily at the business support/start-up/enterprise agency community and designed to foster the development of general business awareness amongst owner managers and staff. Many small companies are established by people with specific industry skills but who often lack broad business acumen.

The Enterprise Game is based on the same underlying simulation code as The Business Game but has been tweaked to be more challenging for adult learners and includes more detail in, for example, finance and marketing. How can Oman’s schools and colleges benefit from serious gaming technology. How do we take serious games to prepare young Omanis for the business world. Indeed, can serious games help foster a new generation of Omani entrepreneurs?

Networking Break: 10:00am – 10:15am

Session 2: 10:15am – 11:45am
Gaming for Culture
Mike Gogan, Blitz Games; Professor Lizbeth Goodman, SMARTlab, Digital Media Centre, University of East London; Professor Bob Stone, Birmingham University (pictured above)

Mike Gogan is one of the world’s leading creators of virtual reality and 3D multimedia content in the Cultural Heritage sector. He has delivered inspiring virtual reality and multimedia interactive products to some of the most iconic heritage sites in the UK and beyond. Indeed, he and his team at Blitz Games are leading the way in exploring the application of serious games technology in the heritage and culture space.

Professor Lizbeth Goodman will focus on the cultural and heritage research projects that are currently being carried out at SMARTlab and their applications to promoting heritage and culture, tourism and creating locally generated web content. What added value can serious games offer Oman’s dynamic set of tangible and intangible cultural assets?

Virtual Heritage - “…the use of computer-based interactive technologies to record, preserve, or recreate artefacts, sites and actors of historic, artistic, religious and cultural significance and to deliver the results openly to a global audience in such a way as to provide formative educational experiences through electronic manipulations of time and space”.
Stone & Ojika (IEEE Multimedia; April-June, 2000)

Ever since the early 1990s, there has been a worldwide interest in the prospect of using virtual environments (VEs) to recreate historic sites and events for such purposes as education, special project commissions, and showcase features at national and World Heritage visitor centres. The power of VE, as described by Nynex researchers Stuart and Thomas in the early 1990s, lies with its ability to open up places not normally accessible to people from all walks of life, to allow them to explore objects and experience events that could not normally be explored without “alterations of scale or time” and to support interaction with remote communities and interaction with virtual (historical) actors. In the context of heritage, VE goes much further, however, in that it offers a means of protecting the fragile state of some sites and can help educate visitors not so much about their history, but in how to explore, interpret, understand and respect those sites. Despite some impressive projects executed during the Virtual Reality era of the 1990s, the limitations imposed by the very costly – and often unreliable – technologies meant that many of the Virtual Heritage demonstrations were committed to digital obscurity. This presentation will look at the resurrection of interest in Virtual Heritage and, using the Virtual Stonehenge and Virtual Scylla (artificial reef) projects (i.e. then and now), how lessons learned from the 1990s should be taken forward to underpin serious games developments in the early 21st Century.

Networking Break: 11:45am – 12noon

Session 3: 12noon – 12:45pm
Private Virtual Worlds: Getting Real about being Virtual
Dick Davies Ambient Performance

Virtual worlds have hit the mainstream. Today they are being used not just for consumer applications, but also for a wide range of serious professional purposes. These purposes range from scenario planning to medical training and from collaborative role play to cross-cultural awareness sessions. This presentation will look at how private virtual worlds are being used now as the basis for serious collaborative activities in a variety of professional domains.

Lunch: 12:45pm – 1:45pm

Session 4: 1:45pm – 2:30pm
Promoting Leisure & Tourism through Second Life
David Wortley, Serious Games Institute, Coventry University

Tourism Ireland has launched a marketing campaign in Second Life; the first time a real world tourist board has used the Internet-based virtual world to market a real holiday destination. Since its establishment in 2003, Second Life has grown significantly and now has nearly 11 million registered users or "residents", 1.6 million of whom use it regularly.

Dublin in Second Life is a well established destination for live music and DJs – in fact, it occasionally makes the top 10 list of the most popular places to visit in the virtual world. Tourism Ireland's decision was influenced by the fact that 60% of Second Life's users are from Ireland's four biggest tourist markets - Great Britain, the US, Germany and France, and half those are more than 30 - a key demographic for tourism to Ireland.

