Valve boss Gabe Newell hints at three VR games under development | VentureBeat | AR/VR

The knowledge that Valve was working on a VR game was enough to get any headset fan excited. But the company’s plans for the future go well beyond that.

At a press briefing in Seattle this week, as reported by Gamasutra, company founder Gabe Newell teased what it was working on in VR right now, and shared thoughts about where he thought the tech would go in the near future. He said that he believed room-scale VR, a concept the company introduced with the help of the HTC Vive, would eventually grow into “house-scale” VR that transform a series of rooms into a VR experience.

That obviously requires positionally tracked (hopefully inside-out, unless Valve wants base stations in every room of our houses) wireless headsets, which Newell called a “solved problem”. He said wireless VR would be an “add-on” this year, likely referring to kits like TPCAST’s wireless adapter for the Vive, and that it would become an integrated feature by 2018. Could that possibly suggest there will be wireless SteamVR headsets — maybe even a second Vive — next year?

Newell also revealed that the company is actually working on not one but three full VR games. That doesn’t mean short tech demos, that means three actual games.

The SteamVR creator first confirmed that it was working on a full game for the tech at last years Steam Dev Days event, and Newell recently reconfirmed its interest in developing content for headsets.

This week, though, he said that working on both VR hardware with the Vive and software gave the company the kind of advantage that legendary Nintendo developer and Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto also benefited from.

“[Miyamoto] has had the ability to think about what the input devices & the design of systems should be like while he’s trying to design games,” Newell said. “Our sense is that that’s going to allow us to actually build much better entertainment experiences for people.”

Newell explained that these projects will also hopefully teach positive and possibly negative lessons to other developers, further describing the games as “very different.”

“Each game developer will be able to look at those and say, that was great, that was not as great,” he said. “Which is part of, from our point of view, that’s a useful charateristic of these three.”

Previously, Valve has released two VR experiences. The first, The Lab, is a free collection of minigames from the company, showcasing just what you can do with the HTC Vive and room scale VR, two technologies that are sure to be supported in the company’s new games. The second was Destinations, a sort of hub app that allows people to visit user-created worlds, either with friends or on their own. They’re both great, but they’re not the true games that Valve crafts so well.

As for if you’ll see these games only on Vive? Newell’s stance on exclusive content didn’t make it seem that way. “It’s like you’ve got people building proprietary walled gardens who say be exclusive to us and we’ll give you this bunch of money,” he said, likely rreferringto Facebook’s Oculus and its Home ecosystem. “And we’re like, we hate exclusives. We think it’s bad for everybody, certainly in the medium- to long-term, and I’d probably argue in the short-term as well.”

That’s not a new stance from the company, and Newell reiterated that Valve works with developers to help “manage your cashflow”.

At this point, we don’t need to remind you of the developer’s resume, and why you should be looking out for these games. The company previously suggested that we might see at least one of them at some point this year, and the 2017 Game Developers Conference is right around the corner. Could Valve be planning to steal the show there?

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Who is winning the chatbot race in the workplace? | VentureBeat | Bots

At CES 2017, tech companies introduced the world to loads of gadgets that talk back, making this a big year for intelligent assistants. If this trend continues, it might someday be common to talk to smart cars, table lamps, refrigerators, and TVs, thanks to smart technologies such as Amazon’s Alexa.

Demonstrating this cutting-edge technology at a trade show is one thing, but actually deploying it in a business setting is another. This begs the question: Will these assistants be truly useful anytime soon or are they gimmicks that need to work out their bugs (like causing you to accidentally order expensive stuff) before they’re ready for prime time?

The promise of intelligent personal assistants

Ideally, we want intelligent assistants like Alexa or Siri to “just work,” like the computer in Star Trek. In the show, talking to the next-generation AI on the Enterprise was almost like having a conversation with a human being. Additionally, the Star Trek computer didn’t make embarrassing auto-correct mistakes, fail to understand questions, frustrate crew members with inaccurate results, or embarrass parents by talking dirty to toddlers, like the current generation of assistants are prone to do.

But while the intelligent assistants of today are far from flawless, recent research indicates that we won’t have to wait until the age of interstellar travel for them to become mainstream. In fact, a recent Spiceworks study revealed that 19 percent of organizations have deployed AI chatbots, and workplace adoption is expected to grow to 57 percent by 2021.

As to the benefits of using intelligent assistants, many organizations believe chatbots can increase productivity, enable less typing through voice dictation, and improve data analysis.

