As a part of the UK5G Creative Industries Campaign, we spoke to Jon Wetherall, a developer at CGA Studio.
1. Please can you tell UK5G about your business.
CGA Studio is a game development business. Our work typically involves creating “the serious applications” for games technology: for example, using digital twins to plan a5G network. In addition to this, we create computer games. As a part of the Liverpool Create 5G project, we created Chill Panda, which helps children to manage anxiety through coping strategies such as breathing exercises, yoga and puzzles. We are a small 15-person team based in Liverpool and have been around for 20 years.
2. How important is digital connectivity for CGA Studio?
Incredibly important! Every day we transfer gigabytes of data in and out of our office. If the Wi-Fi breaks, we don’t exist. Connection is how we synchronise information between teams, even if we’re working in the same office; we actually have one developer who is based in rural Scotland and he really struggles to be a part of the team. Source control is our obsession. It’s almost a religion within our industry. Our work exists in the cloud somewhere. A strong, reliable connection is vital for digital content production.
3. Have you trialled 5G yet?
Liverpool 5G Create is working with a local primary school in Kensington, Liverpool, to make sure they have affordable, reliable connectivity, via our 5G network. The 5G connection is free to use for people taking part in the project; reducing the digital divide is a key aim of the project. The pandemic highlighted difficulties for children trying to home-school, without reliable connectivity.
4. What have been your observations?
The Liverpool 5G project is now in its second phase, with Liverpool 5G Create extending the reach and capability of the network and use cases. In the first two years, the technologies community volunteers tried included a push-to-talk anti-loneliness device and a pharmacy link, for taking medicines at home. They said the technologies gave them more independence and made them feel connected to their community. There have been savings to health and social care services too. These were estimated at £240,000 per 100 users.
Our further funding, extending the project to 2022, will allow the team to grow and expand the network. This year the community will benefit from the addition of new technologies including 5G-supported GP services; children’s anti-anxiety game (Chill Panda); and ‘haptic hug’ (a virtual hug from an absent family member). We’re also providing 5G connectivity to a local school so any children home-school have the best possible connectivity.
5. How important do you think 5G is going to be for the creative industries?
I'm old enough to remember the different generations of the mobile phone. Creativity has changed a lot since then. We never imagined the prevalence of an app like Tik Tok, for example. 5G has guaranteed connectivity and a strong bandwidth; it’s exciting thinking about what that will enable. The internet is wild.
5G will improve the ability of mobile gamers to monetise their players. The network will also more than likely create new types of games but I don’t think we know how just yet. Since 5G reduces costs though, I expect to see more video-to-video player games that typically require lots of connectivity. It’s a very interesting time for technology.
Initially, we started Chill Panda with the idea that the game could use viewers' heart rates to measure anxiety. What we really want to do now is branch out to wearable devices. The obvious one would be an Apple watch but they cost hundreds! 5G could be the solution to make solutions more accessible.