Major global gambling firm Entain plc, on Monday announced the development and showcase of disruptive technologies and first consumer products for the sports and entertainment metaverse.
The gaming conglomerate, operating brands like Ladbrokes, Coral, bwin and partypoker, is launching a global innovation hub, Ennovate, with the first lab to open in London this spring.
An amount of up to £100 million (USD134.4M) will be allocated to innovation projects, start-up investments, and collaborations with UK, European and global partners, with £40 million specifically earmarked for innovation investment in the UK.
First technology companies partnering with Ennovate include Verizon, BT, and Theta Labs, all looking to develop ground-breaking experiences for customers in gaming and interactive entertainment.
Jette Nygaard-Andersen, Chief Executive of Entain, said:
“We want to lead the way with new, exciting products and experiences for customers and use our cutting-edge technology to pioneer innovations in sport, gaming, and interactive entertainment for the metaverse
We also want to use our position as a global technology leader to help drive innovation more widely. Working with partners around the globe, Ennovate will demonstrate how Entain’s industry-leading technology can both revolutionize experiences for consumers and deliver real benefits to society.”
Ennovate’s first dedicated innovation lab will be located in Charterhouse Square, Farringdon, at the heart of London’s entrepreneurial tech community, close to the UK headquarters of TikTok and Snapchat. It will host members of Entain’s innovation technology team, working alongside its commercial and not-for-profit partners.
Opening this spring, the location is being fitted out with cutting-edge technology, to create a unique environment for building and trialing new entertainment experiences. These will include developing new entertainment products for the metaverse, a virtual reality space where people will be able to interact in a computer-generated environment.
The centerpiece of this and future Ennovate labs will be an Experience Zone, enabling customers, investors, partners, and employees to try out new immersive experiences in sport, gaming, and interactive entertainment.
Sandeep Tiku, Chief Operating Officer at Entain, Lead on disruptive innovation, commented:
“Our goal is to bring the most exciting experiences in immersive sport, gaming, and interactive entertainment to life as the metaverse takes shape. Working with partners we believe we can achieve great things faster, both for customers and to apply these technologies and skills to benefit wider society.”
Not-for-profit organizations are also collaborating with Ennovate, using technology for innovations that bring societal and environmental benefits. All external partners will collaborate with Entain’s own tech team and use the Ennovate Hub to conceive, develop, experiment, and bring their innovations to life.
Ennovate will initially showcase:
New consumer products and experiences to lead immersive entertainment
- Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), or unique digital collectible assets, which Entain is developing for brands across the Group. Partypoker is announcing on Monday plans to launch its first official non-fungible tokens (NFTs) shortly, powered by Theta Labs. NFTs are unique, non-fungible certificates of authenticity of digital files, which could include items such as artwork, music, videos, or tweets. Partypoker’s NFTs will showcase some of the most iconic video moments and tournament hands in the history of partypoker and partypoker LIVE.
- Immersive experiences in Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) will also be shown and developed at the Ennovate Hub. These will include a pioneering VR multi-sports club experience, which the Group will launch shortly.
- VR Arcades – Entain will make immersive experiences available to customers on the high street, converting two locations into new VR retail experience zones where consumers will soon be able to try out ground-breaking new experiences in immersive sports and interactive entertainment for themselves. Entain is working on innovations for VR in retail and plans to open its first VR arcades later in the year.
Entain is building relationships and partnerships with technology innovators and companies, based in the UK and around the world, through the Ennovate Hub. Initial technology partners include:
- Verizon, a digital communications provider, is among the first major technology companies working with Entain to build the Ennovate 5G Lab and explore the power of 5G to drive immersive experiences for customers across sport and entertainment. Additionally, the two companies are collaborating to power more immersive and connected gaming experiences in international markets, including the U.S.
- BT will partner with the Ennovate Hub to explore new immersive products and experiences. As one of the biggest investors in the UK into technology R&D, BT will work with Ennovate to bring the power of its state-of-the-art 5G connectivity, its high-speed fixed networks and explore the use of Edge computing to deliver bespoke and disruptive experiences to Entain’s customers in the UK, delivering immersive experiences across sports, gaming and interactive entertainment.
- Theta Labs, which provides end-to-end infrastructure for decentralized video and powers NFT and metaverse platforms, is working with Entain to launch a white-labeled NFT platform for customers of partypoker. Entain technologists will work with Theta Labs further to use its technology across video streaming, metaverse, games, and more.
Accelerator and Incubator programs
- The Ennovate Hub will host accelerator and incubator programs, combining disruptive innovative ideas, technology, and the entrepreneurial spirit of startups with Entain’s unparalleled experience serving millions of customers globally.
- The accelerator will initially invest up to £5 million on individual initiatives to develop and super-charge innovative concepts to revolutionize interactive entertainment, as well as new technologies that deliver societal benefits in line with Entain’s sustainability agenda.
- Ennovate is already inviting startups focused on immersive customer experiences, interactive entertainment, and metaverse to become part of this accelerator program, which will formally launch in the summer.
- The first Ennovate lab will open in Farringdon, London in the spring. It will host on-site experimentation work involving around 50 full-time Entain developers and software engineers working on disruptive technology globally.
Not-for-profit and ESG partnerships
Entain wants the cutting-edge technology and innovations in development at the Ennovate Hub to deliver environmental and societal benefits. Not-for-profit partners will have access to technical expertise and working space at Ennovate, plus additional support and funding via Ennovate. Initial partnerships include:
- Chance for Childhood, an award-winning charity that supports vulnerable children across Africa, will work with technologists at the Ennovate Hub on an innovative mobile app that digitizes and builds on Chance for Childhood’s ground-breaking approach to detect hidden disabilities and development delays amongst pre-school children in Africa. Entain’s technology, using artificial intelligence, will drive personalized and play-based learning for children with disabilities and Special Education Needs (SEN), greatly helping to improve their life and learning prospects.
- Climate Hack.AI Also through the Ennovate, as joint main sponsor with Newcross Healthcare, Entain will fund and support Climate Hack.AI, an international competition that includes some of the brightest students at 25 of the world’s best universities such as University College London, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, and Cambridge – seeking to utilize artificial intelligence to help address climate change. The first competition is now underway and focuses on devising algorithms using satellite imagery of the earth to forecast the movement of weather fronts over the UK – an important step in the pipeline to predict solar energy production and subsequently, in reducing the amount of backup energy needing to be produced by carbon-based generators.
Through EnTrain, the group’s global D&I technology initiative, the group will also explore new collaborative opportunities at the Ennovate Hub to improve the representation of women in STEM industries. Existing partners include Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization that Entain is supporting to bring more young women into the technology industry, and the Tech Girls Movement Foundation, challenging gender perceptions that limit girls’ participation in STEM.
Through its not-for-profit Foundation, the Group is also working with The Berlin University of Technology and the Nexus Institute to develop international executive training to enhance diversity in research and development and The University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), to support graduate placements who will work alongside Entain’s U.S.-based Global Innovation Team at the UNLV Harry Reid Research and Technology Park.
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