Sunday, February 03, 2008
LiveHive games keep TV fans guessing at events like the Super Bowl
Sports nuts can answer trivia, make predictions for live events à la QB1
If you are a laptop-addicted armchair quarterback – or puck handler, figure skating fan or even a reality TV nut – LiveHive Systems wants you. Today.
The Waterloo-based software company has added an interactive element to television events and is hitching its product to just about any sporting event it can – and today's Super Bowl is no exception.
The company serves the demographic dubbed "two-screeners" – people who have their computer on while they watch TV. While that used to be rare, it's become much more common for gridiron fanatics to track their own virtual teams and the real ones simultaneously.
According to Robert Riopelle, LiveHive's vice-president of business development, the inspiration for the company came when the four founders were sitting in a bar watching a game and playing what-if scenarios.
"We were talking about what was happening – like someone's kicking a field goal, is he going to make it or not? Is it going to be a first down, what the end score going to be . . .? So there are all these questions that happen during a game, and we started thinking, 'Wouldn't it be cool to do this from home? And still do it together and have that same experience, because obviously there's value to it.'"
Calling its product "NanoGaming," LiveHive's interactive game asks players questions relevant to the live game, whether that's trivia or predicting the flow of play, like the pub game QB1 – but more open-ended. LiveHive powers the Playcaller game on ESPN.com and recent announcements included deals with the Maple Leafs (www.mapleleafs.com/gamemaster) and NBC for their figure-skating telecasts. Riopelle says the company builds on the passion people have for their content.
"It's all about community. We're connecting people all across North America, so we're creating one big virtual playroom for fans. And they all want to prove to other people how much they know," he says.
Riopelle says the company usually has a live operator inputting the information about a game – where the ball is, or in the case of, say, figure-skating, how many triple Lutzes a skater is going to attempt – but all the intelligence is in the back end of the system. The computer can define probabilities to how likely an outcome is and assign point values accordingly.
"We've had a lot of experience figuring out how to structure these games. How much is too much? When should you ask a question? You don't want to do it in the middle of an exciting play."
As long as there is a televised event for which the outcome isn't known, the company can create product for it. Reality TV is a natural fit – the company worked with Big Brother last year and hints some announcement regarding awards shows will be made soon. Further in the future, two-screening may soon be unnecessary, and Riopelle's ready to adapt to that.
"With technology advancements like streaming on the Web, we're actually starting to see more requests for projects where you embed the video stream into our products so you see it all on your computer. I think that is the future of it."