Virtual attraction

2 September 2019

Alberto García-Baquero Vega is the chief technology officer at Golden Race, a creator and global provider of virtual sports and betting solutions

The engagement opportunities presented by live rendering will make it an indispensable tool if virtual or augmented reality sports betting is to continue growing in the industry, according to Golden Race’s chief technology officer, Alberto García-Baquero Vega.

Live rendering – as opposed to pre-rendered content – not only means that operators do not have to store additional data to keep virtual products fresh, but also means that consumers will never face the same visual experience twice.

For providers such as Golden Race, the technology is an integral part of its offering to operators.

However, as García-Baquero explains, such technology is not always seen as the answer by clients or indeed the company itself.

“Live rendering is a tool that should be applied if it makes your product better, but with some products it just is not possible to apply it,” García-Baquero says.

“From the perspective of the operators, they just want to have the right products that provide a good experience for the player and I don’t think they necessarily favour live rendering currently. However, there are benefits. It’s not just about the visuals; it’s the overall experience and dynamics, which are really different in comparison with live sport.

“I don’t think live rendering is the only approach, and we don’t go straight to it for every individual product. We always ask what will be the best approach and, for example, we have a different approach for retail and the online or mobile experience.

“However, live rendering does provide differentiation and a flexibility in the product format.”

Conservative approach

García-Baquero admits that the approach to content creation and motion capture in the industry has been “quite conservative” to date and “limited to small areas of capture, small amounts of actors and a huge amount of manual processing”.

In the coming years, though, he believes that the process will evolve.

“Content acquisition and motion capture is an important area to optimise for each individual project,” García-Baquero says. “We are working with studios and hardware providers to create unique solutions that satisfy requirements for each of our products.

“But new techniques for content creation will enable a much bigger leap in quality than rendering approached.

“I am not sure about how successful virtual reality or augmented reality products will be in the future, but for sure they will only be successful with live rendering, with many more interaction possibilities than we are used to with established virtual sports up to now.”

García-Baquero describes the pre-rendered approach as applying “brute force”, with very clear drawbacks.

He adds: “With live rendering it enables you to create any market you want and establish associations with events that are not possible unless you force it through at a very high cost.”

García-Baquero argues that brute force requires massive storage and is inflexible due to the lack of customisation for audiences. This can result in long frequency updates and outdated products, he adds.

Alternatively, pre-rendered content can guarantee high-quality visuals. However, the low levels of customisation and high costs can make it a challenging proposition.

Costs and storage capacities are also key considerations for operators and brands in emerging markets such as Africa, for example, where Golden Race has found increasing levels of appetite for live rendering.

Multiple matches in “skin formats” with customisable teams, logos and other features, can be presented simultaneously via a box, whereas the alternative approach through a satellite signal would not be realistically achievable.

Challenges

However, there are also challenges for live rendering integration that cannot be overlooked.

“If you are running inexpensive hardware, then you need to do a lot of optimisation and fine-tuning,” he says. “With live rendering, it is a platform rather than a product, so there are continuous updates.

“It helps if you have a skilled team that is able to maximise the performance. Our team members include people who have worked on special effects in movies, as well as experienced game developers and experts in real-time graphics.”

García-Baquero believes that the quality of live rendering technology will only improve in the future, although some operators will still need to be convinced.

“I don’t think anybody will even think of offline rendering in the future,” he says. “Virtual is a category by itself and its huge potential is a reality that many operators will have to face in the coming years.

“It will be amazing to witness the evolution of live rendering, as well as virtual and augmented reality, as it will bring significant opportunities for betting shops as well as online and mobile platforms.

“Some established operators need to realise how big virtual sports can be. The traditional view with sports is to provide a content feed only – but I think that is a big mistake, and a broader solution is required.”