An AI generated image of a kiwi bird with art supplies

Designers are not obsolete. They are a part of a new story.

There’s been a monsoon of articles concerning the advent of AI and whether it will put designers, like myself, out of work. I, for one, welcome our AI assistants and have been working with them for quite some time already. In fact, an AI came up with this blog title!

AI as a source of inspiration

The current AI fad really began with the release of the OpenAI DALL-E 2 generative model to the masses in mid 2022. What OpenAI did was a massive leap forward in visual fidelity. DALL-E produces actually serviceable images out of text prompts. And naturally, this conjured a surge of fear amongst creative professionals of all sorts.

I immediately set out to procure beta keys for each of these new, robust systems. I eventually got my hands on DALL-E 2, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion which are probably the most well known of them all. After an afternoon of just fooling around, I actually found practical use for them, not as ready-made image generators, but as idea generators.

DALL-E 2 seems to have the most realistic approach of these, and with no additional instructions the results resemble photographs. Because their training data reflects real life and has all the real-life biases and stereotypes, it is a useful tool for visualizing said iconographic ideas when that’s something you need right now. Sometimes you need an image of a typical graphic designer’s desk and not an artistic interpretation of such, to be relatable. Also, what each of these tools excel in, is the textbook example of perfect composition.


Let’s use DALL-E to generate “Green kiwi bird working as a graphic designer, uses Neural Network to generate ideas for graphic design. Trending in Artstation”.
That bird looks cute! But we’re a VR game company, so let’s use the graphical editing features to mask the head area and add a prompt “kiwi bird wearing virtual reality headset”. Working with these generators, you have to use a curious type of language. The natural order of your words doesn’t always work as intended, and the placement of your commas can change the way the AI interprets your prompt. There’re a lot of buzzwords that completely change the style, such as “Trending in Artstation”, “rendered in Unreal 5” and “Octane render”.

Not happy with the aspect ratio, need a wider picture? DALL-E can use the original to generate more content to the background. This time I asked it to add an Apple iMac on the desk. It seems it remembered the graphic design context, and added some pencils too!


I put the exact same original prompt in Midjourney and got back a completely different result. Midjourney is known for specializing in a more artistic and interpretative style. Midjourney is also different in its user interface; it is operated with Discord bot commands and all the prompts and results are publicly visible to all other users. This makes it unusable for any work done under a strict NDA.

Stable Diffusion Test Version had its own idea of the prompt. This AI is still in a very early stage – it was published only in August 2022 – but being Open Source it’s sure to become increasingly more relevant as more individuals get involved in feeding it different types of training data.


Stable Diffusion Dream Studio Beta is a faster but more inaccurate version. At the moment, the picture above wouldn’t be all that useful as, say, a blog post illustration, but it would be perfect for sponging some inspiration for an illustration of my own.

Making haste with Adobe Sensei

Adobe has incorporated their AI and machine learning platform Sensei in many of their products. In the most puritan sense, this is not a true AI, but a mixture of real time processing and a collection of different technologies and datasets that have utilized neural networks and machine learning.


In Adobe Photoshop, Content-Aware crop works best with smooth colours. It does a poor job trying to speculate how any details on the edges should continue or repeat, as you can see in the third image. I sometimes use this tool in very particular cases, and for small adjustments only. And even then, I usually need to smooth out some visual artifacts by hand.

That cyan dot distracts me. There, gone! Just a rough lasso selection and click Content-Aware fill. I could have used the spot healing brush here. It depends on the size and complexity of the fix. What if I didn’t like the bird at all?

This would have taken forever using the clone tool and healing brushes. This took literally seconds and looks pretty good already. I would only need to manually clean up some details.


Neural Filters are a more recent development and many of them are still in beta. They have less of a real world use, as the results still look unnatural. The most useful filter here for me has been the JPEG-artefact removal. The image on the right has significantly less noise and none of the unnatural blurring there used to be with regular denoising tools before.


Refine hair -tool is something I use all the time, and it makes masking loose strands of hair a breeze compared to what it used to be.


