When Philipp Zent and Valdislav Samoilov first met at the TUM entrepreneurs program Think.Make.Start, they quickly found common ground as passionate gamers and entrepreneurs. Their startup “Brainamics” could revolutionize the world of playtesting.
Philipp Zent is studying Management and Technology at the TUM School of Management and Vladislav Samoilov completed his master’s degree in theoretical particle physics at TUM in 2021. For the development of their business ideas they received the Start Award for the business idea with the greatest potential in the 2021 Think.Make.Start. program (TMS). Brainamics (prior Brainsight) became third in the TUM IDEAward 2021 at the end of November 2021. We looked behind the scenes and got the chance to ask Philipp a couple of questions.
Philipp, what is the secret of a good computer game?
A good game has a healthy mix of challenges and rewards and gives gamers a sense of wellbeing. However, until now there was no way of measuring those effects. Developers have limited ability to predict the user experience. To address the problem, they invite testers to play the game, but their feedback is limited to the pen-and-paper surveys or talks with the developers after the test. All of this is extremely subjective.
What does this mean for the development of new games?
Despite gigantic development costs, many games flop in the market due to a poor user experience. To improve the user experience, developers need objective data that show exactly what players feel and how engaged they are at any moment and location of the game. Developers could then use this information to optimize their products.
What technologies does it take to capture testers’ emotions objectively?
Brainamics uses an Electroencephalogram (EEG), to measure the brain activity of the testers while they are playing the game. Then we apply machine learning to analyze the data. First, the algorithm is trained with the labelled EEG data of people watching emotional videos. From this data the AI learns to predict the emotions from the brain activity. This way we can determine how focused the person is and if he or she is experiencing positive or negative emotions. We can measure which regions of the brain get activated and how strongly. From this information, the trained AI can figure out which types of emotions are present in the game. For game developers, this technology opens up entirely new possibilities. For example, they can now see the exact moment where a tester starts losing focus and gets bored.
Are there other potential options for this emotion detection method apart from playtesting?
Neurotechnology has enormous potential. It’s basically about networking the human brain with computers. It’s still early days. Recognizing emotions with EEG data is just a small step, although it could benefit a lot of users. Music streaming services can test whether their playlists create certain moods. The technology is also interesting for marketing agencies. They can see if their campaigns trigger the desired emotions.
What aspect of your studies has helped you during TMS and later in the process of founding Brainsight (now Brainamics)? The ability to work in a team and to manage my time in an efficient manner. Many of the skills and qualities I learned in entrepreneurship courses offered by UnternehmerTUM, such as the Tech Challenge or Think.Make.Start, turned out to be extremely valuable for building a successful team and product. Core skills that I gained thanks to my studies are to build a product that really solves a problem and to work efficiently in a team.
What was the biggest challenge during the Think.Make.Start. competition from a management perspective?
Developing something tangible within a short amount of time and pitching our idea within just three minutes.
After the successful launching of Brainamics: What are the next steps?
We are excited that our EXIST funding period starts now in February. We will also incorporate next week, but before that we have to change our name as Brainsight is already taken. Besides that our constant focus lies on product development and further optimizing our technology. We will also finish our pre-seed round next week and onboard 2-3 new team members until the beginning of April.
And you can do all that and still keep up with your studies?
Surprisingly it’s no problem. TUM actively supports students who want to start companies: You actually get credit points for a lot of the workshops and courses on entrepreneurship such as Think.Make.Start. And if everything goes according to plan, my master’s thesis will be the Brainamics business plan. So, you can complete your degree while working on your startup – which is very cool.
The application deadline for the next Think.Make.Start. program is March 6, 2022.
The interview is based on the TUM press release.