Experts predict that the web will be three-dimensional in a decade's time and virtual worlds such as Second Life give us some idea of what the web may look like in the future. Second Life is one of the biggest virtual worlds in existence and many major brands, including Coca-Cola, Vodafone, IBM, Toyota, Sony and Adidas already have a presence there. Within the tourism industry, Starwood Hotels have used Second Life to pilot the design of a new series of hotels and Thomas Cook offers customers virtual package tours. What can Second Life offer Oman and its rapidly expanding tourism sector? Should we be spending a larger slice of the country’s marketing budget online?

Session 5: 2:30pm - 4:00pm
Serious Gaming, Mobiles & the Consumer
Moderator: David Wortley, Serious Games Institute, Coventry University
Panel: Raed Dawood, Nawras; Dr. Andreas Liffgarden, Ericsson; & Karim Rahemtulla, Infocomm

Consumers are increasingly using technology to customize the shopping process to their specific needs. In this regard, retailers must understand how consumers are interacting with their brands as this will have a substantial impact on how retail operations will evolve in the future. It is estimated that by 2010, 20 per cent of global Tier 1 retailers will have a marketing presence in online games and virtual worlds.

Virtual worlds are expanding rapidly. To date, Second Life has nearly 11 million registered ‘residents’ who spend in excess of US$1million every 24 hours buying property, items or experiences in-world. Similarly, research suggests that the popularity of online gaming will continue to expand. Indeed, virtual worlds are emerging as places where consumers can shop and retailers need to be ready to respond to this growing demand.

On the mobile front, it is estimated that by 2012, the number of consumers using mobile phones to shop will increase at an average of more than 25 per cent per year. Mobile commerce has been viewed as an emerging new sales channel for retailers for some time now but retail revenue through mobile phones is currently very low, much less than 1 per cent of total sales. However, as mobile phones evolve in form and function, the impact of the mobile phone on retail sales is set to increase.

Through 2010, consumers will use the phone as part of their shopping activities to search, browse, find locations and check stock. Eventually, consumers will use mobile phones to purchase merchandise. So what role will serious games and mobiles play in the marketing and retailing space?

eGames Dinner : 8:00pm - Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel

Day 2

Second Life Workshop: 9:00am – 1:00pm
David Wortley, Coventry University
Dr. Sara de Freitas, Coventry University; Alex Jevremovic, Concepts, Design & Virtualisation; Jude Ower, Digital 2.0; Paul Turner, The Walk In Web Ltd

This half day workshop organised and run by the Serious Games Institute’s Second Life Science City team will provide practical hands-on experience of the development of virtual environments in Second Life for commercial applications and will include :-

o Registration and avatar creation
o Orientation and navigation in virtual worlds
o Exploration of relevant examples of best practice virtual sites
o Virtual meetings and seminars
o Virtual commerce – buying and selling goods and services
o Customisation of avatars and basic construction tools

The workshop will link to remote experts with Second Life and will allow delegates working in small groups to gain hands-on experience from experienced developers. Delegates who are new to Second Life will go away with their own personalised avatar and an understanding of how to get the most from the environment.

04 February 2008

eGames Presenters Announced

David Wortley
David Wortley (pictured) is Director of the Serious Games Institute (SGI) at Coventry University. He is responsible for the development of the Institute as a brand new self-financing initiative to establish a centre of excellence for the emerging serious games application area. Working with academics, regional development agencies and leading computer games companies, David aims to make the SGI a thought leader and focal point for games based learning, simulation and immersive 3D virtual environments.

Professor Lizbeth Goodman
Professor Lizbeth Goodman joined the University of East London as the new Chair of Creative Technology Innovation in 2005. She is also Founder & Director of the SMARTlab Digital Media Institute & the MAGIC Multimedia & Games Innovation Centre, Gamelab and PLAYroom.

She has also been awarded a Microsoft Community Affairs Senior Research Fellowship for her work on a new series of books on Digital Culture and real people: the Emergenc(i)es series with MIT Press.

New labs, development studios and an expanded Practice-based PhD Programme have just been launched in the Knowledge Dock, UEL, in the Thames Gateway, with major collaborative projects underway, and with major internatioal projects soon to roll out, from a range of digital media disciplines across the spectrum of ‘gaming for non-gamers’. . .

