Enterprise
SMEs in VR industry
Najihah S 
Tan sees the possibility of bridging VR as a business solution
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Virtual reality (VR) which can simulate real-world environments is steadily being adopted in various industries, including education, property and soon, the legal and banking fields. Far from its typical use in the gaming industry, the functionality of VR, which also allows engagement, is seen as something that will enhance the efficiency of businesses.

VR Lab Bhd, for instance, is hoping to introduce VR to other industries. The company, which was set by in November 2016 by Datuk Jack Tang and his wife Shireen Tan, managed to raise RM2 mil in seed fund due to the immense potential of the VR business.

“They (investors) realise that the future of VR is solid. It is not just limited to games, but (can) also (be applied) in other industries. VR is now being used in education, property and soon, the legal and banking industry. And we would like to be the proponent of that in Malaysia,” Tan tells FocusM.

She says the company started operations after completing a market survey and business viability research in June 2016 and began roping in investors two months later.

Tan reveals that VR Lab’s investors are people who knew her from her years in the property industry.

VR Lab began operating its VR experience centres which can be used for gaming and VR-related programmes. The first centre opened in Subang in January 2017 and within a year it grew to seven outlets in the Klang Valley and one in Kuching.

The experience centres are run on a licensing basis where the licensing fee would be RM50,000 with 4% royalty fee for three years. Meanwhile, the cost of building an outlet can come up to RM300,000, depending on the size and location.

“We call it an experience centre because it can be more than a gaming platform. It is also a place where anyone who would like to have his business or service in VR mode can use,” Tan explains.

An experience centre has three rooms for different categories of usage and each is equipped with 11 HTC VR headsets from Taiwan. Most of the centres are in the Klang Valley and receive around 10-20 visitors on most weekends. The fee ranges from RM50 to RM100 per hour depending on the type of games played. Visitors are mostly college students but the number of families playing the games is also growing.

The 35-year-old Tan says the company is testing different business models to stay ahead of the competition. “Eventually we want our centres to also be a VR tool retail space where people can come and purchase VR goggles and software. At the moment each goggle costs about RM5,000 but we know the price will go down like what happened to mobile devices,” she adds.

 

Branching out 

VR Lab is now doing more than just providing VR goggles and building experience centres. It is also involved in VR usage for various events and for the property industry.

“We began aggressive marketing programmes last year where we approached universities, telcos and other corporates if they would like to embark on a VR experience for their products and services,” Tan says.

VR Lab collaborated with UEM Sunrise Bhd for its project called Solaris Parq where its “V prop touch” tool was used to showcase the new development using the VR goggle.

Apart from the property sector, Tan foresees the adoption of VR in the corporate world. “With VR, deliberations can be done between companies without the trouble of travelling. Similar to teleconference, but VR is much clearer,” she explains.

VR Lab’s team is already working on back-end programming to enable the hardware to be used in industries such as banking and legal. It is expected to be ready for marketing by next year.

VR Lab has also been approached by local universities to conduct several edutech programmes and will conduct in-depth research to work on the modules.

The company disclosed its total revenue for last year stood at RM3.5 mil, derived from all its experience centre outlets, events participation and collaboration with property developers. 

VR Lab’s experience centre will also sell tools like goggles and software

Incorporating retro and modern games with VR appeal

Serial entrepreneur Datuk Simon Foong is synonymous with introducing unconventional theme parks. He set up Aquaria KLCC in 2005 and has now established The Rift.

The Rift is a theme park that has games encompassing all eras, from arcade games to laser tag and modern ones like multi-player racing simulators.

Foong, who parked The Rift under a new company called Adventuria Sdn Bhd, has always had this in mind, but only managed to execute it last year.

“I’ve always been very IT-inclined and always into new gadgets and games. So it’s natural for me to get into this as I have a clear direction on how it should be. The name ‘The Rift’ was inspired by the movie Pacific Rim, where there is a separation of reality and fantasy.”

“The whole plan came about eight months ago and it was immediately built after that. Construction took about six months,” he adds.

The Rift in Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur, was launched last month and has over 30 games and a playground for children aged four to eight.

“Most of the content are IP driven, meaning we purchased the licences to have them here. They are mostly from the (United) States. These games can be played for team building purposes, and for those who are serious, they can even compete on an international level,” Foong explains.

Some of the well-known games available at The Rift are Defense of the Ancients (DotA), League of Legends and Terminator.

Foong points out that an important element of virtual reality (VR) is latency. “We pay attention to the latency issue which is why the goggles and screens that we use are made specifically for zero latency,” he adds.

He says the theme park is built by his company, Aquablu Sdn Bhd. “It cost about RM20 mil to build this. This is the first project for this company, and we did not look for any investors.”

The two-storey theme park, which can accommodate up to 800 visitors, will be expanded to provide more games.

Foong says the extension is scheduled to be completed before mid-February, just in time for the Chinese New Year.

Being a relatively new concept, Foong does not expect the business to be profitable soon.

“This is still new and we will not expect to break even up until its third year of operations. But I know we can manage to bring in at least half a million visitors by year-end because this is Mid Valley and it is known as a family mall,” he says.

The entrance fees are from RM55 to RM98 per person for all of the games while entry to the playland for kids costs RM35.

Positive on the development of VR among SMEs in the country, Foong shares that his company will be partnering local game developers to widen the games selection at The Rift.

“We’re working together with Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation to gather game developers so that they can showcase their games here,” he adds.



This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 267.