Current intelligent assistant usage stats

Echoing the expected growth in adoption are sales estimates from analysts and the AI manufacturers themselves. According to Amazon, the company sold millions of Echo and Echo Dot devices during the 2016 holiday season, and sales grew nine times compared to the same period in 2015. Additionally, research from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners puts the total number of Echos sold before 2016 at well over 5 million.

And then there are the bigger chatbots in the game, namely Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant, each of which has a potentially huge install base. In fact, there are more than a billion Apple devices in use, 400 million devices running Windows 10, and more than a billion people using Android devices. But running an OS that includes an intelligent assistant doesn’t mean people will actually use it, especially in the office. So that begs the question, which AI chatbots are actually used for business purposes today?

AI chatbot preferences in business

Among businesses that have adopted AI chatbots for work-related tasks, our research shows Apple’s Siri is currently the most commonly used, with 52 percent of organizations using it and an additional 9 percent planning to use it by the end of 2017. Cortana, which is a basic component of the popular Windows 10 operating system, is used by 45 percent of organizations, and an additional 21 percent are planning to adopt it in 2017. If these adoption plans hold true, 66 percent of organizations will be using Cortana by the end of the year, and the Microsoft assistant will overtake Siri as the most commonly used AI chatbot in the workplace.

In comparison, 45 percent of companies expect to use Google Assistant by the end of the year, but only a mere 10 percent expect to use Amazon Alexa. This discrepancy points to Alexa as being a consumer-oriented technology (for now) that needs to play catch-up to reach more established players in the workplace.

Downsides of intelligent assistants

While there are clear benefits to using the technology, all is not rosy when it comes to the future of intelligent assistants. Apart from the aforementioned accuracy issues, these assistants often learn personal information about their users, so some organizations are concerned about privacy.

Additionally, because these devices are always listening for your voice, many people are concerned that they could be used to record and store everything you say. This potential for eavesdropping poses a real security risk that adds to already heightened concerns about hacking and digital espionage. It makes sense then that many IT departments believe it’s important to vet intelligent assistants before they’re adopted in the workplace.

The final word on AI chatbots

The reality we live in is starting to look more like the fantasy worlds we once only dreamed of. And while we aren’t quite there yet, personal intelligent assistants are among the sci-fi technologies starting to make their way into the workplace today. Whether these assistants will work through initial bugs and concerns to become as cool as they are in the movies only time will tell.

Peter Tsai is an IT analyst at Spiceworks

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Mobile games lose their luster faster than ever | GamesBeat | Games

The recent launch of Super Mario Run by Nintendo set a new record, with over 40 million downloads during its first four days on the App Store. While these numbers portray a very rosy picture of the mobile gaming industry, it doesn’t necessarily reflect reality.

Over the years, retention has become a tougher challenge for app developers. A few factors are responsible for this. First, the freemium model enables users to download many apps without hurting their pockets. Second, memory and data costs are less of a concern in developed countries today, enabling people to download games without a second thought. Last, the oversaturated app economy provides users with an overwhelming number of options. Data shows that mobile games have been most affected by this.

A recent state of the industry report from Adobe found that mobile games have the highest abandonment rate among all the app categories. On a similar note, a report from app intelligence firm App Annie concluded that games are maturing at a faster pace than ever before, and actually achieve 90 percent of their market potential after 17 weeks.

Since the life cycle of games is growing shorter, the window of opportunity to gain users is also shorter, and even then, users tend to abandon an app quickly. This worrying trend doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon, and initiatives like Google’s Instant Apps are likely to accelerate this by decreasing the friction of switching between apps.

What is driving this change?

In order to understand this shift, we have to dive deeper into how digital content is being consumed. Multiple research studies have shown that the attention spans of millennials and Gen Z-ers (people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s) are much shorter than those of previous generations. Therefore, the timeframe in which users “test” new content to decide if they like it is also shorter than ever before. As the chart below makes clear, when it comes to games, the abandonment rate is highest among young people.

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The social phenomenon of virality plays its own part in this equation. People are afraid of missing out on trends that the rest of the world (viewed through their social media feed) is participating in. This hamster wheel of the “fear of missing out” is constantly turning in the same direction, just with different apps each time. Pokémon Go is a great example of how virality generated a peak in downloads in a short time period, and how the excitement around it faded in a few months after its launch.

The prevalent use of app install ads also contribute to the problem of high game abandonment, since they connect gamers with new games at a rapid clip, using the power of targeting and appealing creative to convince users to download additional games

KPIs should be measured differently

Developers who acknowledge this shift will need to adjust the way they measure the success of their games. Instead of looking at long-term retention, they could measure the number of engagements within a short period of time. Short lifetime value, or sLTV as we’ve coined it, could emerge as a much more dominant metric to measure user value in games, as developers transition away from a purely retention-focused approach to strategies designed to monetize users in the short-term, before they inevitably move on to the next app.