Adobe Illustrator doesn’t have as many of these Sensei features as Photoshop, but one that’s saved my day a couple of times is the Global edit tool. It recognizes similar objects across the file and allows you to edit all of them simultaneously. For example, in this job I had to replace all of the trees with a different kind. It would have taken me hours more time to replace each of them manually.

Other use cases of AI in design

http://thispersondoesnotexist.com
These people above do not exist. I use this tool often when I design user interfaces. It’s great for populating the mockup with avatars. Figma and Sketch both have plugins that use this service and allow you to specify some basic information about the avatar, such as age and sex.

Generative models are also useful for other dummy data, from names to complete paragraphs of text. If you grow bored of lorem ipsum, there are plenty of GPT-2 generators that do just that. Try the above Rytr for example!

One low key example you wouldn’t often think of is in camera technology. Canon has developed its AI Focus for a long time. It uses machine vision to pick the right focal point and keep the focus fixed on a moving target. Apple has taken the AI features even further, and in addition to facial recognition and focus, they now have full scene-understanding. Their camera software recognizes things like time of the day, weather, lighting conditions, skin colours and preferred target. All this to adjust camera settings correctly without the user realizing it.

It’s another discussion, whether you should call these solutions AI or not. Canon and Apple have used Deep Learning to teach their software how to do certain tasks. Once the software has been taught, it doesn’t run any artificial intelligence anymore. It doesn’t learn anything anymore. For the sake of easy conversation and marketing, though, it’s convenient to just call everything AI. Maybe I will eventually be put out of this work by an AI, but I’ve already had to renew and redirect my skill set in this business many times before, and will do so again. Someone has to yell at those pesky AIs for doing it all wrong.


I feel it’s my duty to also let you know, there’s http://thiscatdoesnotexist.com too!


5 Things You Didn’t Know Were Gamified

Gamification is rather a new concept that carries great importance in almost every field today. Especially in marketing strategies, gamification is one of the preferred ways to capture the attention of the audience.
Gamification consists of gaming elements integrated into a non-gaming environment. The reason for this incorporation is to increase the engagement level of the users. If you are wondering about these gaming elements, you can read our previous blog post about the topic here.
In this blog, we present the top 5 examples of gamification that you might not have thought about before. The examples will be categorized according to their level and how fast you can spot the gamification strategies used. Let’s start with an easy one!

Easy

Duolingo

Learning a new language might be an interest for many people at some point. One of the easiest ways to start learning a new language is online learning software because everyone can have access to them easily and they are mostly free! Therefore, the first example comes from one of the most popular language learning apps out there: Duolingo.
And, how does Duolingo use the game elements? Here are all the obvious gamified features that are used which makes it an easily distinguished example:

    • It uses a level system: The lessons are divided into different levels and titles. The user can go to the next level only when the previous ones are completed or they can be skipped if the user is showing good performance on the level. At each level, there are no extreme differences in the difficulty level. There are 3 or 4 new words or phrases introduced in each level. Thus, the competency is neither too easy nor too difficult which can keep the motivation of the user at an optimal level.
    • Reward system: In this specific software, users can collect rewards after completing a lesson. Opening a treasure chest can help users to collect in-app gems and some potions for x2 XP. These gems can buy the “streak freezers”, and “extra lives” in the app. This is a great example of engaging the user with the platform.
    • Collecting badges: The user becomes more engaged and motivated to use the app more with the rewards, and that helps them to complete more lessons. After completing the lessons, the user can collect badges. Also, the earned badges are shown in the public profile of users. That is an excellent motivation source! Moreover, the app works to build a community by telling the users how many people are learning the same language at the same time. These sentences motivate the user and increase the community feeling.
    • Streak: Showing the streak to the user and counting the consecutive days the app has been used is a great way to encourage them to continue using the app. When the user comes to the streak milestone, the software gives rewards such as giving a free trial of the premium version of the game for a couple of days. Also, the app gives some statistical information about the users who played regularly. For example, “Users who complete XX days in a streak are XX% more likely to complete the course!” These types of sentences are a great source of encouragement for the users.

Duolingo is a great example of gamification because of all the elements that are listed above. These elements keep the user encouraged, engaged and motivated. This way, users can learn in a fun way, and keep coming back to use the app!

