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Lighting Up

amBX boss Neil MacDonald outlines the company's plans to bring new experiences to console gamers

When amBX was first announced it was as a research project from the Philips labs, and focused on enhancing PC desktop gaming through the introduction of special lighting and fan peripherals.

But this time last year the business was spun out, and here CEO Neil MacDonald explains how the company's aims have developed in that time - plus why amBX could soon be very much in the living room and not just the study.

GamesIndustry.biz When we first heard about amBX a couple of years ago it was as a Philips project - explain first of all what's been happening in the past year, and why it's a company in its own right now.
Neil MacDonald

The amBX technology was developed over several years in Philips' research and development department, which is probably one of the leading places in the world to develop any kind of technology to be honest.

I was approached by Philips about two years ago now to come and have a look at amBX, because they'd come to the realisation that it wasn't going to be just a core component technology in Philips products - that it had a bigger fate beyond that.

So it became one of the candidates for a spin-out business, which they do quite regularly when they develop certain technologies. I came along and had a look, and was immediately struck by how exciting it was, and the potential. They'd already produced some Philips PC peripherals with amBX in, so I found out what people who'd been using them thought - and they'd been delighted with the experience, a dimension they'd never experienced before in gaming.

So that convinced me pretty early on that this was good stuff, and I took the project on. We span out of Philips at the beginning of October 2008, so we're at our first birthday as a completely independent business. We own all of the amBX technology, we're totally independent - Philips isn't even a share-holder, and that was one of the most important things for us.

Since then we've demonstrated to the industry that we're totally committed to taking amBX to games in a way that the industry really can benefit.

GamesIndustry.biz How is the business funded then?
Neil MacDonald

It's privately funded - primarily venture-capitalists and management. The money was put up to invest in the business, spin it out of Philips by the VCs and existing shareholders. It's going pretty well so far.

GamesIndustry.biz You recently released a piece of hardware that controls lighting for venues and events - what was the thinking behind that?
Neil MacDonald

Well, when we created the new company we all strongly believed that this technology went beyond just the world of gaming. The next sector that we wanted to take it into was the professional lighting industry. We knew that if we put the power and creativity that amBX has to control coloured lighting and creative experiences and ambiences that it does, we could put that in the hands of the lighting industry and it could be really interesting.

But we didn't know how to do that, so we looked around and there wasn't an obvious way to do it - so somebody suggested we make an amBX lighting controller. We first thought that would be silly, because we're not product manufacturers, but then we thought again - we figured out how we could do it and a few weeks ago we launched it.

We've gone from idea to product launch in nine months, we have a worldwide distribution deal in place, and it was launched at a major trade show a couple of weeks ago and we've already got our first night club and first hotel. It's already been used on live events and there are more and more installations happening.

So that's very exciting for us, but essentially it's exactly the same technology that's available for games developers and gaming products.

GamesIndustry.biz That must be a pretty useful second revenue stream?
Neil MacDonald

Yes, the grand strategy for world domination by amBX includes us not just going to gaming and lighting, but into other sectors. We're thinking about cinema, we're thinking about movies, we're thinking about music and TV - and we're thinking ultimately about home automation, when every house has LED lighting.

There are some very interesting things you can do by turning your whole house into a games machine... that's a few years away, but we know we've got the capabilities in amBX, the technology and way it can be used that will deliver that.