On the other hand, brand loyalty to specific game studios will emerge as a key concept, as developers will double-down on trying to hook in users to different, successive games as they launch — while cross promoting between them (like Ketchapp, for example). In that context, the aggregated revenue of users across different games from the same publisher will constitute a new evolution of LTV. Furthermore, conversion between in-house games will be monitored more closely and developers will try to keep the user within their own ecosystem.

What does it mean for the industry and game studios

From a macro perspective, we have seen the impact of this transition throughout 2016, with extensive M&A deals in the mobile gaming landscape that hit a record and represented the vast majority of the $28.4 billion in 2016 games deals according to tech adviser Digi-Capital. Tencent’s acquisition of a stake in Clash of Clans developer Supercell, made up almost a third of the year’s M&A deals. At the same time, investments in mobile gaming companies are lower versus previous years, which together could indicate a new stage of maturity as the market starts to consolidate.

On a micro-level, this transition will require a shift of attitude by small-medium game studios. These game studios will need to cut their investment in standalone games and instead run with short, agile development processes which will enable them to launch more games in a shorter period of time. Going all-in on one game will become a luxury that only the big players can afford.

Building loyalty programs which benefit users who keep engaging with other apps of the same brand will become a cornerstone for success, along with a greater focus on cross-promotion and pre-launch app marketing. Developers who embrace this change and adapt accordingly will be the ones who survive and succeed in the rapidly changing mobile environment.

Daniel Herman is a product manager at ironSource and a guest contributor at Forbes and Tech in Asia.

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How to make sure your first bot doesn’t make a belly flop | VentureBeat | Bots

All hail the hype cycle — 2016 was nothing but acceleration for the burgeoning bot economy. We experienced Gartner’s “innovation trigger” and reached the “peak of inflated expectations” in under 10 months. Congratulations, everyone!

Now comes the sobering reality that customers — actual living breathing companies — need to be able to implement these things and demonstrate real business value. While some may long for those magical days of canned on-stage demos and racist rants from Microsoft’s Tay, there’s no escaping the reality that bots are just a fad if they don’t produce for the brands that build and buy them.

Unfortunately, because of all the hype generated in the past year, many brands have been suckered into biting off more than they can chew. Sales of AI technologies are going through the roof, but value-generating implementations lag well behind. For the $8 billion of revenue generated by AI companies in 2016, I find it hard to believe those buyers are on track to see more than $8 billion in ROI.

It’s not that the technology they purchased is necessarily bad, but customers often bought too much and tried to do too much from the get-go. I saw this in virtually every sales meeting I had in January — mountains of software and little notion of where to begin. Here’s what I tell those companies when I find them in this predicament.

1. Narrow is the new smart

I’m amazed by the grandiose scope of the automation projects businesses envision. Some want to replace an entire contact center in under 12 months. Others want a bot that can handle technical support and conversational commerce across a 500-product portfolio through multiple sub-brands and multiple conversation mediums.

These broad ambitions are destined for failure in almost every case. Bots aren’t all that complicated on their own — they’re just an interface with the customer and in most cases should act as the delivery mechanism for conversational intelligence. But the brain behind them needs to extract meaning and take the appropriate action. More complex customer inquiries often require integrations with a bunch of legacy back-end systems, which adds another layer of complexity that companies often overlook. It’s the brains, not the bot, that brings real value for brands.

If you are even able to get such a fully general purpose bot or automated experience to production in the next two years, I’d be stunned if it didn’t disappoint customers in nine out of ten interactions because the brain needs time in production to be trained and honed with the proper data, question sets, hand off mediums, and voice.

A narrow approach — with support for a finite set of customer inquiries and limited but compelling functionality designed to make customer’s lives better or more efficient — can deliver great experiences nine times out of ten today. And most businesses can get the first set of use cases live in a matter of months not years. Pick a narrow set use case for your first project, limit the functionality to what’s essential and going to make the most impact for the brand and end customer, and pour the rest of your efforts into ensuring a quality experience on those fronts in the various chat and voice channels.

Other than succeeding, what benefits do you get from a narrow approach to bots and automation?

Data, data and more data. Once you’re live, you can collect invaluable data about the questions your customers ask, the features they want to see next, and so much more about their needs as they evolve over time. That leads me to my second piece of advice…

2. Make iterative great again

It wasn’t too long ago that “iterative” was among the most cherished buzzwords in the tech sector. For some reason, we’ve forgotten the lessons we learned about iterative development and walking before you run.

