Tuesday, February 20, 2007

TNO awarded for mobile game

I was flabbergasted by the news that TNO had won a prize for developing a mobile game. I could not believe my eyes. TNO is Dutch research institute with some 40.000 employees. The institute covers a lot of research areas such as automotive, construction, health and food. The final three years of the last century, I worked for the institute among very serious researchers in the ICT/new media policy department. I had several good laughs with my colleagues of the scientific and technical policy department, but we never were in gaming or developing games. In fact, it was rather grey and dull at that time.

As soon as I had left, TNO started to change (no causal connection between my leaving and the changes). TNO bought KPN Research, the telecom department of the incumbent telco KPN. And another board of directors came in; they started to reorganise the research institute drastically (and rightly so). It is since that time that TNO has moved with its telecom research into surprising alleys, of which gaming is one.

Last week TNO was awarded the top International Mobile Gaming Award 2007 at the 3GSM exhibition in Barcelona (Spain). Besides winning the Grand Prix, it also won the most innovative award out of the 400 entries from 42 countries. The winners went home with 15.000 euro for the Grand Prix and 5.000 euro for the Most Innovative Award. The prize money will be spent in game research.

The price was awarded for the game Triangler. It is an outdoor game to be played with the mobile as tool. The game is played with two teams of five persons per team. Three team players make an equilateral triangle with sides of 150 metres. For the team the objective is to enclose the members of the other team, using gps location positioning and gprs data communication for coordination between the team members. The score resembles the number of enclosed opponents.

TNO did not develop the game for fun. TNO is also serving the Dutch military industry by developing equipment and vehicles, but also with strategy tools. Serious gaming is one of the strategic tools where TNO trains the Dutch military with. Triangle is now one of the serious games for the military, but also the police to train tactics and operational coordination. TNO sees opportunities to produces useful variations on Triangler.

TNO does not develop the games all by itself. But for the development of games it often collaborates in the Center for Advanced Gaming and Simulation with researchers of the University of Utrecht and developers of the media and art college HKU. TNO usually researches the use of serious games to train for response to crisis situations such as war, terrorist attacks, floods and large scale road accidents. Its second objective is to develop the necessary technology for wider use by game developers.

TNO was also active at the GSM exhibition in Barcelona with mobile video technology as a module of its mobile publishing system Farcast.

Research at TNO has become more exciting with games and content tools, I guess.

Blog Posting Number 670


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