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Youngsters in loco motion as Brighton’s Locomatrix wins investment

Locomatrix, a Brighton-based company, is quite literally aiming to reshape the landscape of the gaming industry by launching a GPS-enabled mobile phone platform that encourages children to play outdoors.  Supported by the East Sussex Hub, Locomatrix recently picked up the ‘Most Awesome Use of Digital Media’ award at this year’s Brighton and Hove Business Awards.  The company has also been awarded a Technology Strategy Board Creative Industries grant of £50,000 which will go towards a jointly funded project with the University of Brighton.  Together they will be developing a toolkit for school children to enable them to create their own GPS games on the Locomatrix platform.  

Concerned with rising rates of obesity among youngsters, Brighton based entrepreneur, Richard Vahrman, decided to look at ways of getting children outside and active whilst using technology they relate to and enjoy.  

In 2006 Richard created Locomatrix, a platform for GPS-enabled games on a mobile phone.  Using the same technology as a satellite navigation system used in cars and by walkers, players of Locomatrix games can take part in outdoor adventures, from treasure hunts to arcade game favourites.  

One such game already available is Fruit Farmer.  At any open location, such as a park or beach, players can run around collecting virtual oranges shown on their mobile phone screens. In doing so, however, they must avoid virtual obstacles and killer wasps!  

 “The simple fact is that obesity rates are increasing and children spend less and less of their time outdoors involved in physical activities which are good for their health,” explains Richard.  “This is partly due to the fact that so much of their entertainment is related to devices such as iPods, game consoles, and of course their mobile phones.  Children love being outdoors, so we spotted an opportunity to combine the two.  

“In fact, there is now a movement towards outdoor gaming with many people now ‘geo-caching’ and various outdoor gaming festivals taking place, such as HideAndSeek in London and the igFest (Interesting Games Festival) held in Bristol.  

 “Our games can be played on most GPS enabled mobile phones, or if your phone doesn’t have it built in, you can use a small separate GPS unit that fits in your pocket that connects to your phone via Bluetooth,” explains Richard.  “The Locomatrix platform can then sense your physical position and movements, and apply this to movements within your chosen game.”  

He adds: “We have several ideas for development and other games, but the beauty of the Locomatrix platform is that it is freely open to other developers to create their own games.”  

Since meeting Richard Vahrman, the East Sussex Enterprise Hub has worked closely with Locomatrix to help them develop and grow. Creative Sector Advisor Rhodri Alexander said: “This is a very exciting development which utilises modern technologies and encourages youngsters to become active.  Locomatrix is creating endless possibilities and opens up a new market for developers to produce new and exciting games for children who use mobile phones.”  

Locomatrix have been taking part in a successful mentoring programme initiated by the Hub earlier this year that has benefited the company greatly. The Hub also introduced Richard to the Creative Technologies department at the University of Portsmouth, who are planning a number of collaborative ventures for the upcoming academic year, including offering students the chance to create new games for the platform as part of their course.  

Contact: Rhodri Alexander
Publish Date: 01st December 2008

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