Today’s top brands are obsessed with omnichannel everything. In the case of bots and automated experiences, which primarily manifest within chat apps today, brands want to know that you can go live on every channel their customer’s use on day one.

Here’s the catch: if your bot delivers a bad experience on Facebook, it’s going to deliver a crappy experience on Twitter. If you want to ensure success with your bot experience, don’t get greedy about channels. Get it live on the most valuable channel to your customers and keep improving on your conversation models until you’re confident you can perform well in more channels so that you can ensure that you then make the most of the unique properties and functionality of each channel.

It’s so important to resist tunnel vision when you hear stats about millennials preferring chat and self-service. While it’s true that well over half of millennials prefer 2-way text chat for customer service, 100% of customers hate bad service experiences. The medium matters, but only if the experience meets or exceeds expectations.

Build something that works. Then iterate and scale to new channels.

3. If a bot falls in the woods…

My final piece of advice seems like a no-brainer, but almost everyone screws this one up. Bots, despite all the hype, do not market themselves. If you build it, there’s no guarantee that anyone will notice.

Your customers will absolutely appreciate and adopt a high-quality bot. They can generate revenue and they can drive customer satisfaction. They can do a ton, if you show your customers where they are and how to use these automated experiences.

The exact nature of the promotion you need to do is highly subjective to your business and your customer base. But the one thing you can do to de-risk your automation investment from the start is to get your marketing team started on a rollout strategy. Even if you get a few hundred users with promotion, you’re not getting statistically useful amount of data from those interactions.

Start your marketing plan in parallel with development of your first bot project. Have the teams work in lock-step along the way, and don’t underfund the effort.

Succeeding with bots is not rocket science. A little common sense, a walk-before-you-run approach and some basic communication can get you from theory to production in less time, at dramatically lower costs, with tangible results to show for it that you can continue to build on and expand into more AI-driven experiences over time. That’s the value proposition bots were supposed to have all along, and it’s there for the taking if you have the discipline to capture it one step at a time with the right conversational intelligence behind it.

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Google’s sale of Terra Bella signals cool-down in satellite market | VentureBeat | Business

A few days ago we heard that Google is selling Terra Bella — the satellite startup it bought for $500 million in 2014 to Planet, Terra Bella’s key competitor.

The deal is a pivotal moment for the earth-observation market — a market that provides all types of industries with strategic intelligence based on satellite data, with many customers in the defense and intelligence space. (Other applications include providing big box stores with data on parking lot fill rates by time or day or giving agriculturalists data on crops and land.)

Yes , Terra Bella (formerly Skybox), one of the biggest SpaceTech “success stories” and the only space-related VC-backed exit of its kind to date, is now being sold.

Under the terms of the deal, Planet will acquire the Terra Bella business, including its SkySat constellation of satellites, and Google will enter into a multi-year contract to purchase Earth-imaging data from Planet. A significant number of Terra Bella’s employees are expected to join Planet. And while the financial terms haven’t been disclosed, it is rumored the deal is about $200-300 million (in other words, quite a bit less than what Google paid for it) and that Google is likely buying a stake in Planet.

Here are the implications on the wider earth-observation (EO) market:

1.  Investor enthusiasm for EO will significantly decline. There were already concerns in the community that the EO satellite space is overdone, and this deal will convince investors that it’s not enough just to pitch a beautiful story on how fleets of satellites will monitor Earth on daily basis. If Skybox, the one and only microsatellite exit, didn’t play out that well, what’s the point of investing in another company making similar claims?

2. The EO market will probably face further consolidation. There are at least 13 startups (more details here) willing to launch their own satellite constellations. Assuming the valuation of these startups will now significantly decline (as Terra Bella is likely selling at a 50 percent discount from its acquisition price), I expect market leaders Digital Globe and Planet will continue to increase their in-orbit capacity, acquiring microsatellite startups. Especially interesting targets might be companies that generate unique data, such as radar or hyperspectral, as they would complement the existing data portfolio’s of Planet and Digital Globe.

3. EO startups will pivot to a more “full-stack” approach. If even Google finds it too expensive to operate its own satellite fleet (the cost is rumored to be one of the reasons for the sale), I expect existing microsatellite startups to provide a set of value-added services together with the straight imagery. So the next breed of EO startups will need to be software-driven, developing analytical products on top of their EO data rather than focusing on hardware. The recent Cape Analytics $14 million funding and Spaceknow $4 million funding support this hypothesis. Perhaps we will see Planet start acquiring data science/computer vision companies just as Digital Globe (Planet’s key competitor right now) did last year: Radiant Group for $140 million and Timbr for an undisclosed amount.