Medium

Have you ever collected some in-app points to get some reward such as a free product? Or collected mile points to get a discount on your next flight on your most preferred airline? If your answer is yes, you already have experienced and used this level of gamified application! Medium-level gamified applications can be distinguished by some less obvious features. For example, using fidelity points or cards and loyalty points. Here are 2 examples in this matter:

Yelp

Yelp is a software that can be used via its website or apps. The main purpose of the app is to leave reviews, ratings, and photos of the businesses that the users visit. Also, there is a friends list in this app like Facebook. So, what kind of gamification elements do this app use?

    • Elite status: Who would not like to feel special? Yelp gives this special feeling to its users! If they give frequent reviews, answer questions, and participate in the Yelp community they can have elite status. As it can be seen, this can keep users more active in the app.

Starbucks

Starbucks is also using a Reward app to keep customers purchasing their products. This app is an excellent example of gamification used in real life.

    • Collecting stars: The user accumulates stars with every product they purchase in this app. Also, the graphical design makes it fun; the stars look like cups and you can fill the cups! The more purchases are made, the more benefits the user earns. These benefits can be a birthday gift or an extra cup of coffee. Who would not like to have these fun and diverse benefits while sipping on their favorite coffee?

Hard

In the following cases, the game elements are more subtle and difficult to find. Therefore, you may have not noticed these great examples of gamification!

Linkedin profiles

When signing up for LinkedIn, the steps that the user should follow to complete the profile are given in the beginning. LinkedIn is a platform to reach out to more people and widen the network to find more job opportunities. Therefore, LinkedIn shows a progress bar in the beginning as you are setting your profile. The more your progress bar is full, the easier it is to reach more people. This is a smart gamified application.
Tinder is also using the same method to make its users complete their profiles. So, if you want to reach more people outside of working hours, you can try Tinder and see its gamification!

Nike+ Run Club

Through the power of community, Nike+ Run Club is connecting people. Nike increases user retention by providing the opportunity to create a supportive community. Users can have this community by comparing the steps taken and distances run with other users of the app. This competitive feeling helps people to connect to other users and be more motivated. This is an excellent example of gamification because, with this app, users can customize their training program, and complete the challenges to win badges and trophies.

Honorable Mention

Finally, as an honorable mention, we would like to present an amazing real-life gamification example. Gamification does not have to be only in the digital world. Moreover, just because it includes game elements, it also does not mean gamification or games are only for younger people. Here, we can also highlight the fact that playfulness is a major factor in games in general as it can be seen in this specific example. Therefore, anything gamified should be fun, and the fun can come from even only being playful! The initial aim was to encourage people to use the stairs instead of the escalator to fight obesity. The research shows that after the stairs were turned into piano keys, people preferred stairs to escalators!


Why use gamification?

In our previous post, we have explained the gamification concept. The post can be read here. However, let’s quickly reintroduce what is gamification. In short, gamification is the application of elements of game playing to different areas of activity. This is usually seen as an online marketing technique to engage with a service or a product. However, it is essential to remember that gamification is not the game itself but the use of game elements in non-gaming functions and circumstances. Especially in the last decade, gamification has become a hot topic both in education and in business. With this blog, we aim to delve into the gamification concept.

Why using gamification?

The fact that traditional motivational elements, such as curiosity and adding personal challenge, are no longer valid in today’s world is emphasized in business and personal development books. This is also proven by scientific research. Gamification of any element creates an internal trigger by changing the perception of the feature, making it more attractive. The point that definitely should be highlighted about gamification as a concept is that the majority of people play games just because they want to play. Thus, people play games of their own free will, and especially the younger generation spends time on games equal to their weekly working hours. Therefore, to grab the attention of your customers or your students, it is crucial to gamify the elements of the topic concerned.

The concept of gamification became popular as the growing game industry showed that games have a powerful effect on human motivation. Before this concept officially emerged, some workplaces already used practices with game mechanics: for example, choosing the best employee of the month to keep the employees engaged and motivated. Therefore, adding game elements to introduce competition is a great use of gamification in business. Moreover, this concept is highly useful for educational purposes and research shows that it has a positive impact on learners’ motivation and engagement.

A score board of an arcade game

Which gamification elements can you add to your apps & learning environment?