Professor Goodman directs studies for a group of professional new media artists and technology developers from SME, industry and the creative industry sectors. SMARTlab's customised live and online Practice-based PhD programme is noted as one of the world’s largest and most successful cross-disciplinary cohorts of higher level researchers, grounded in community need and creative industry theory and practice.

SMARTlab is an agency for social change, operating a core research unit and two wings, spanning the non-profit and creative industries sectors, with partners and funders in major NGO and Industry companies worldwide.

SMARTlab is the UK base for the MAGICbox Accessible tech programme, and for the Microsoft Clubtech Programme, which Professor Goodman has led in its critical review stages (as the largest project providing game and educational technology tools to over 4.3 million under-privileged young people worldwide).

Lizbeth is also known as a professional performer and presenter, with many years of experience in live and telematic writing, improvisation, performance and direction. She has worked extensively in comedy and theatre and television/convergent media entertainment, and has recently won commissions to create a new style of empowering online and live performance game. As a professional TV presenter for the BBC of many years’ experience, Lizbeth is a much sought after public speaker for keynote lectures and main stage platforms, as well as for broadcasts.

Much of SMARTlab’s work focuses on application of Universal Design methods to the domain of community inclusion and empowerment. As head of the SPIRITLEVEL consortium- a group that has worked across national borders and disciplines to create bio-sensor and live performance experiences for children and adults in need of physical therapy and rehabilitation. One of the first major UK experimental biotech movement projects, premiered at the SMARTclub in 2002, is now known as Flutterfugue, wherein Lizbeth dances with real and animated butterflies (in wheelchairs and in the air) worldwide, to an original responsive score composed by Nick Ryan of BBC Imagineering. New Projects called HOPE (Hospitals Online for Persistent/Pedeatric Environments) and TRUST (a bespoke role play game for children collaborating online, written by Lizbeth) will soon be launched on hospital networks around the world, each linked to a live performance. TRUST is currently funded by NESTA and creating new games and expressive forms for children at the Stephen Hawking School, East London.

Lizbeth was previously Director of the SMARTlab Centre at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, and before that, founded and led the INMPR at the University of Surrey, following on from eight years leading the BBC Open University's multimedia research teams in Shakespeare, Drama, Gender Studies and Literature. She has worked extensively for the BBC as a researcher, writer and presenter of Learning and Arts/Media Programmes.

She is a regular reviewer/validator for many independent courses and broadcast programmes and for publishers of print and online packages, and for major funding bodies and award panels internationally. She currently chairs the SciArt Committee Awards Panel for the Wellcome Trust, and serves on the steering groups and funding panels of the EC (SaferInternet Plus and Digicult DGs), the Canadian Innovation Fund, et al.

Lizbeth is the author and editor of some 13 books including a range of titles on women and theatre, the arts, representation and creativity. She has also written and produced a wide range of multimedia programmes ranging from educational CD ROMs and video/media packs to more experimental online performance events, including the Extended Body Project.

She has served as the Principal Investigator of the SMARTshell Project (creating innovative tools for synchronous and asynchronous online/integrated performance and learning), and of the Virtual Interactive Puppetry Project, the British Council's Cultural and Media Studies development programmes in North Africa, and the European Commission's RADICAL project (Research Agendas Developed in Creative Arts Labs). She collaborated on the dramaturgical elements of the EC and Telefilm Code Zebra Project in the UK (for which SMARTlab held the European Commission Culture 2002 Award), working with international partners at the BNMI, BBC, V2, UCLA, et al.

She is currently PI of the major InterFACES Project- putting a human face on new technology.
She also holds current major awards to head teams funded by the BBC, Nesta, and Microsoft.

While she has been known in the learning and e-learning communities as an expert in mediated and connected learning methods (since her award winning, best selling work with the Open University and BBC in the 1990s), Lizbeth is now known equally as a scholar of new media practices that cut across learning, gaming, performance and social responsibility. Lizbeth is currently completing her own new book, which will kick off her new series for MIT Press on EMERGENC(i)es: new concepts and practices in media, technology and culture.