The Terra Bella deal is a remarkable win for Planet, which will significantly strengthen its position and make the San Francisco-based startup one of the key forces in the market, especially taking into account its deal with the National Geospatial Agency, the largest buyer of satellite imagery out there.

But the deal also signals a cool-down for earth observation startups. It will be very difficult to raise funding and enter the market now. However, there still might be interesting investment opportunities, such as imagery analytics startups, and clearer exit scenarios can be outlined, taking into account further market consolidation.

Valery Komissarov is a VC at Skolkovo Foundation, a government-backed firm based in Moscow,  where he covers spacetech and drone companies. He previously worked at space startup Sputnix and was pursuing a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering. You can follow him on Twitter: @Val_Komissarov.

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Building emotionally aware cars on the path to full autonomy | VentureBeat | Transportation

Recent innovations around the autonomous car have shaken up the automotive industry. Manufacturers and their suppliers are all accelerating their work on the cars of the future, both regular human-operated cars as well as driverless or semi-autonomous vehicles. But beyond just issues of autonomy, these cars of the future are undergoing a fundamental shift in human-machine interaction. Consumers today crave more relational and conversational interactions with devices, as evidenced by the popularity of chatbots and virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa – and the automotive industry has taken notice.

As such, next-generation cars are emerging as advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems that will power an entirely new automotive experience in which cars will become conversational interfaces between the driver, passengers, the vehicle itself and its controls — all connected to the IoT and mobile devices we use. Leveraging emotion recognition technology that senses and analyzes expressions of emotion, cars will soon come equipped with the ability to perceive our reactions and moods, and respond accordingly. Emotionally aware vehicles will benefit the automotive industry and consumers in a number of ways, including:

Increased road safety

One of the most compelling benefits of emotion-aware vehicles is the ability to monitor drivers’ behavior and address potential safety concerns associated with facial expressions and mood. Emotion AI systems, as I call them, could monitor for indicators of driver attention and engagement (or lack thereof), identifying fatigue, distraction and frustration to prevent accidents before they happen.

Imagine if a car detected that a driver was falling asleep. It could then respond in a number of ways to ensure the driver remained alert and awake, such as playing loud music, prompting the driver to pull over, or even slowing down or stopping the car if necessary. Similarly, detecting anger could lead the car to lock the door, slow down, or play soothing music. The ability to recognize and respond to a range of emotions that signify potential hazards has significant implications for road safety.

Improving the in-car experience with optimal personalization

Beyond the safety features made possible by Emotion AI, emotion recognition technology can improve the in-car experience from an entertainment perspective as well.

For example, when driving in bad traffic, a car could make personalized recommendations for detours and interesting stops along the way, or even recommend music or temperature settings. Collecting emotional data could also help to develop a driver’s unique profile for complete customization of how vehicles operate, in turn influencing the experience that drivers and passengers have.

Not only can Emotion AI improve the in-car experience for drivers and passengers, but it can better inform auto manufacturers of consumers’ habits and preferences. Companies can tap into emotion data to continuously improve their technology – particularly when it comes to understanding consumers’ experiences in self-driving cars – and adapt aspects of vehicles accordingly.

Enabling autonomous cars

Many in the automotive industry are focused on the creation and deployment of autonomous vehicles, all powered using AI. By tapping into passengers’ emotions, AI systems can adapt to control the operation of the vehicle accordingly, and offer valuable insight into how autonomous cars should operate.

For instance, in semi-autonomous cars it is critical to monitor if a driver is engaged and alert, before the car hands back controls. And, if a self-driving car perceived emotional distress from passengers, it could drive slower or play soothing music to assuage their anxiety. In addition, AI systems could be integrated with other IoT devices and data inputs such as traffic and weather reports in order to better inform navigation, and prepare passengers for potential stressors that may arise from traffic delays or poor driving conditions.

Driving the next generation of transportation

As self-driving and connected cars come to the fore, the emotional connection between the vehicle and the human will be critical in optimizing the transportation experience, while guaranteeing optimal safety. With sophisticated technology stacks, sensors and tight integration with the connected devices we use in our daily lives, next-generation cars will curate highly personalized and “smart” transportation experiences, and transform vehicles from machines to relational assistants.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story screenwriter Gary Whitta to speak at GamesBeat Summit 2017 | GamesBeat | Games

Gary Whitta, the screenwriter for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, will be one of our speakers at GamesBeat Summit 2017: How games, sci-fi, and tech create real-world magic.