Gamification is a popular keyword, especially in the education sector. Moreover, learning apps as learning environments are very popular. You might then be wondering what types of game elements you should include in your apps and learning environment. We would like to answer this question with the following list of elements:

  • Level, points, scores
  • Progress bars
  • Rewards and badges
  • Storylines
  • Countdowns and schedule
  • Personalization
  • Leaderboards
  • In-app tools
  • Micro-interactions

All the elements listed above are aiming to increase competitiveness and keep the users motivated and engaged with the product. Therefore, if gamification is included, the possibility of users’ keep coming back and using the app is more likely than ever. Moreover, gamification and game elements can be included in everything that can be thought of. The researches also show that gamified training in workplaces keeps the employees engaged and reduces boredom during training. It is very important to realise what is popular and preferred by the users, especially these days. Therefore, including the best-known game elements in the apps and learning environment would give you a great advantage.

Best practices for retaining users with game elements

As it was mentioned previously, the main reason for gamification is to keep the users retained, engaged, and motivated. There are some specific gamified solutions and practices that increase user engagement.

Let’s get into the details! Here’s a list of 4 practical examples:

  • Tutorial: Tutorials teach the user how the game works, making it easier to engage with. However, it is important to not make the tutorial too long, complicated, or too simple. By tracking whether a user skips certain parts of the tutorial, you can get an estimate for the right tutorial features.
  • Reward: Adding daily rewards will keep the user coming back to the app every day to collect them. Moreover, giving rewards after an achievement also motivates and encourages the user to keep coming back to the app.
  • Notifications: Using push notifications is again encouraging the user to keep using the app or the game.
  • Providing the chance to have a community: for example, setting options such as “invite a friend” or “ask a friend to send a heart” creates a sense of companionship or competition. When the users feel like they have a virtual community on the app, it will help them use the app instead of dropping out.

These practices are all part of the traditional gamification approach. However, it is worth mentioning that trends and circumstances rapidly evolve and change. Nowadays, many apps look for different ways to increase retention because users usually avoid push notifications. Moreover, inviting friends through Facebook is also seen as a fading trend. Therefore, even though these practices are considered some of the best to retain users, it is important to keep a dynamic approach and check what solutions users themselves are gravitating towards.

The advantages of implementing gamified solutions

Gamification has become very popular in the last decade because it has a lot of advantages. Moreover, there are so many benefits of why gamification is worth using in learning apps or solutions. The statistics from the research also prove that when gamification is used learning is more effective. Here are the best advantages of implementing gamified elements, especially for e-learning solutions:

  • Increases the engagement
  • Improves the motivation of the users
  • Helps and improves retaining knowledge
  • Elevates cognitive development
  • Helps education to become more accessible

You may have more questions about gamification, and you can contact MeKiwi to have your answers! As MeKiwi, we are providing services to build custom-made gamified solutions to your needs in the business and education fields. Do you want to make your product digitally engaging and motivating? Let us do it for you!
Do not hesitate to contact us for more information and the best digital gamified solutions.


How the travel industry can benefit from XR technology

You may be familiar with XR technology and how it is used in the gaming sector, but many other industries can also benefit from it. In this blog we briefly concentrate on how the travel industry can utilize XR.

What does XR mean?

Extended Reality (XR) is a term that refers to all the immersive technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR).

Digital visibility is vital to companies and what could be better than XR technology and its endless possibilities and scalability. Utilizing XR technology also gives the company a competitive edge on social media by creating more interesting content for the visitor. Especially after corona restrictions, we had to adapt to a “new normal”, which inevitably increases XR technology and virtuality in general.

XR technology and travelling

XR technology can be used, for example, in the marketing of a travel destination. Many travelers search a lot in advance about different travel destinations and their attractions and activities. In this case, marketers can create a 360° video of the destination that the end user can view even in their own living room. When an user has better and more extensive access to exploring their destination in advance, they are much more likely to book that trip, compared to a trip or destination where there is not enough information available. The traveler can navigate the desired route or attractions in advance, which will save them time. This also helps the traveler to choose the right destination for them and helps to plan the trip, for example, in terms of equipment. In addition to the destination itself, the accommodation/hotel can be marketed as well.