Dr. Sara de Freitas
Sara has recently taken up a new role as Director of Research at the Serious Games Institute at the University of Coventry where she leads an applied research team working closely with industry. The Institute is the first of its kind in the UK and it is envisaged that it will play a leading role in future developments of game-based learning. Formerly Sara worked as Lab Manager, Project Manager on development programmes and Senior Research Fellow at the London Knowledge Lab. The Lab is a collaborative venture between Birkbeck College and the Institute of Education, University of London focusing upon technology assisted learning. Sara continues to hold a visiting senior research fellowship at the Lab.

Sara also works with the UK Joint Information Systems Committee e-Learning Development Programme in the Innovation strand, exploring the applications and developments of innovative technologies upon post-16 learning. Sara’s recent report Learning in Immersive Worlds reviews the uses of game-based learning and presents a set of case studies of practice. Sara is also working with TruSim (Blitz Games), the Vega Group PLC and the Universities of Birmingham and Sheffield on a £2 million UK Department of Trade and Industry co-funded Serious Games research and development project which will develop highly immersive learning games to solve business training needs.

In 2003 Sara founded the UK Lab Group, which brings the research and development community together to create stronger links between industrial and academic research through supporting collaborative programmes and for showcasing innovative R&D solutions for the knowledge economy. Sara publishes in the areas of: pedagogy and e-learning; change management and strategy development for implementing e-learning systems and educational games and electronic simulations for supporting post-16 training and learning. Sara also works as a consultant through her recently established partnership company: Innovatech llp.

Relevant links:
The JISC Innovation Strand: www.jisc.ac.uk/
The Lab Group: http://www.labgroup.org.uk/
The London Knowledge Lab: http://www.lkl.ac.uk/
The MyPlan project: www.lkl.ac.uk/research/myplan/
The Serious Games project: http://www.lkl.ac.uk/graphics/projectsheets/sg.pdf
Learning in Immersive worlds report:
The Serious Games Institute: http://www.seriousgames.org.uk/

Mike Gogan
Mike Gogan is one of the world’s leading creators of virtual reality and 3D multimedia content in the Cultural Heritage sector. He has delivered inspiring virtual reality and multimedia interactive products to some of the most iconic heritage sites in the UK and beyond. Indeed, he and his team at Blitz Games are leading the way in exploring the application of serious games technology in the heritage and culture space.

Dick Davies
Dick Davies is the Executive Producer at Ambient Performance where he manages the design, development and deployment of private virtual worlds for collaborative serious gaming in a range of domains. Ambient are the European service partners for the Forterra OLIVE virtual world platform, the worlds leading private virtual world developer.

Professor Robert J. Stone
Professor Bob Stone holds a Chair in Interactive Multimedia Systems within the School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham, where he also directs the Human Interface Technologies (HIT) Team and is Head of the Applied Computing Research Centre. He is also an Academician of the Russian Higher Education Academy of Sciences and a Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in Integrated Systems Design at the University of Plymouth. A Chartered Psychologist and Fellow of the Ergonomics Society, Bob joined academia in 2003, after a long and successful career in defence, robotics and Virtual Reality (VR). After 9 years of ergonomics research at British Aerospace in Bristol, where he specialised in military human factors and remotely operated systems (conducting applied research for the Department of Energy, the nuclear industry and the European Space Agency), Bob was involved in the launch of the UK’s National Advanced Robotics Research Centre (NARRC), funded by the Department of Trade & Industry. Having been one of the first Europeans to experience the NASA VIEW VR system in 1987, he established the UK’s first industrial VR team at the NARRC and, over a number of years undertook numerous consultancy and research projects for commercial and government clients, enabling the group to be launched as VR Solutions Ltd in the mid-1990s. As well as projects in the engineering, aerospace, defence and medical sectors, Bob’s team also pioneered early developments in Virtual Heritage, notably Virtual Stonehenge (1996), complete with the world’s first virtual sunrise! This and other cultural heritage projects supported Bob and colleagues from the US and Japan to launch the international Virtual Systems & Multi-Media organisation (VSMM) in 1995 and virtualheritage.net in 1997, the oldest and largest repository of documents, news and information relating to heritage and technology. Bob is also a Trustee of the US Institute for the Visualization of History (www.vizin.org). Today, as well as his academic positions, Bob’s work has received numerous awards, most recently the 2006/2007 Ergonomics Society’s Sir Frederic Bartlett Award, the highest award given by that Society to an individual. A founding member of the UK’s Serious Games Alliance and the UK Government’s Simulation & Synthetic Environments National Advisory Committee (SSENAC), Bob lectures across the world on the subject of VR, serious games and human factors.