He will speak to our theme of the inspiration that happens between science fiction, games, and real-world technology. Jamil Moledina of Google Play will moderate Whitta’s talk

It will take place on May 1-2, 2017, at the historic Claremont resort hotel in Berkeley, Calif., just a short distance from San Francisco. You can secure your seat here. Register today and receive 50 percent off current ticket prices. This offer is only available until February 20th. That is a savings of $1,000.

Inspiring moments lead to disrupting the worlds of gaming, tech, and entertainment. Who hasn’t been inspired by great novels like Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, which gave us virtual worlds, or Tom Cruise’s data gloves and gesture-controlled computer in Minority Report? Now those things have become real, and we want to see what’s coming next.

Above: Gary Whitta, screenwriter of Rogue One; A Star Wars Story.

Image Credit: Gary Whitta

Whitta wrote the screenplays for films like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), After Earth (2013), and The Book of Eli (2010). He was born in London, and was once deputy editor of The One for Amiga Games.

In early 2000 Whitta worked with Future to establish a film magazine, Total Movie.  That magazine folded, but it led to his career writing screenplays for Hollywood. We’re very excited he will join us.

Our previously announced speakers include Moledina, one of the leaders for Google’s Daydream VR and Google Play; and Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games. We’ll have an announcement of a high-profile speaker next week. We’re excited, and we hope you’ll join us.

Our theme is about what inspires game creators, executives, and investors to be creative. Part of the event will focus on the inspiration cycle that is accelerating as the walls between science fiction, video games, and real-world technology. We don’t think there’s another conference that focuses on the seams between industries.

Google's Jamil Moledina at GamesBeat 2016.

Above: Google’s Jamil Moledina at GamesBeat 2016.

Image Credit: Michael O’Donnell/VentureBeat

This event will focus on inspiration and creativity. So much of what used to be science fiction is coming true, and it is inspiring even more accelerated visions of the future in games and more entertainment. We hope to inspire you by taking you to the moments of inspiration that led to great ideas across multiple industries. You’ll leave refreshed and inspired to change the worlds of gaming, technology, or other entertainment.

We think this conference will offer a rare chance for cross-pollination and networking between high-level people in different industries, and we believe that insights in one place can lead to inspirations in another.

This conference is for high-end gaming executives, startup CEOs, developers, investors, publishers, marketers, tech experts, entertainment industry professionals, sci-fi experts, AR and VR executives, and other professionals. I should also point out that this is where we try to create an actual GamesBeat community, with our supporters, readers, and attendees. We gather the right people in the room and encourage everyone to get to know each other. Join us.

If you’re interested in sponsoring, message [email protected] Thanks to our initial sponsor Samsung.

Breakout sessions

Intersection of sci-fi, games, and tech
Monetization: How to acquire and retain your user base
Deals: Follow the money
Esports and community
Emerging markets for games
Platforms: Where to place your bets? VR, AR, and more
Creativity and diversity.

Advisory board

Sam Barlow, game developer of Her Story and creative director at Interlude
Michael Chang, senior vice president at NCSoft
Daniel Cho, chairman at Innospark
Jay Eum, managing director, Translink Capital
Clinton Foy, chairman of the Immortals and managing director at Crosscut Ventures
Megan Gaiser, principal at Contagious Creativity
Lee Jones, global business lead Google Ads
Perrin Kaplan, principal at Zebra Partners
Roy Liu, general manager at Linekong USA
Wanda Meloni, executive director of the Open Gaming Alliance
Jamil Moledina, game strategic lead at Google Play
Adam Orth, founder at Three One Zero
Mihai Pohontu, vice president of emerging technologies at Samsung
Mike Sepso, cofounder of MLG and senior vice president at Activision Blizzard
Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors
Margaret Wallace, CEO of Playmatics

I’ve been writing about our theme for a while. I’ve written about the accelerating cycle of inspiration between tech, games, and science fiction. I interviewed Shane Wall, HP’s chief technology officer, about the connection between sci-fi and tech. The Westworld TV show also explored the seams between artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and video games.

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Influencer marketing: With 960% ROI, how can you ignore it? (VB Live) | VentureBeat | Marketing

With an extraordinary 960% ROI, influencer marketing should be a top priority. But who should you connect with, how do you develop the relationship, and how can you leverage it effectively? Join this interactive VB Live event for insight into getting the best results.

Register here for free.


Who are they going to believe — you, the person looking to make a profit from the tender, innocent consumers you’re targeting? Or their favorite social media star, the internet-famous person they don’t know if they want to be, or want to be with?

