The next time you are trying out new filters on Snapchat or Instagram, be sure to keep in mind that you are partly responsible for taking the world deeper into the realm known as Augmented Reality (AR). Krikey, (pronounced Cry-Key) is a gaming application that allows you to experience a world quite different to the one you’re living in, with the help of just your smartphone camera. From genres like action-adventure, to wildlife and even horror, this San Francisco-based gaming startup has had quite the run since its initiation in 2017.
Available on both Google Play Store and iOS app store, Krikey allows its users to perceive real world elements in a virtual environment. The app features three map-based games, namely Yaatra, Wingspan and Gorillas. Users can choose to play at home or explore the outdoors. Either way, the gaming experience is nothing short of an adventure!
Krieky Mate! The Come up
Despite having worked with some big names, the startup did have humble beginnings. Sisters Jhanvi and Ketaki Shriram co-founded Krikey Inc. in January, 2017 out of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, while they lived in the apartment next door. Over the following year, the two experimented with a different software and produced a range of games and virtual objects, mainly animals like humpback whales and lions amongst others. After almost 3 years of hard work and dedication, they shifted their startup to a legitimate office in the Financial District and have a team of 30 full-time and part-time employees.
Jhanvi, who is the CEO of the company, holds a BA and an MBA from Stanford and an MFA from USC whereas Ketaki, the CTO, holds a BA, MA and PhD in virtual reality and game development from Stanford. Ketaki went on to be included in the ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ list for gaming in 2020. Krikey also made it to ‘The Fast Company’ list of Best Apps and Games of 2020. Even though the two have had experience working at tech-oriented companies like YouTube, Facebook’s Oculus and Google X, the approach taken by them was unlike any other gaming startup at the time.
To understand what Krikey is all about, we need to first understand their area of interest better. The AR foundation tool kit used by Krikey is vital for creating games that function cross-platform, at scale. They use dynamic ground plane detection and camera transition to enable users to interact with the real world. Augmented reality is halfway between virtual reality and reality itself. Instead of having a completely virtual world around you, in an augmented environment, you can interact with virtual objects in a physical setting. Krikey allows its users to experience a world which they can control without having to go through the hassle of buying expensive gear that most virtual reality games require. By simply downloading the application, Krikey users are free to enter three different worlds using just their smartphone cameras.
The gaming industry is not short of cut-throat competition. The stereotypes of a ‘gamer’ portrayed by pop culture are quite accurate. The latest consoles, graphic chipsets, keyboards, headsets and other gaming gear without a doubt leave the average consumer’s pockets lighter. Even mid-range smartphones these days are focusing on improving the gaming experience because the market calls for it. So, how does Krikey plan to keep up with the likes of PUBG Mobile and other big names in the industry?
Krikey: More a Platform than a Game
Like many founders, Ketaki and Jhanvi weren’t exactly sure what their product would be at first, however, they did know that they wanted to create a platform that dealt with how immersive virtual experiences could affect people and change human behavior. Unlike most gaming applications, Krikey is not offering a video game as their end-product. There are no complex storylines or missions or even a point system per se. Users get to choose from a variety of different simulations that change as per their surroundings. To put it in technical terms, the startup is targeting the augmented reality market rather than the gaming one. This means that user experience takes the front seat.
CEO, Jhanvi Shriram hopes to use Krikey as a virtual window to the real world to induce behavioral changes, and amplify the concept of conservation in people through their interactions in different ecosystems
The thing about AR is that it is interesting to non-gamers as well. A report by Ericsson ConsumerLab shows that 35 per cent of non-gamers have shown interest in AR gaming. This is a significant amount as 23 per cent of AR consumers are, in fact, non-gamers. Furthermore, 6 out of 10 AR gamers have expressed that the sole reason for gaming is the experience AR platforms bring to the table. So, with augmented reality being in the hot seat, and the market lacking a semi-immersive gameplay platform, it only made sense to strike while the iron was hot.
How Krikey is Building an Arsenal
Augmented reality, as a concept, is not particularly a new one. One of the earliest mentions of the concept would probably be in the year 2006. With Sony and Microsoft dominating the market with the PlayStation and Xbox respectively, Wii by Nintendo proved to be revolutionary. While its counterparts washed Wii when it came to computational power and graphics, Wii brought something new to the table – Immersive gameplay. Users could now make their characters mirror their actions through the Wii console. Games like Wii Sports, Mario Kart Wii and Wii Play changed the way people looked at gameplay for the years to come.
