Video games can help the automotive industry to solve the problems linked to the mobility transition, says Manouchehr Shamsrizi, a gaming expert from Humboldt University in Berlin. Because they drive innovation, games allow us a glimpse of the future – and not just because they have been using highly sophisticated technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality in a smart way for some time now.
People who are not interested in video games associate them with fantasy words or science fiction scenarios totally unrelated to reality. What can companies learn from gaming for their business?
Manouchehr Shamsrizi: There are at least three reasons why corporate decision-makers should try to understand this activity even if they are not interested in it. Gamers are your future customers and your future employees. Their expectations with respect to products and services – as well as their expectations regarding the world of work, from application procedures to organizational development – have been massively shaped by their socialization as gamers. What's more: people who get involved in gaming learn very early on how future technologies work – and can apply this knowledge in their business models.
Why should companies consider that their future customers have spent a lot of time on gambling?
Today games are the most frequently used cultural medium worldwide. The younger generation has been massively influenced by this cultural technique, and anyone who has grown up with games has certain expectations. If, for example, the user interface in a car has been poorly designed or programmed, the gamer picks this up right away: she has been accustomed to something totally different from gaming, i.e. the most sophisticated technologies and many innovations – in design, for example. This then constitutes the benchmark against which smart companies should measure themselves!
Where do you see that gaming has exerted this strong influence on society and the economy?
In the number of people involving in gaming, for example. Whether they play Candy Crush on a mobile phone or a complex game on a PC or console: more than three billion people worldwide play video games regularly. We live in an age of games. They have clearly had an impact on society – as have other media such as movies, series or music. I would hazard the observation, moreover, that the effect of gaming has been even more dramatic since, for one thing, they are an interactive and connecting medium that allows us to peek into the future.
Why is that?
Games are drivers of innovation. Whether artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing or virtual reality (VR): these technologies have all been driven forward – and are still being driven forward – by the video game industry. It is no new observation that the use of digital or online technologies in gaming is years ahead of the use of these technologies in the world of work. People who get involved in gaming are thus frequently the first to know how future technologies will develop – and can use this knowledge to devise strategies giving them a competitive edge. A company that takes no account of gaming will always be running behind the trend in the future.
You mean the technology of tomorrow is already being used in games?
Exactly. Just have a look at the use of virtual reality in games, for example, or ray tracing, the virtual reproduction of light rays to make the graphics in video games even more realistic. The characters that are to be developed in the future with the "MetaHuman Creator" in the "Unreal Engine," for example, are hardly distinguishable from real photographs – to give just a few examples. An important point in this context is that gaming has made highly technical developments accessible and available to a broad public.
Your hypothesis is that traditional industry has a lot to learn from gaming. Are some companies already doing this?
Of course! To stay in the environment of the IAA Mobility: Porsche recently announced that it wants to use game engines in its vehicle development in the future. And Deutsche Bahn is already using virtual reality and augmented reality techniques to train their employees. Another exciting example is the fact – and the way – that IBM is placing its bets on gaming for the development of its quantum computer.
Why do many companies not have gaming on their radar screens?
There is frequently a gap in their thinking. Games are perceived as a world of their own that has nothing to do with one's own company. However, this is in fact not the case. Once people have overcome this gap in their thinking, they realize that games offer a chance to learn something about both technical and cultural developments. In my opinion, it is tragic from a business management perspective, and annoying from an economic perspective, that many decision-makers view the topic of gaming very selectively or not at all. Companies that do not take account of gaming jeopardize their competitiveness.
Should corporate decision-makers play video games to gain a better understanding of gaming?
Specialist employees and managerial staff can gain this understanding without becoming gamers. Nevertheless, my personal conviction is that you must have played yourself! If you have ever played an immersive game where you are totally submerged in the virtual world – or if you have ever experienced a complex weak form of AI in a game – then you will no longer have any doubts that gaming has an impact on people, on society and thus on business enterprises.
This year gaming is a topic at the IAA for the first time. How did the cooperation between the IAA and the Humboldt-Innovation Group for Gaming come into existence?
Gaming can help the automotive industry solve problems. It can also help us as a society achieve a successful mobility transition. One reason is that gaming transports sustainable narratives. At the IAA Mobility, therefore, we want to find out what concept of mobility finds its way into the games. With future customers in mind, the automotive industry stands to benefit from knowing what concepts of mobility are conveyed by games. Since we take part in knowledge and technology transfer, Humboldt-Innovation, a subsidiary company of Humboldt University, is a suitable partner for us in this endeavor.
What exactly will you be talking about in your Master Class at the IAA Mobility?
Our Master Class is aimed at the R&D and engineering departments of automotive companies, supplier companies and other companies in the mobility industry. Our speakers reflect the various routes into the topic of "Gaming: A Driver of Innovation."
To what extent?
Frank Steinicke, Professor of Computer Science, is an eminent authority on virtual reality and performs research on artificial intelligence. He will talk about how the gaming community utilized these two technologies way before many other players did – and that it is therefore worthwhile to conduct an ongoing dialogue with the players in this community. Professor Fabian Hemmert is a design researcher and has worked for gaming giants such as Nintendo and Marvel. He will explain how we can learn, from the theory and practice of game development, how to design software and hardware suited to our human nature. We are also proud to welcome Dr. James Wootton. Dr. Wootton designs quantum computers at IBM and is probably the first scientist to develop a game that runs on a quantum computer.
To what extent do quantum computers play a role here?
It is no secret that companies including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Bosch are taking a hard look at the effects of quantum technologies on traffic and transport. Volkswagen, for example, presented its first large-scale project on the optimization of traffic in real time back in 2019. Against this background, the interdependency of gaming and quantum computing is of great interest to us.
That is perhaps a bit specialized for IAA visitors who have never been involved in gaming . . .
That's true. In the Master Class, technical developments and design aspects are in the foreground. For a first introduction to the topic of gaming and the mobility concepts of the future, I can recommend our panel discussion on "Gaming as Future Research: New Mobility Concepts between Technologies and Culture."
Gaming as the subject of future research therefore . . .
This research will explore all the aspects I have just mentioned. One of the participants is Professor Martina Schraudner, Head of the Fraunhofer Center for Responsible Research and Innovation and Member of the Board of Directors of the German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech). Professor Schraudner has a special interest in the topics of participation and diversity in the development of technologies and products and is taking part in a large-scale project on sandbox gaming now ongoing. Another participant is Kaspar Johannes Meyer from the German Foreign Office. Meyer will report on why gaming became important for the GFO – and how the GFO got involved in this topic. Another corporate "old hand" in the gaming industry is Robert Schenker, Founder and CEO of Schenker Technologies. Schenker has observed – and helped to shape – the impact of gaming technologies on various branches of industry for many years and will report from his own experience.
1. Civilization VI
Shamsrizi: "A classic and complex business simulation game in which the players compete with other nations. Politics, supply chains, resources, education, sustainability: these are all things the players must consider – a situation not unlike that facing the members of the VW Management Board."
2. Cyberpunk 2077
Shamsrizi: "A terrific example of how transmedial the world has become and the extent to which AI enriches the world of both travel companions and opponents. Furthermore, this dystopic genre – with its concrete deserts and lifeless cities – conveys a stark impression of a kind of mobility none of us wants to experience."
Shamsrizi: "In this sandbox game you can build a fantastic world that incorporates your own visions of the future – a world that can be entered. It is a kind of virtual Lego without boundaries. For years it has been one of the most-frequently played games among school students all over the world and is even used successfully in schools."