You’re pretty sure you know the answer to that. And it’s also the answer to why influencer marketing can be a powerful brand strategy when you’re looking to build your credibility, your reputation, and honest-to-god belief in the power behind your product.

But while the gut check has always an been essential tool in the marketer’s belt, increasingly we’re not only being asked to prove bottom-line results, but eager to demonstrate the kind of sexy ROI that makes the C-suite want to keep boosting your budget.

Luckily the ROI is now proven to be for-real: Rhythm One, a digital advertising solutions specialist, recently discovered that for every buck spent on an influencer marketing strategy, the average earned media value was $9.60 — or in other words, a 960 percent return on investment.

Social media consultancy Convince and Convert, alongside Nielsen, also found that not only does influencer marketing generate online sales, but impacts offline ones too, with influencer-exposed households purchasing 10 percent more products than the control group, and influencer posts delivering an ROI 11 times the ROI of banner ads after 12 months.

Influencer marketing is the way to cut through the clutter of advertising and messaging being shouted into consumer faces, the shutdown of organic reach on social media platforms, and the fact that one in four browsers has an ad blocker working merrily away in the background.

The classic “get Beyoncé to say nice things about you” strategy is long over, though. Unless they’re already fond of you, an A-lister getting on board is prohibitively expensive. To create an effective crusade and make a real, wide-reaching impact, companies need to identify a strategically important collection of lower-level influencers that can actually function as a campaign.

Because the approach can get actually expensive and the coordination of group campaigns are complex, companies like Fanbread are stepping into the game. Fanbread, which was just acquired by RockYou, one of the top video ad networks in the world, offers a platform that actually automates advertising for influencers.

In-house writers and videographers create personalized content or video, and it’s served programmatically to the influencers’ platforms, which collectively reach over 64 million fans. That’s a lot of scalable, low-touch reach-out-and-touch-someone.

So you want to know how to get started identifying the best approach, the most important influencers for your brand, and how to develop effective, authentic relationships? Join this interactive VB Live event where Stewart Rogers, VB’s director of marketing technology, will deliver practical advice and an inside look at what influencers really want.


Don’t miss out!

Register here for free.


In this webinar you’ll:

  • Learn the different types of influencer marketing and understand which is right for you
  • Discover the right influencers for the best results in your specific industry
  • Get tips from a super influencer on what works for them and what turns them off
  • Avoid the mistakes of bad influencer marketing strategies

Speakers:

  • Stewart Rogers, Director of Marketing Technology, VentureBeat
  • Wendy Schuchart, Moderator, VentureBeat

More speakers to be announced soon.

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Valve boss Gabe Newell still thinks you should pay for game mods | VentureBeat | PC Gaming

The people who create mods for video games should make money from their work. At least, that is still the position of Valve boss Gabe Newell.

Steam does not offer a way for mod developers to directly sell their creations to that PC gaming platform’s millions of users anymore, but it did for a brief time in April 2015. After years on the market, Valve and publisher Bethesda worked together to introduce paid mods for open-world role-playing game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In response to that new feature, a number of gamers freaked out. They made it clear that they didn’t want to pay for mods. Because the PC platform is so open, gamers had grown accustomed to the idea that they could download a mod from anywhere and install it themselves without having to pay, and the idea that Steam would create a marketplace where people could sell those same mods was too big of a change. And that led to  Valve and Bethesda pulling the plug on the idea.

But Newell has never stopped believing that people should receive compensation for creating content that other people value.

Above: Key Valve staff discussing issues with Steam, VR, and more.

Image Credit: Jeffrey Grubb/GamesBeat

“Mod people create a lot of value, and we think that absolutely they need to be compensated,” Newell explained to a roundtable of media outlets that included GamesBeat. “They’re creating value, and the degree to which they are not being accurately compensated is a bug in the system.”

In justifying his stance on this, Newell explained that paying for mods isn’t about some desire to upend a status quo where mods are free and have been for multiple decades now. Instead, the Valve founder made it clear that this concept is about the fundamental principles that the company built Steam on.

“The view that games are competing with each other is kinda incorrect,” said Newell. “In a lot of ways, nothing helps sell your game like other people building successful games. For people in the VR space, that is super-obvious. When somebody else comes out with a popular VR game and your sales get better, it’s super-obvious that there are these global [factors lifting up everyone].”