Virtual tours could also be created especially when traveling to a destination is physically inconvenient or otherwise restricted. With XR technology, the visitor gets much more out of the trip, they can explore more destinations or focus on one more intensively. Thanks to the latest technology, virtual travel destinations or virtual elements embedded in the physical world are even more immersive.

Technology in the middle of nature and in the city

XR technology can be utilized both on nature trails and in the middle of the city. In both cases, the XR can be used to provide information about the environment to the user, whether it is a type of tree or animal species or, for example, a statue or some other area or object.
For example, a user can scan a statue or even a QR code using their own phone to display information about that place on their phone screen, by text, video or an audio track, all of these can be combined as well. How does it sound to view a place through the eyes of history? You are physically present in a modern environment and at the same time you can view how that area looked like a long time ago.

MeKiwi has developed many extended reality projects. For example, the Digimuurame.fi multimedia website that MeKiwi created for the municipality of Muurame allows users to visit the Muurame Church, listen to the choir in an augmented reality, or even go on an adventure with a canoe and mountain bike in Muurame’s nature via 360° video experience. MeKiwi has also implemented an AR application called “Oulujoen ympäriajo” for a thrilling orienteering experience in cooperation with Oulujoki School’s students and teachers. Among other things, the app helps promoting student participation and creativity.

From an idea to the solution

In April 2022, Business Finland organized a funding application to support sustainable growth and digitalisation in traveling, which implements Finland’s Sustainable Growth Program, which aims to build a greener and more digital society. The purpose was to highlight how to make a tourist stay longer, the year-round tourism and traveling and new customer groups. XR solutions can meet these needs.

If XR technology was a previously unknown topic, you can read more on MeKiwi’s website and contact our account manager Jonna Ranta or our XR expert Merih Arikkök.


SEO trends 2021

Certain trends can be followed both in clothing and websites, but this time we will focus on websites and more specifically on search engine optimization (SEO) 2021 trends.

Mobile friendliness

Today, almost everyone owns a smartphone, which means that websites are also browsed a lot via the phone. In the spring of 2021, Google announced a new algorithm change that will rank mobile-friendly sites higher. So when building a website, it is especially important to make it responsive and functional on all devices.

Create video content

Google searches are also performed as voice searches. Thus, keywords and phrases embedded in videos can improve the video itself or the website to be found on Google if the video is embedded on a site. As with site text content design, video design should take into account your target audience and the types of searches they may do. It’s also worth noting that when speaking, key phrases tend to be longer than keywords placed on web pages, because in general, speech is much more relaxed and there may be a difference in sentence formation when talking vs. doing a Google search.

Put the reader first

One SEO trend that is unlikely to ever go away is that when designing content, write the content for a person and not for a search engine. Text should be clearly written and clear should also be the overall layout of the site, as it assures the visitor to stay on the site longer, which Google also appreciates.

Google SMITH algorithm

In short, Google’s SMITH algorithm is able to understand long sets of text compared to the BERT algorithm, which only understands words and short sentences from short sets of text. That is, in the future, SMITH will help Google index better the most relevant search results for the user.

 

At MeKiwi, creating responsive and search engine-friendly websites is commonplace, so contact us today and let's take a look at your website needs, whether it’s a small update or a complete overhaul. You can contact Jonna here.


Augmented reality Christmas window

In cooperation with the City of Oulu and the Oulu Chamber of Commerce, MeKiwi created an augmented reality (AR) experience with a Tiernapoika theme in the center of Oulu. Christmas window will be on view from 3rd of December 2021 to 6th of January 2022 in front of the Oulu10 office at Saaristonkatu 8.

Test the Christmas window live by scanning the QR code from the window or visit mekiwi.org/jouluikkuna and scan the Tiernapojat on the window.

You can also test the Christmas window on a small scale remotely directly from this screen by going to mekiwi.org/jouluikkuna on your phone and scanning the Tiernapojat from the image below. So if your location is other than Oulu, no worries, test the AR Christmas window remotely!

MeKiwi wishes you a Merry Christmas!


What does Augmented Reality (AR) mean and what is an AR experience?

Augmented reality, best known as AR, is more common than you think.

You’ve probably tried it at least once without noticing, because AR has been one of the rising trends in technology since 2017! The most common examples of AR are the Snapchat and Instagram face filters that most of us have tried at least once.

If you feel like you aren't familiar with it yet don’t worry, as we’ve put together a short and helpful explanation of what augmented reality (AR) is, how it works, and how it differs from virtual reality (VR); and most importantly, how your business or school can benefit from AR technology!

What does augmented reality (AR) mean?

AR is short for Augmented Reality which is the software technology that expands our physical world by adding digital items into it. Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), it does not create a whole new digital world but integrates digitally created content into our existing environment.

You can directly see the augmented reality in action in an existing environment, such as a digital dragon flying in your living room. Unlike virtual reality (VR), you can access augmented reality (AR) content without wearing an headset. AR can be displayed on various devices: screens, glasses, handheld devices, head-mounted displays and mobile phones – which makes it accessible for almost anyone, anywhere as long as there is a mobile device.

What's the difference between VR and AR?

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that brings and connects computer-generated, 3D-designed objects to your real world. Virtual reality (VR) consists of a fully computer-generated virtual world where the user can experience a completely immersive virtual experience.

Is Augmented Reality (AR) really the future?

No, it is the present and the future. We all use augmented reality one way or another. All the face filters you can use with your phone are part of the augmented reality. When you buy a new sofa from an online store and you can test what it would look like in your living room, that is also augmented reality.

How Can I Use Augmented Reality (AR) In my Business?

Thanks to its compatibility and ability to run on mobile devices, you can integrate AR virtually anywhere in your business. The biggest advantage is that you do not necessarily need to download a separate app, WebAR works directly in your browser. The consumer clicks a button or goes to your website to start the AR experience.

Examples of how to use AR:

  • Product catalogs: Digital or printed product catalogs. With augmented reality, consumers can place your product digitally in their own environment and check them with 3D models.
  • Storytelling: Want to tell the story of your 200-year-old restaurant? Or maybe the tale of a medieval town? You can bring your story to life by creating interactive augmented reality content and lead the reader on this journey. Augmented reality makes cultural experiences unique and memorable.
  • Online stores: With the touch of a button, users can place 3D models of products on the kitchen table, watch product videos or ask questions.
  • Events: Create digitally interactive event posters that allow visitors to experience augmented reality using their phone’s camera.
  • Tourism: useful information on destinations, sightseeing attractions, navigation, and directions.
  • Buildings: Provide visitors with information and digital content, directions and promotional materials. Can be utilized, for example, in hospitals, shopping malls and stadiums.
  • Product brochures: Offer product information, troubleshooting assistance and pre-purchase experience through augmented reality (AR) applications.

MeKiwi can help you design and implement interactive, memorable and relevant augmented reality (AR) experiences that add value to your brand. Augmented reality solutions allow brands to improve their visibility, build loyalty, engage and increase sales as needed.

Need ideas on how to use AR technology for your business?

Contact our AR expert, tai soita 0447510096.


MeKiwi raised 400 000€ funding for the development of the virtual reality unit

The goal is to develop Finland's largest VR game and grow the B2B VR business

MeKiwi, an Oulu-based digital agency and developer and publisher of virtual reality games, or VR games, recently raised 400 000€ funding to grow their VR business. The goal is to start developing the largest VR game made so far with domestic work and to strengthen the B2B business of the virtual reality unit.

One of the major investors of the total funding of 400 000€ was a Finnish family company Rela Invest Oy. Joonas Pöllä, CEO of the investment company, commented: “The reason we invested in MeKiwi was due to their excellent success with the release of the first VR game. We believe that virtual reality is the next big thing in technology, and the MeKiwi team convinced us with their expertise”. The funding will strengthen MeKiwi's virtual reality unit and VR game production together with the VR game publishing business.

MeKiwi's publishing studio VRKiwi is responsible for developing Finland's largest VR game. Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder, is expected to arrive on the largest digital distribution platform for PC games on Steam next year as a so-called Early Access version. The game will later be published on PlayStation and Oculus Quest, which Facebook bought.

The game is a sequel to MeKiwi's first VR game, Cave Digger, which also has a flat screen game version for players without VR devices. To date, Cave Digger games have sold nearly 50 000 units, which is a respectable number in the still relatively small VR game market of the 2018-19. Now the growth will be pursued with a product whose design focuses on the new generation of VR headsets. “Last year, the first fully wireless standalone device, the Oculus Quest, was launched, which the user no longer needs to plug into anything,” says Jani Kaipainen, MeKiwi's Director of VR Production. "This made the price of the system more than half as cheap as previous computer plus VR headset systems."

“With the release of Oculus Quest, there has been a clear increase in the total number of users of the devices. In 2019, about 4.3 million new headsets were delivered (excluding VR devices for mobile use),according to reports from trend following agencies, and this year the Covid-19 situation has also increased demand for VR devices,” Jani Kaipainen continues.
“Maybe it is because people are looking for new ways to spend time at home and they then decide to try VR headsets, now that their approachability has improved significantly with Quest. In addition, Facebook recently released a new second-generation Quest (Oculus Quest 2)that improves on its predecessor in every area.”

The company has also said that they already have the first two release agreements agreed with two international VR game studios. “The VR market in general and from our point of view looks better than ever before in my work history,” concludes Jani Kaipainen.

https://mekiwi.org/

https://vrkiwi.org/

 

More information:

Jani Kaipainen, VR Producer


Creating innovation together

In November, MeKiwi participated in the Innovation Bootcamp in Pokhara, Nepal, which aimed to create new innovations for local needs. The event was organised by the Tribhuvan University (Institute of Engineering) in cooperation with the Nepal Go Association, an association founded in Oulu to promote education and employment in Nepal. The project was funded by the Gandaki provincial administration, and Mukti Paudel from Nepgo ry was the project leader for both countries.

Nepgo ry invited Finnish companies to participate in the event to mentor students and solve challenges together. MeKiwi was excited by the idea and decided to participate. From Finland came also Raimo Korhonen from KeepLoop, Kimmo Paajanen from OAMK and two guest lecturers, Janne Korhonen, PhD consultant from Aalto University and Anu-Maria Laitinen, knowledge management consultant.

The five-day event took place on the Paschimanchal campus. In addition to the invited companies, the event was attended by around 30 students and experienced local mentors, each with extensive knowledge of the issues at hand.

Challenges and ceremonies

The event started with a formal welcome ceremony on campus in honour of the guests. The mayor of the city and a local minister were also invited. During the ceremony, the guests were given flowers and were dressed in colourful Nepali headdresses. The morning was full of celebrations, as was the evening of the last day of the event.

The Bootcamp itself started with six different challenges to which the university students had to develop a solution together with representatives of companies. MeKiw was tasked to create a report on the level of digitalisation in Nepal, both on the business and education side. In addition to the report, the team looked at how to get parents more involved in their children's studies. As a solution, a "Wilma" type service, which we are also familiar with, was proposed. The mayor immediately agreed to pilot-test 10 schools, but full commercialisation of the service is a prerequisite for real implementation.

Again next year?

Samuel Kuosmanen, CEO of MeKiwi, was very pleased with the quality of the event. MeKiwi's goal for this trip was to identify business opportunities, build a network and identify local expertise. All these elements were implemented beyond expectations.

"I would definitely go again, as long as the trip is well planned in terms of purpose and appointments. It took a surprisingly long time to travel, but an international airport is being built in Pokhara, which will speed up travel in the future," Samuel summed up when asked if he would go again.

About Nepal

Nepal is a poor developing country surrounded by mountains, where more than 50% of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. Although people come from very simple backgrounds, they are very welcoming. The mountains have kept trade very limited with countries such as India and China. Recently, there has been a wake-up call on this issue and there is now a strong push for change. Tourism has played its part in boosting development and growth prospects are already looking bright. This will also create new opportunities, for example for Finnish educational exports and other cooperation. Now is therefore a very good time to invest in Nepal.


Selling one thing is the first step to sell another

There are many steps involved in developing a good digital product. Organizing user testing and collecting user data are important stages that should be handled properly. Good networks help with this, too.