Jude Ower
Jude Ower, is founder and owner of Digital 2.0, a Serious Games consultancy. Jude has over 6 years experience within the Serious Games market working at all stages of development from research, creating a solution for an issue, requirements gathering, game design, project management, testing and deployment. Current projects include; development of an internal game for the companies first large global corporate Oil and Gas client, development of a Creative Industries game with PIXELearning and New Media Partner, project management of a European wide project for PIXELearning, management of a Second Life island to support and grow the Digital Media industry in the UK and a publicly funded project with the Serious Games Industry to grow and support the Serious Games and Interactive Digital Media industry.

Paul Turner
Paul Turner is the Managing Director of The Walk In Web Ltd, Second Life content creators. Paul feels that Virtual Worlds are the new Internet and believes that an increasing number of businesses and other organisations will find ways of exploiting this exciting new technology. ‘Those businesses that failed to recognise the potential of the World Wide Web ten years ago found themselves regretting it as others moved in and took the initiative. Those who ignore virtual worlds will do so at their peril’

Kevin Corti
Kevin Corti is CEO, PIXELearning and has been working in the technology-based learning space for over a decade as an entrepreneur and in a Plc environment. In 2002 he co-founded PIXELearning which specialises in applying games and simulations for business education and corporate training. PIXELearning has since turned over close to US$3 million, has several blue chip clients, including KPMG, Coca Cola, 3M and a major US retail banking chain and has developed LearningBeans® an immersive learning simulation engine. The company is now in the process of raising significant investment in order to expand its custom development services and off-the-shelf products and to further expand operations into key international markets.

Alex Jevremovic
Alex Jevremovic is an artist and designer from Coventry, UK. He has been involved in art and design all his life but has also spent time working as an engineer, teacher and a lecturer.

Alex is now Director of his own small company; Concepts, Design & Virtualisation, which specialises in transferring real world locations, people and artefacts into virtual worlds for a variety of applications including serious games, culture, heritage and history.

He is currently developing a major project which involves totally recreating Coventry city centre using advanced computer modelling techniques in conjunction with the original architectural drawings with the aims of producing a city template to which any number of simulations can be applied including disaster management and emergency planning.

Aside from the work in virtual worlds Alex has enjoyed a varied career in which has included exhibiting artwork at the Venice Biennale, and producing visual effects for the BBC.

03 February 2008

eGames Second Life Workshop

This half day workshop organised and run by the Serious Games Institute’s Second Life Science City team will provide practical hands-on experience of the development of virtual environments in Second Life for commercial applications and will include:

1). Registration and avatar creation
2). Orientation and navigation in virtual worlds
3). Exploration of relevant examples of best practice virtual sites
4). Virtual meetings and seminars
5). Virtual commerce – buying and selling goods and services
6). Customisation of avatars and basic construction tools

The workshop will link to remote experts with Second Life and will allow delegates working in small groups to gain hands-on experience from experienced developers. Delegates who are new to Second Life will go away with their own personalised avatar and an understanding of how to get the most from the environment.

15 December 2006

eGames Massive Hit

According to Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) and organizer of the annual eGames conference: Electronic games are quickly finding their way into the oil industry, tourism, heritage and culture, defense, banking, healthcare, education and corporate training. It was more than evident from the seven conference panels that the potential market for games is expanding rapidly. Indeed, small and large projects in the "serious games" field are growing and savvy developers are using such new opportunities to smooth their cash flow, increase their R&D capabilities and find new customers for existing IP that might otherwise have laid dormant, added Al Maskari.

Al Maskari announced that KOM will sign a serious gaming MoU with Coventry University's Serious Gaming Institute before year end and that ties are also being developed between the Rusayl-based technology park and De Montfort University's Department of Imaging and Communication Design.

Abdullah Al Jufaili, Director, The Knowledge Mine business incubator program commented: "We're delighted to have had so many prestigious partners on board – Oman Mobile, Ericsson, Sun, Oman Economic Review, Java, MECIT, Infocomm Group, TIGA and ANGILS. Over the two-days we had speakers from Canada, UAE, Britain, Singapore, Oman and Sweden, their support helped build the event's international significance and proved invaluable in delivering an exceptional experience for delegates."

