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Beyond badges: the case for gamification

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Over the past several years, gamification, the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people, has found its way into the corporate lexicon, with companies scrambling to ‘gamify’ elements of their business, writes JASON RIED, MD of Fuzzy Logic.

As with many new technology platforms and tools, however, the rush to adopt gamification led to many poor use cases and a misinterpretation of what the tool can really offer. Clearly, this hasn’t hindered investment – according to M2Research, ‘the size of the gamification market, currently estimated at around $100million, will grow to more than $2.8billion by 2016.”

To date, the majority of companies have viewed gamification as a way to retain staff and hopefully motivate teams and departments – by simply bolting on a gaming element to existing systems and processes. Yet true gamification extends far beyond simply rewarding a user with a virtual badge or points – and then pitting users against each other in a race to accumulate these online rewards. Sometimes, the word ‘game’ also deters companies from applying the concept in more impactful ways.

Indeed, to leverage and explore the full potential of this tool, companies and developers need to work together to add meaningful layers to the gamified experience – which not only enhance the experience, but also result in tangible (and measurable) changes in behaviour. Essentially, this is the great promise of gamification: influence and ultimately modify human behaviour to drive favourable business outcomes. These outcomes can include more successful loyalty programmes, higher engagement with internal communications and e-learning tools, or wider adoption of internal systems and processes.

Gamification is certainly a way to not only engage employees, but consumers/clients as well. Indeed, as some prominent insurers have already proven, gamification can be used to influence consumer behaviour for better social – and business – outcomes.

Ultimately, the use cases are infinite – but the fundamental approach has to be sound.

Identifying the Core Loop 

We approach the development of gamification tools – and indeed, games and apps – using the same underlying principle as a Skinner box. Also known as an operant conditioning chamber, it is an enclosed apparatus that contains a bar or key that an animal can press or manipulate in order to obtain food or water as a type of reinforcement. This concept has enabled researchers to find out which schedule of reinforcement will lead to the highest response rates.

In the gaming world, we explore which levers or elements within the game design or app can potentially influence behaviour – so, it’s a process of discovering the Skinner box within the virtual universe or app we have created. Once these levers have been identified, you can then start modifying and adding layers to guide users in the discovery of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ outcomes.

A critical part of this process lies in identifying the ‘core loop’, to borrow another term from the gaming sphere. The core loop is the single most important element of a video game – it’s how players will describe the game to their peers. As developers, we understand that making this core loop easy to comprehend and repeat goes a long way towards engaging and retaining players and users. So when developing a gamified tool or app, the key is to link this core loop with the key behaviours or outcomes you are seeking. This inevitably requires a deep understanding of the psychological drivers behind behavioural patterns. As developers, we integrate this type of understanding and insight into what we do – making it integral to our offering.

Planned Unpredictability

An interesting insight that we have gained is that planned unpredictability can increase users’ engagement. Again, game loops are the key tool here – in that the first loop is the basic task/reward, the next loop is what you do with that in the medium term, and then the next loop is what you do with that in the longer term. Each loop needs to ‘surprise’ the user in that they are excited to see something new open up – either as a task or a reward. This in turn creates further engagement in the first loop as now there is a bigger picture to the task. Revealing the much bigger loop then surprises people again, giving them an incentive to perform the medium loop, which in turn drives the first loop.

This ‘holistic’ view can really drive and impact behaviour, and while it can appear random, truly well designed systems are anything but random. For example, we like to add unexpected elements into the game/system which can then obscure the task loops by introducing surprising elements that even disappear at times. These layers are what make games addictive, as you’re always finding new things (people are explorers at heart!).

For example, a major financial institution was looking to develop a tool that blended both gamification and augmented reality in order to improve the on-boarding/training process with new employees. We developed an app in which new staff members start with an image, and this becomes a seedling plant. The adjudicator from Training Room Online asks questions and awards points throughout the training period and these points are used to grow a virtual tree. As the days – and training – progress, the seasons will move from autumn, summer, winter and spring, each with corresponding visual designs, allowing the players to see their progression in relation to other trainees. Teams doing well might have a luscious tree going into winter, while others might have a sapling and have a lot to catch up on!

A Constant Feedback Loop

In the spirit of much of today’s software development, we adopt the agile approach to developing gamification solutions, and constantly user test to make incremental adjustments This approach applies to any development project – not just gamified solutions, particularly as data becomes more readily available. The data can lead to critical insights into both employees and customers. As a result, we view these projects as an ongoing feedback loop, using data to guide our decisions and ultimately add value to the business or platform in question. So while virtual badges and titles remain useful and compelling tools, there is undoubtedly a far more layered and nuanced approach behind the most successful gamification strategies.

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Samsung in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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