It was in 2016 that AR gaming got propelled back into the mainstream. Pokémon GO, an extremely popular AR game, was making headlines for different reasons. Developed by Niantic in collaboration with Nintendo, Pokémon Go allowed players to catch and explore their favourite Pokémon in real locations like your everyday Spencer’s or Starbucks. Players could also meet other Pokémon enthusiasts through the game. Even though the game’s popularity grew exponentially since its launch, there were rising concerns about how addictive the game had become. Incidents of children meeting with accidents while being engrossed in the game went viral and the game was even banned for a period of time. With the dos and don’ts of AR gaming laid out to them on a silver platter, the duo decided to make.
Their presence felt in the years to come. Any up and coming startup is incomplete without a unique branding strategy. The inspiration behind the name ‘Krikey’ comes from a popular Australian slang Crikey! , which is supposed to indicate surprise and delight, a feeling sisters Jhanvi and Ketaki hope their users experience through the platform.
Using Emotion As a Tool
The year 2018 saw the launch of Krikey’s flagship game, Wingspan. In collaboration with the National Audubon Society, the game was essentially Google maps had virtual birds layered over it. Users could explore different areas and virtually birdwatch. The game was inspired by a board game that already exists. The sisters went on to explain that the intention behind launching a game like Wingspan was to encourage people to appreciate nature and wildlife more. Birdwatching can be a painfully boring activity but with the aid of Wingspan, Krikey made it an easy and even educational process. Users play an ornithologist and collect different bird species while exploring different ecosystems.
After launching Wingspan, the start-up experienced a jump in user retention rates. In addition to that the application seemed to be getting a lot of traction. Even though the team refused to disclose official numbers, it was safe to say that Krikey had laid a solid foundation for future endeavors.
Another game that the application offers is Gorillas. Developed in partnership with The Ellen Fund, Gorillas is an augmented reality game that allows users to interact with the critically endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Animation and 3D effect aside, the game encourages people to learn the lives of such endangered animals and interact with them.
Emotion is the one key factor that separates Krikey from its competitors. All of their games are designed to have an effect on the user’s behaviour. Through their platform, one not only gets the whole AR experience, but also learns something new about nature and the environment. The goal is to spread positivity through virtual interactions. Having said that, their platform is far from experimental. From user friendliness to accessibility to being up to date with the latest tech, Krickey checks all the boxes.
Why travel the globe when you can have experience it in the comfort of your home? Akash Ambani, Director, Jio invites all jio and non-jio users to experience AR gaming with the launch of long awaited game, Yaatra
Krikey’s Journey to the Big Leagues
Having two nature and wildlife-oriented games under its belt, it was time for Krikey to experiment with the genre of storyline gaming with the help of none other than Reliance Jio. In 2020, Krikey launched a mobile game by the name ‘Yaatra’ or journey. Users play Princess Maya’s sibling as she makes her way through an enchanted forest to reclaim her rightful place as queen. The game is filled with augmented objects like bows and arrows, lightning bolts, fire, and orbs throughout. Another feature is that the game allows users to personalise their own 3D avatars and share it with their friends.
The Future Outlook
In addition to the already long list of exciting features, Reliance Jio users will get exclusive benefits like complementary gameplay tokens that will allow them to unlock additional weapons and powers, and access to special game levels.
After Reliance Jio led the Series-A funding of the mobile gaming company, the total funds raised by Krikey stands at $22 Million. With a Series-A funding secured and an impressive track record, Krikey’s hold on the ever growing mobile gaming market is inevitable.
Looking at the way the team is progressing, it is clear that Krikey is here to stay. By simultaneously adding new games to their system and expanding their user base, they aim to build a community on the foundation of augmented reality. With the number of smartphone users in India steadily rising and Jio’s drive to make internet services cheaper, it is safe to say that the future of the company is indeed a bright one.
The pros and cons of gaming have always been debated upon, but it was only until recently that the pros gained significant distance over the cons. Gaming has shown to increase positive emotions, improve social relationships and mental health drastically. Keeping that in mind, Krikey has proven to be ahead of the curve when it comes to inducing behavioural changes
through gaming. That being said, the possibility of augmented reality as a way of life in the near future is very likely to buckle up because Krikey is just getting started.
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