He argues that a popular mod has the same effect where it helps the sales of its base game. But he points out that when a mod creates value, its creator is not getting a fair allocation of the reward. And that throws a wrench into a connected economy where players should vote with their wallet about what they want to see more of. But if a mod creator receives almost no compensation, other creators may not see that as a valuable way to spend their time.

“It’s information flow,” said Newell. “In a sense, you want to have really good signal-to-noise ratios in how the gaming community signals to developers: ‘Yes, do more of that. Or, no, please, don’t release any more of those ever.’”

“It’s also so that others may spot that creating value for gamers is a way of earning, and [they may spot an opportunity to earn compensation by bringing new kinds of valuable experiences to players],” Dota 2 developer Erik Johnson added.

At the same time, Newell admitted that Valve did a poor job of introducing paid mods.

“The Skyrim situation — well, it was a mess,” he said. “It was not the right place to launch that, and we did some hamfisted things in the way we rolled it out. But the fundamental concept that the gaming community needs to reward the people who are creating value is pretty important.”

Valve now says it needs to figure out a way to do it so that its customers buy into it while also keep mod developers happy because they’re getting a piece of the reward.

I also asked Newell and Johnson if they think Steam would have paid mods by now if they didn’t have the Skyrim blemish in their past.

“I think we would’ve,” said Newell.

“Yeah, but we got a lot of great data out of that,” said Johnson. “It was awful to go through, but it gave us a ton of useful information.”

When it comes to whether or not Valve will put that data that information to use, well … maybe not quite yet.

“It was a situation of, ‘Oh, that burner is hot! Maybe we should wait a while before we put our hands on that burner again.’”

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The sensors in this business sedan totally prevented an accident | VentureBeat | Transportation

I’m a bit of a coffee addict. At my local Dunn Brothers coffee shop, they know which breakfast sandwich I like right down to the Swiss cheese and that I’m a fan of light roast. They also know I arrive around 6 a.m. with a look that says, “Help me — I need caffeine right now.”

It’s not that I’m drowsy. It takes a few cups before I’m in full work performance mode. That’s why it surprised me so much when I backed out of a parking spot after being fully caffeinated, wide awake for hours, and ready to tackle the rest of the morning without looking as much as usual for cross-traffic. Honestly, I’ve become a hypervigilant driver. I usually look once, then twice, then a third time just to be on the safe side.

I think even the car itself was surprised when I didn’t look as thoroughly. Fortunately, I was driving a 2017 VW Passat, the model with a V6 engine with the technology package that costs $29,295 (the base price is $22,440). New sensors that are constantly looking all around the vehicle noticed a passing car, driving way too fast behind me from left to right. An audible alarm sounded, I pressed the brakes, and everyone was fine. No harm, no foul.

Yet it was irritating — not because the car failed to do its job, but because we’re not living in an age of AI and connected cars. For now, these sensors — which you can see visually in the touchscreen display when something comes too close to the car, represented as radiating pulses similar to the Wi-Fi radio icon you see on a Windows 10 laptop — are one-directional. They see an object, you get a warning. In the near future, a car like the Passat would have already known there was another car in the Dunn Brothers parking lot.

Here’s how the AI would have helped. At least a block away, sensors in the parking lot would identify the car and start tracking it. This is not a privacy issue. It’s like tracking a car today when you pull up to a stoplight (the pads built into the road), just with more intelligence. The AI will track every car’s location in real time. If that junky old Malibu that almost hit me started accelerating close to the Passat, I’d know about it long before I had to start braking.

The next steps after this are even more interesting. Someday, automated cars will brake and accelerate in perfect unison. The Malibu would not have this tech unless someone added it as an aftermarket kit. That’s not impossible at all, considering there are devices like the Navdy that already provide services like text-to-speech and navigation for older cars. We need to reach the point where cars don’t even need sensors that alert you to other cars, because the other car would slow down automatically. I’d pull out because the AI would determine that I had the right of way based on the fact that the AI in the other car made it drive at a sane speed.

Multiply this scenario out to every parking lot, every intersection, highways all over the world. It’s not autonomous driving that will prevent accidents. It’s not even the sensors in the car, or the pedestrian detection, or the adaptive cruise control. It’s an AI that knows the location of every car and truck and can optimize traffic, instruct the local AI in each car to adjust speeds, and create a vast car network that runs as smoothly as a fine-tuned network server.

Don’t laugh at that too much — yes, servers still crash. But the intelligence in a car network, aided perhaps by a human agent in a car traffic control center, will definitely reduce fender-benders in parking lots and help tremendously on the highway.

My hope is that this scenario becomes a reality soon. I’ve become a little impatient about progress lately, although I appreciate the fact that the Passat saved me from an accident.

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