Kindred Futures - What does the future hold for the gambling and VR crossover?

Kindred Futures - What does the future hold for the gambling and VR crossover?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017
A Q&A with Will Mace of Kindred Futures

Following the Unibet Copenhagen Open, at which some esports pros trialled the LuckyVR poker products, we caught up with the Head of Kindred Futures Will Mace to discuss the VR trend and what impact it’s going to have in gambling.

Totally Gaming: In what ways do you see VR becoming a part of the online poker experience? Is it a fad that will die out?

Will Mace: Although still in its infancy, the VR industry is widely considered to have the potential to change the way almost all media is consumed.

We believe online poker could be disrupted, as the immersive experience and enhanced social interaction that VR creates, will facilitate some of the real-world poker elements that traditional online poker can’t replicate. The feedback we received from esports players during the trial at the Unibet Copenhagen Open showed how blown away they were by how ‘real’ it felt and how easy it was to play, and that it could be a popular product with the potential to both appeal to new audiences and engage existing players.

Whether regular online and VR players join the same table, or it becomes a completely separate line is too early to say, but the disruptive potential it holds is worth experimenting with further. We’re continue our work with LuckyVR to explore this potential future and whether a sustainable VR poker product could be launched.

There are current barriers to adoption for VR – not least the cost of the kit and the lack of available content – but we are confident these barriers will subside as big companies continue to invest and develop software and hardware. VR has undergone a ‘hypecycle’ of inflated expectations, but enlightenment and productivity phases will follow with more mature, data led forecasts driving growth.

It is still some years before it becomes mainstream or revenue generating, but with the potential it holds and the investment it’s seen, VR is unlikely to pass away as a fad.

TG: Is the main way VR will infiltrate the gambling space in general through poker?

Mace: Lucky VR is exploring multiple different VR products for the gambling sector.

The team are developing software for several traditional casino games like slots, poker and blackjack, making them into engaging virtual reality applications.

There’s opportunity for other casino games in the VR space, but we believe poker is especially well suited. It’s one of the most social and interactive forms of gambling so fits with the engaging and immersive nature of VR. Utilising this natural fit, we have injected our customer insight and operator expertise into the partnership with Lucky VR to further develop their product and explore its potential.

TG: Tell us about what Kindred Futures is working on right now and what it has coming up

Mace: Alongside exploring virtual reality poker, Kindred Futures have been looking at responsible gaming; hosting a roundtable discussion centred on how artificial intelligence and machine learning can recognise problem behaviours faster and more effectively.

We (The Kindred Group) pride ourselves on our leadership in the responsible gaming space, and following the roundtable further work is being undertaken to develop the discussions into services for our players.

Outside of these two focus areas, Kindred Futures have developed partnerships with a leading cybersecurity startup, an onboarding FinTech startup, and have many other topics of interest. From augmented reality to authentication methods, new technologies are coming to market every day, and our mission is to drive Kindred’s transformational innovation agenda through mutually beneficial partnerships to co-create future value propositions.

TG: Why did you choose to use esports players to trial the VR game?

Mace: Esports players are experienced with new technologies, influential in online circles and they can bring a non-poker perspective on what current trends are in gaming.

They know what resonates with followers and from this, what features will attract new players to virtual poker tables. We see VR poker having the power to move beyond traditional online players and bring a new audience – one of casual players, gamers, live players and those wanting a more immersive and social experience.

Including esports players allowed us to gain insight into whether these ambitions could come to fruition, and gave vital feedback for LuckyVR to further develop the game.

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