Cerberus is a fun game with a big educational component. The game takes satellite images or aerial photography to players who are then asked what it is they can see in the image. These could be sediments on Mars or damaged roads after an earthquake or the effects of climate change on the poles. Research has shown that when enough players make an assumption about a spot in the satellite image it is actually to correct definition. The ‘crowd-sourcing’ results are achieved via an online portal similar to Google Earth and maps can be generated quickly and effectively by players from the age of ten and upwards. The game is not just a map-making tool; it is fun and informative, and enables players to directly impact the outcome of a variety of activities...from space exploration to management of natural disasters around the globe. Cerberus is the main product being developed by BlackShore-Creative which was launched some years ago as multimedia concept and design company.
Cerberus, like most companies, started with a plan that unfortunately made no allowances for setbacks. The programming of the actual game was outsourced and went through four rounds of negotiations with various companies, none of which worked out. Finances were tight as well, and finding a company with the right resources was not easy. It was eventually outsourced to a company in Egypt. In 2011, at a conference in the US, however, the director of Streaming Creativity, a games studio, showed interest in the project and it seemed that both sides found the other a good fit professionally and creatively. Early stage finance has been a concern, but on the plus side the ESA (European Space Agency) Incubator has been immensely helpful with product development, a huge boost at the start-up phase.
The incubator advantage
Cerberus was Hans van 't Woud’s master’s degree research at the university of Amsterdam. After a successful graduation (and thus validation) of the Cerberus crowd-sourcing method it was the time to start looking for a job. At that time, however, the entrepreneur had no idea about the existence of incubators. It was a chance meeting with someone from the University of Leiden that resulted in an introduction to Niels Eldering from ESA's technology transfer office. This meeting provided the inspiration to apply for and scout for other business opportunities that went beyond the mapping of Mars. Besides the product development angle and legal cost benefits, there are other practical benefits as ESA has enabled access to knowledge that has increased scientific performance of the game in relation to space domain. Also as an incubatee Hans feels, there exists within the ESA framework, the possibility to network and build connections that might be beneficial at a later, post-incubator stage. The ESA business incubator offers “great and affordable office facilities”, interesting events involving space-related companies and so much more. He feels there is a distinct plus in being with other start-ups, and sharing similar aspirations and obstacles, as it makes the entrepreneur feel like they are part of a collective with a common goal, which is to build successful and interesting businesses.
“I am still in my incubatee period and I am not certain Cerberus is going to be a success, but with the help of the ESA incubator I am much further than I ever could have imagined,” says Hans van 't Woud. According to him, going into an incubator puts you into the ‘entrepreneur mindset’ and puts you in touch with a network that can be beneficial to one’s business needs. ESA has provided him valuable access to media contacts, for example. This does not mean complete dependency on the incubator, however, and for the most part it is business as usual.
Where to find us
Cerberus Gaming, Netherlands
Administration: BlackShore - creative
2332 GR Leiden
ESA BIC Noordwijk
European Space Innovation Centre ESIC
2201 BB Noordwijk
Published on 14-10-2012 15:05 by David Tee. 979 page views
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