The conference challenged the preconceptions that electronic games are aimed purely at the teen market. "Today, gaming isn’t just about entertainment and children it’s about education and training. It’s about using games to help people learn about managing money, preparing emergency services to deal with natural disasters, training air force pilots, guiding geologists on digging oil wells, through to helping surgeons rehearse complicated medical procedures," said Al Maskari.

Susie Houh of Ericsson - a lead sponsor of eGames 2006 - said: “eGames is probably the most important event in the Gulf's electronic games calendar and we were delighted to be part of this year's event. eGames is both entertaining and informative and what we particularly liked was the focus on the future of mobile and serious gaming and how we, as an ICT industry, can shape that future.”

Peter Anderssson, Ericsson's Country Manager, said: “The presence of top flight Ericsson speakers (Andreas Johnsson - pictured above) along with the Sony Ericsson brand, was an important part of the eGames 2006. We're staunch supporters of this annual Knowledge Oasis Muscat initiative and intend to bring new and exciting elements to the conference in 2007.”

10 December 2006

Maskari Delivers eGames Opening Speech

Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, Knowledge Oasis Muscat deliver the opening address at this year's eGames: The State of Play Conference: Here it is.

It's a great pleasure to welcome you to eGames – Knowledge Oasis Muscat’s annual electronic gaming conference.

This two-day event will focus on mobile and serious gaming. We have attracted distinguished speakers from Oman, the UAE, Britain, Canada, Sweden and Singapore. Indeed, the eGames blog has had hits from countries as diverse as France, Saudi Arabia, the US, Canada, Romania, South Africa and Brazil. People across the globe have been learning about KOM, eGames and beautiful Oman.

Today, Gaming isn’t just about entertainment it’s about education and training. It’s about using games to help people learn about managing money, fighting disease, preparing emergency services to deal with natural disasters, training air force pilots, guiding geologists on digging oil wells, through to helping my children learn English and keeping them occupied at the weekend!

This morning I’d like to talk a little about mobile gaming - Advances in mobile telephone handset technology, such as large colour screens, larger memory capacity and compact physical size, in addition to developments in 3G, EDGE and Java will enable the market to realise the potential of mobile handsets as fully-fledged gaming devices.

What makes mobile gaming so different from any other type of console based gaming is the fact that the ‘potential mobile gamer’ already owns the platform on which they can play the game.

The penetration of game enabled mobile devices, which stands at 40% of the 2 billion devices worldwide today, is set to grow to 97% of all mobile phones sold in 2008. Compare this to videogames where over the past 25 years 500 million consoles have been sold, compared to the 600 million mobiles sold just in the past 12 months. The figures are staggering and so are the opportunities. It's clear that mobile gaming is definitely not a market to be ignored.

But who's playing mobile games and how are they playing? Figures reveal that more women than men are playing games on handsets. When we look at the behaviour of the average mobile gamer, we find that games are played in short bursts of time - it’s a virtual snack in comparison to the four-course banquet offered by the consoles.

Let's briefly consider one of the world's most dynamic gaming markets, Japan. In fact, when it comes to mobile gaming, the Japanese are at the bleeding edge. Only a few years ago, nearly every twenty-something Tokyo commuter spent their entire journey sending e-mails on their phones, now they’re playing mobile games. The Japanese mobile games market is thriving and in time we should expect to see the same boom in Oman. We want to be ready and we want to lead it in the region.

The mobile gaming sector is the fastest growing segment of the gaming market. It's more than evident that the opportunities are there for those who understand the dynamics of this rapidly growing industry. We hope that eGames will motivate Oman-based telco operators and content providers to drive this industry on and up and achieve its true potential. Oman has a lot to offer.
I wish you a pleasant and profitable two days.

Thank you.

05 December 2006

Ericsson Exhibits Hot Games

Ericsson is a lead sponsor of this year’s eGames Conference which is scheduled to kick off on Sunday 10 December at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

According to Charlotte Skanstad, Project Manager, LM Ericsson the worldwide total market for digital games is worth over US$30 billion. The primary platforms have been PC and consoles but she believes mobile phones are taking an increasingly bigger part of the pie.

