Palmerston North brothers develop rugby simulator claimed to be "most advanced" in the world
In a Palmerston North garage, two brothers are working on what they believe is the world's most realistic rugby simulator.
And they are not just stopping there, having just received a grant to make the simulator holographic.
Gabe and Cain Redding set up Biological Systems Modelling and started developing the simulator software 10 years ago.
"We started because we played the EA [rugby] games and they were always behind Madden and Fifa," Cain said. "It was almost that we were getting a raw deal because we were from New Zealand and like rugby.
"One day we had a muck around with some cylinders and programming them to move around a rugby field. The results were so good that we thought we could do something.
"We thought this can't be too hard, we will have a go at it ourselves. Obviously it is fairly hard because we have been going at it for a long time now."
Gabe worked on the artificial intelligence for the game, while Cain did the graphics.
That all culminated five months ago when they launched Global Rugby Manager, a offline and online game where players can manage rugby teams including team lineups and recruitment and set match tactics before watching the games play out.
It has come a long way from the early days.
"I remember the first time I had a go and they were just like gameboard pieces, they stood there like [statues]. They would just slide around the field," Cain said.
"Then I worked out how to do the legs so they had their arms stuck to their side, but they had no knee-joints. I never thought I could do better than that, but gradually they got better."
While the idea started due to games where users control players on the field, that idea has taken a back seat.
"We may eventually release it as a game, but we decided that if we focus it as a manager then we can focus on improving it and making it as realistic as we can and then dial it back to being a game," Gabe said.
Their focus has been to make the game a realistic as possible, right down to the decision making of players.
The teams are customisable so teams' game tactics can be matched.
Gabe is always adjusting the game in the hope of best matching what actual teams are doing.
One recent update to the simulator involved having less players hitting rucks, because he found that was an area their statistics did not match actual games.
Now he is confident they have the balance right.
"I think we have the most advanced rugby simulation in the world," he said.
They believed there were practical uses of the simulator for gambling companies as well.
"At the moment they have bookies who estimate the odds because they are experts on the sport," Gabe said. "If you do 10,000 sims, it gives you the probability of each team winning.
"It relies on the accuracies of the simulator and the ratings of the players, but it can be more accurate than a bookies' guess. Not only does it give you winning probability, it gives you first try scorer and that sort of stuff."
But before any of that takes off, they will work on making the simulator work as a holograph.
"The idea is to take [the simulator] and interface it with Microsoft's Hololens, which is a headset that you put on and it projects a hologram into your environment," Gabe said.
"In the case of this, if we had the headset on, the rugby game would be playing on a coffee table or you could even scale it up by going down to the park, sitting in the stand and watching the rugby game played as a hologram on the actual field."
Once it is set up, they hoped to have it used in a museum as an interactive exhibit before the start of the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour.