COVINGTON, Ky. - Workplace training could become serious fun--if Covington startup GamiGen has its way. The company takes mundane training topics like fire safety, and turns them into an easy-to-play game.
GamiGen's goal is to make learning fun, and to help employees better retain potentially life-saving information.
9 Questions for GamiGen's Brett Canter, president and co-founder
1. How did you come up with the idea for GamiGen?
I went to school as a computer science major, and my focus was video game technology. As I neared the end of my college career, I was looking for interesting ways to apply my degree, and a peer contacted me about using the technology to teach safety concepts. The rest is history!
2. The company used to be called 7 Moose Games, why did you change the name? Did it represent any change in focus?
The name change definitely reflected a change in focus. As 7 Moose Games, we were indie game developers working on the “next big thing” in gaming, and we were working very hard to realize that goal. However, “7 Moose Games” also confused and befuddled many as we came onboard with (business accelerator) UpTech.
After some soul searching, and weighing the constant barrage of opinions on the name “7 Moose Games,” we made a decision to re-brand the company.
3. Can you briefly explain your first product, the Basic Fire Safety and Fire Extinguisher simulation, and how it works?
Basic Fire Safety is an experiential simulation which focuses on teaching core fire safety concepts using easy-to-relate digital environments. The product is a fun, interesting, provocative lesson in fire safety where the student can explore the content without ever being in danger.
You will find that a popular fire extinguisher training method is to hand a live fire extinguisher to a student, and point the student at a real fire. For the first-time student, this experience can cause some stress which consequently can lead to potential accidents during the training session.
The training can also get expensive when considering the cost of extinguishers as well as having a fire safety professional on standby should a serious situation evolve, however the “learn by doing” aspect of a live fire extinguisher class is second-to-none. Our goal was to faithfully recreate the same experience while removing the danger.
4. What other types of products are you selling now?
GamiGen has developed a “Situational Awareness” product which has garnered great interest of late. Situational Awareness is essentially “Where’s Waldo," but instead of finding Waldo, the student must identify potential hazards and bad behaviors on work sites. This type of training is extremely useful for the construction industry simply because it promotes awareness of your surroundings and addressing problems before people get hurt.
5. How does the gaming platform better teach concepts like fire safety?
One of the most frustrating issues facing training content providers today is the fact that many topics are inherently boring, and to be blunt, many students dread walking into training centers. The task of getting a student to retain information is hard enough, but it’s nearly impossible if you have lost the student’s interest before ever walking into the training room!
With game-based learning, there’s already an expectation that the training might be fun. Our products can push some boundaries that traditional training cannot, and we can offer experiences that cannot be created using conventional technologies such as Power Point.
We’ve all sat through those classes, right? The trainer shows a Power Point slide, and then the trainer regurgitates the slide content and moves to the next slide. Rinse, repeat ad nauseam …. Yuck, right?!
6. What types of clients do you target?
Currently we are focused on industries that present inherently dangerous situations as a part of the normal day-to-day grind. Construction, energy, and manufacturing industries are just a few examples of where we think our technology fits well.
With that being said, I firmly believe that game-based learning has a place in all environments if done properly.
7. Do you have any new products coming soon?
We are developing a new web-based product which will allow our clients to create their own custom Situational Awareness training using their own content, and our clients will have the ability to deliver the content using internet browsers without the use of any plugin. We are very excited about this new web-product, and we’re expecting to go into a public beta in Q1 2014. Very exciting!
8. What's your biggest challenge in the marketplace?
One of our biggest challenges has been overcoming the stigma of games in the workplace. We are dealing with very important and serious topics, and we have
to be vigilant when walking the line between games-based approach and the serious nature of the content.
Also, we realize that the work force consists of many types of people. Many of these people are not gamers, and/or these folks can find navigation within a 3D simulation quite challenging. This is where our motto of “Game-based learning for all generations” really comes into play. We have pioneered input systems that allow individuals with ANY level of gaming experience to extract benefit from the product.
9. What's next for GamiGen?
Aside from the new web-based Situational Awareness tool, we are currently working to move our courses into the world of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality! We are early adopters of various hardware technologies that allow us to create fully 3-dimensional product (think of an IMAX 3D Movie) using low-cost headsets. In fact, we have developed our own headset which uses smart phones as the screen and sensor device! Simply slide your smart phone into our headset, and fire up the 3D simulation of your choice (or a 3D video).
The level of immersion which takes place using this new style of presentation is absolutely astounding, and we are very excited about the possibilities. One of our first products using this technology will focus on inspection training.
Connect with contributor Feoshia Davis on Twitter: @feoshiawrites. Look for a new "9 Q&A" each Monday!