Ericsson recently conducted extensive research in the Middle East markets that revealed 32% of users in the UAE and Saudi Arabia play games at least once a week. These numbers outperform other mobile services like MMS, portal browsing and listening to music or even mobile TV. Ericsson’s research also showed that the game market today is worth US$67 million and could reach US$377 million by 2011 when considering the strong growth in the Middle East. “Gaming is very big business and universities, banks, clothing stores, soft drink manufacturers and airlines across the world are tapping into the gaming market to push their experience and brand image,” said Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, KOM.

“In co-operation with SonyEricsson, we’ll have an exhibition booth at eGames and we’ll be encouraging delegates to try out the latest mobile multimedia handsets and the hottest mobile games currently available in the Omani market,” said Skanstad.

Delegates will have he opportunity to experience the latest technology – IMS - that will radically enhance the possibilities for mobile gaming applications. According to Skanstad: The new IMS-based multimedia services will change the users’ communication experience where they will be able to combine various content and communication, share with others and invite multiple contacts. This is a very exciting development in the gaming space. Adding, online gaming can run between mobile phones and PCs and fixed line phones and PDAs.

eGames Conference Agenda

Knowledge Oasis Muscat (www.kom.om) will hold eGames 2006, 10 - 11 December at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Muscat, Oman. Now in its second year, eGames is the premier conference for the Gulf’s gaming community. With speakers from leading operators, developers, publishers and academics worldwide, eGames 2006 will focus on Mobile and Serious Games. Attendees will walk away having shown, discussed and seen state of the art innovation in the mobile and serious games industry.

Only at eGames will you gain access to:

  • Developer training and education specific to serious and mobile game development.
  • Advanced sessions on top-line design, production, implementation and assessment issues related to the use of serious and mobile games.
  • Case studies pertaining to game-based solutions and simulations used within education, healthcare, training and marketing.
  • Results on cost-effective development and regulations for serious and mobile games.
  • Expert sessions on the future roles of serious and mobile game development and extensive networking opportunities.

Free Pre-conference Workshop (9 December)
A key component of this year’s event is the free pre-Conference workshop scheduled for 9 December (9:00am - 4:00pm) at the Middle East College of Information Technology based on KOM. Delivered by staff from De Montfort University’s Faculty of Art and Design this high-octane full-day workshop is limited to 100 attendees and will cover: storyboarding, character design and development, animation, narrative storytelling and visual effects. To reserve your seat e-mail your name and contact co-ordinates to: mulkie@kom.om

Day 1 Schedule

Welcome Remarks (8:30am - 8:40am)
Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, Knowledge Oasis Muscat

Keynote Address: The Mobile Content Economy (8:40am – 9:10am)
Andreas Johnsson, Director Business Development, Connected Media Centre, Middle East, Ericsson

The keynote address will consider:

o What is the business model for mobile content?
o How is the multimedia value chain structured?
o How does the ability to target different consumer markets impact on content creation?
o Different markets for mobile content – who are the players?
o Immersing your brand in mobile in content

Morning Coffee & Networking Break: (9:10am – 9:30am)

Session 1: Mobile Game Development 101 (9:30am – 11:45am)

  • Stefan Niemiec, Sun Microsystems
  • Jerome Tillotson, Vignette EMEA
  • Aneth Arosemena, Oman Mobile
  • Abdullah Al Zakwani, University of East London
  • Raed Dawood, Nawras

Session 1 will focus on frameworks, approaches and organizational techniques that help build better mobile games. Participants in Session 1 will trade success and horror stories and share their approaches to improving the mobile games development process. How do you tap into the US$2.43 billion worldwide mobile gaming market?

Coffee & Networking Break: (11:45am – 12 noon)

Session 2: Mobile Game Development: The Business Angle (12 noon – 1:45pm)

  • Alivin Yap, Nexgen Studio
  • Bilal Saleh, Motorola
  • Dr. Irfan Ahmad, Yahoo!
  • Raza Ashraf, Total Alignment
  • Jaffer Mir, Game Frontier
  • Martine Parry, ANGILS

Session 2 will be an open discussion about the business side of mobile gaming. What are the biggest risks and mistakes? How do developers make, raise and spend money? Who do they work with? How do they convince a telco to carry their game?