Cooperation produces better innovations. A technological collaboration in particular helps the likelihood of a small business succeeding in innovation. Still, some studies show that small firms have fewer innovation cooperation than large firms.

Earlier this year, we published a blog about how the principles of open innovation have benefited MeKiw’s development and growth. As we have been asked a lot about this topic, we will publish a series of three blogs where we explain on a practical level how we implement innovation cooperation.

Previously we have covered the search for a business opportunity and the stage of project implementation. In this part, we'll talk about the collaborations in the user testing and publishing phases.

Each development team is blind to their own work

Product testing already starts in the project phase, which we described in the previous part of this blog series. Testing of all digital products must be carried out in many stages and in different ways. There is no known public, continuously available service for user testing, but by being active and staying informed, opportunities may arise. Participation in the Edudigi project enabled MeKiwi to test the VR game in Oulu's Tietomaa. However, most of the testing is organised in-house. You need networks for that too.

"Influencers are important contacts with ordinary consumers," says Begum Dogan.

Influencers are used to reach active players, but you also want people with no previous gaming experience to become testers. The flaws in the game are found because they do not know how to adapt to them.

Each development team is blind to its own game and can't see its weaknesses", points out Begum Dogan.

In addition to reaching testers, other contacts are needed. A third party brings its vision and ideas to the collaboration. It gives a perspective on things when you can easily be too focused to notice.

The gaming marketing company Kuvion complements MeKiwi's marketing team. Kuvion is deeply integrated in the marketing of Cave Digger, a game published by MeKiwi on VR platforms. "In this partnership, everyone is in charge," says Begum Dogan. "The friends at Kuvion take care of VR Cave Digger as if it was their own".

Wishing for a B2B meeting place in Oulu

An important channel for MeKiwi to get feedback on the released product has been the export trips organised by BusinessOulu to key markets in the games industry. While showcasing a published product, it also lays the groundwork for new projects. Developing a game for the international consumer market builds internal expertise and networks that also benefit the domestic market.

"Aatu Numminen, VR and B2B Customer Relationship Manager at MeKiwi, expects the opening of the BusinessAsema in Hallituskatu to create a positive environment for cooperation. ”I hope it will be a B2B meeting place, similar to what the Pelikampus is for the companies in the gaming sector"

"I like the pop-up idea. I could very well go there to present our VR entertainment games production," Numminen envisions. "People might well come up with new ideas. Then it's just a matter of planning how to implement them."

Research background

MeKiwi was one of the companies surveyed in a study conducted as part of the Innovation Alliance's Accelerating Operations project, which also included a master's thesis entitled “The Innovation Process of a Startup Company in a Regional Innovation Cluster”. The key finding of the study was that start-ups can benefit from the regional innovation ecosystem at all stages of their innovation process, both by using innovation support services and by establishing meaningful networking relationships. The study divided the innovation process into three stages according to the customer-driven Design Thinking innovation process model. In this series of three blogs, we describe how we implemented the principles of open innovation in line with these three stages.

Sources:

  • Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking can transform organizations and inspires innovation. New York (N.Y.): HarperBusiness.
  • Chesbrough H. (2003) The era of open innovation. MIT Sloan Management Review; 44:35–41
  • Crossan, M & Apaydin, M. (2010). A Multi-Dimensional Framework of Organizational Innovation: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of Management Studies, 47(6), 1154–1191.
  • Freel, M. S. (2005). Patterns of Innovation and Skills in Small Firms. Technovation, 25(2), 123–134.
  • Nieto, M. J. (2010). Technological Collaboration: Bridging the Innovation Gap between Small and Large Firms. Journal of Small Business Management, 48(1), 44–69.
  • Parida, V., Westerberg, M. ja Frishammar, J. (2012). Inbound Open Innovation Activities in High-Tech SMEs: The Impact on Innovation Performance. Journal of Small Business Management 2012 50(2), 283–309.
  • Rogers, M. (2004). Networks, Firm Size and Innovation. Small Business Economics, 22, 141–153.
  • Sydänmaanlakka, P. (2009). Jatkuva uudistuminen: Luovuuden ja innovatiivisuuden johtaminen.Hämeenlinna. Talentum Media Oy. 293 s.