Lunch: 1:45pm – 2:45pm

Session 3: Telcos & Mobile Entertainment (2:45pm – 4:45pm)

  • Amru Al Sharif, Seeb Systems
  • Mohammed Al Shibli, Soharsoft
  • Andreas Johnsson, Ericsson
  • Firas Al Abduwani, Hussam Technology

We now have wireless access to the web, e-mail, chat and entertainment. Over the last 5 years, Gulf-based telcos have changed the way we talk, built a new way of communicating (SMS) and created new channels for distributing and playing games. In this session, representatives from leading ICT firms will discuss how mobile games fit into the telco world and what that means for the future of mobile entertainment.

Day 2

Session 4: Gaming is Serious Fun (8:30am – 10:30am)

  • Kevin McNulty, Terris Hill Productions
  • Martine Parry, ANGLIS
  • Alinah Aman, ASM Technologies
  • Professor Andrew Self, Serco

Session 4 will look at how we can take the tools of game design for entertainment and apply them to serious purposes. Games entertain in many ways - through gameplay naturally, but also through aesthetics, story-telling, novelty, creative play and much more. They can all be adapted to present and reinforce learning content and Session 4 will show how through demonstrating some recent examples this can be achieved.

Morning Coffee & Networking Break: (10:30am – 10:45am)

Session 5: Designing Learning Based Games (10:45am – 12:15pm)

  • Steve Abrahart, De Montfort University
  • Chris Hinton, De Montfort University
  • Michael Powell, De Montfort University

Computer Games are getting serious. Not only as a modern popular entertainment format, but also as a powerful vehicle for education, cultural dissemination, training, public policy, healthcare, simulation and many other applications which fall outside the entertainment software norm.Historically, educational games have been a bit like a cabbage sandwich - not very tasty. Indeed, more people are discovering the pedagogical potential of games. Session 5 will bring together leading players to discuss key issues and emerging trends that may help educational gaming achieve its promise. The goal is to get educators and the gaming industry talking and working together to see what can be achieved.

Games are a powerful teaching tool, allowing kids to explore, create and learn from their own mistakes, Session 5 will offer attendees an in-depth forum through which to examine and further the role of games in education.

Lunch Break: (12:15pm – 1:45pm)

Session 6: Avatar-Based Marketing: What’s the Future for Real-Life Companies Marketing to Second Life Avatars? (1:45pm – 2:45pm)

  • David Wortley, Coventry University
  • Gavin Dudeney, The Consultants-E

Just when you think that you've got your head around the online world and the possibilities of blogs and Wikis, someone comes along with a whole new world for you to think about. Second Life is an online world which is free to enter, has its own currency with an exchange rate to US dollars and has almost 300,000 worldwide registered players. How do public and private sector organizations tap into this virtual gaming world to market their products and services?

Afternoon Coffee & Networking Break: (2:45pm – 3:00pm)

Session 7: Competitive Computer Gaming and eSports (3:00pm – 4:00pm)

  • Jaffer Mir, Game Frontier

What is eSports? Can competitive computer gaming be recognised as a Sport? What is the current scene and status of the market place? What kind of money is involved in this sector for the industry and the gamers? Jaffer will present a short demo to profile the scene: Video Showcases and Practical (Fun) Challenge.

Jaffer will also consider the developer and publisher perspective. Does an organised competitive gaming activity for a new game make any difference in the uptake and shelf-life of a game? If so, how does this have an impact on games sales and the developer and publisher’s bottom line?

Case Study: Nadeo and Trackmania
How to use competitive gaming to effectively target the demographic of the new gamer, casual (existing) gamers and serious gamers? Clever marketing and branding with competitive gaming and eSports. Finally, what’s the potential for eSports the Middle East?

Conference & Workshop Registration Fees

Workshop: The eGames pre-Conference Workshop (Saturday 9 December) is free of charge. However, it is limited to 100 attendees and places will be allocated on a first come first serve basis.

Conference: eGames is a not-for-profit event, however to help cover general expenses the three (3)registration fees are: RO150 (US$380); RO125 (US$325) for public sector employees; and RO50 (US$130) for full-time tertiary students and academic staff. Said fees include all sessions, documentation, food and refreshment.

To register for the Workshop or/and Conference contact Ibtisam Al Faruji on: ibtisam@kom.om