Skillprint has launched a platform that uses science to figure out how to match players with the games they will likely enjoy and the skills they want to improve.
The new ratings for games are based on a first-of-its-kind pairing of neuroscience research and machine learning. Skillprint’s ratings consider a number of criteria, evaluating games for their effect on a person’s mind and mood – with the ultimate goal being to match individuals with the best games for their personalities, specific moods and the skills they want to test or improve.
The San Francisco Bay-based startup was started in 2019 and Davin Miyoshi, both seasoned gamers. Their goal was to make games more useful and help players feel better about gaming.
” I want to become the best scoring engine in terms of how you play,” Ramachandran stated.
But there’s a lot more behind it than just measuring yourself. The founders have a vision and experience that is unique to this opportunity. Ramachandran previously founded Playnomics, a predictive analytics company which was sold to Unity in 2014 and now processes 1. 5 billion devices each month as Unity Analytics.
Miyoshi founded Mesmo, a social/mobile games company that was sold to GSN, and cofoundedGSN Games, which grew to more than 75 million users and $100 million in revenue.
Now Ramachandran, Miyoshi and their combined talents are focusing on the interplay between cognitive science and gaming. Skillprint uses powerful machine learning technology and builds on years of cognitive science research to study how people play games and glean unique insights into an individual’spersonality traits, skills and mindset.
The platform now offers unique game ratings, analyzing 135 separate game characteristics to rate and vet games for skills assessment and mood, matching users with personalized game recommendations.
Skillprint offers these ratings through its own platform at skillprint.co, as well as rates and ranks existing third-party mobile games. It plans to expand its customer-facing offering for game players, and to work closely with developers in order to find the best players for their games.
“Mobile gaming can sometimes get a bad rap, but people often ignore the many and varied benefits of gaming,” Ramachandran said. “For years, scientists have used games as a way to test people’s cognitive abilities and learn more about how the mind works; there are numerous studies that show the clinical benefits of using games to reduce stress amongst military personnel.”
He added, “It’s very hard to understand how your own mind works – people spend their whole lives trying to figure this out. It’s not hard to feel happier and more confident about oneself. Our hypothesis is that games can do both. We’re blending best in class AI with cognitive science best practices, and building a personalized path for each one of our users to help them leverage games to learn more aboutthemselves, and shift their moods.”
To date, Skillprint has raised $3. 5 million in a previously unannounced pre-seed funding from some of theleading investors at the intersection of games, cognitive science, and human potential.
Investors include Shanda Ventures, LearnStart, Niremia Collective, and a number of private individuals with decades of experience and significant clout in the gaming world, including David Helgason (founder of Unity) and Steve Arnold (founder of LucasArts Games, co-founder of Polaris Ventures, Vice-Chair of the George Lucas Educational Foundation). Because of the company’s focus on neuroscience, Shanda Ventures was attracted to it.
With a fast-growing monthly user base and more than 40 curated games already available on its platform, the company captures and analyzes an average of 1,200 events per active user to predict their personalitytraits and skills.
There could be privacy concerns, but Skillprint asks users to opt-in to sharing data at the very start. Each user is responsible for their data and login. The data are anonymized and aggregated. It would be wrong for game companies to target individuals based on addictive personality traits.
“We have to be smart about our mission,” Ramachandran said. Ramachandran stated that the whole endeavor isn’t meant to benefit game companies but to empower people to be their best selves. You have to frame it in the right way and hopefully the data flows from there in the right frame.”
Doing basic research
Ramachandran and Miyoshi have been at this for a while. The company was founded in 2019.. Their initial thesis was that games can tell you about the mind and help people develop and identify their mental skills.
“That’s basically what we built,” Ramachandran said.
The company licensed more than 40 games that were off-the-shelf mobile games, which were basic mastery games like match-3 games or bubble shooters that everyone from kids to older adults can play. The team did research on neuroscience and tried to isolate different effects on the mind as you play.
We all have basic cognitive skills like attention, focus, ability to plan and execute, to switch tasks, and things like that, Ramachandran said.
” Psychologists talk about five aspects of personality that influence your character traits. These are how you’re open to learning, conscientious, how outgoing, how agreeable, and how neurotic you can be in various ways.
Six members of the team — all with doctorates — have been working on the research. This enabled the company raise its stealth financing round.
And the team built a progressive web app that you can access through any mobile browser. People use the app to develop their skillprint, or pattern record of player skills.
“I think it’s going to be an interesting way to start routing people to find new games,” said Ramachandran. “With the app tracking stuff, it’s really hard to find players now.”
But with this added layer of information, Skillprint can think about how to recommend games to you based on your personality traits. He said that it turns out people with higher neurotic scores love word games. “And we have all this interesting data.”
The company will roll out its own studies, some done in collaboration with academics.
“I know two things to be true. Ramachandran stated that people love to play games and are obsessed with their own self-worth. “The skill part is just showing you a little bit about yourself.”
The psychologists, like Skillprint adviser Rick Robbins of the University of California at Davis, use that create a model about your mood and emotional states. We found that everyone was working in neuroscience, cognition science and psychology to create games. And so there is a ton of research that people were doing. Ramachandran explained that they built their own machine learning and research laboratory using the games. “We have people playing Skillprint games, almost like in some cases, as a replacement for the cognitive headspace. They play it to relax, to focus, to get more creative, to be more collaborative. So shifting your mood every day and your mindset as you play would give you more of a map of your mind in terms of your personality traits and your cognitive skills.”
Over time, you start to enhance that. If you want to improve your attention or focus, then maybe you can become a pilot at some point in the future. Ramachandran said they found that people who are open to new experiences love role-playing games. Sports games may appeal to people who have less open minds. Conscientious people like racing games. These are generalizations, but they’re backed by data.
“Part of this has been through real scientific rigor. He said that part of this has been through scientific rigor. “We tie that to outcomes that have to do with your career and your purpose in life.”
Action games have a real interesting effect on all skills, Ramachandran said.
“It’s interesting how serious some of our advisers and researchers are, but they’re taking these games very seriously,” he said.
Rather than use the data to figure out their career path, people wanted to use the games in a different way. They wanted to use games to feel better every day, Ramachandran said.
“Everybody has a mood and mindset that changes like the weather,” he said. It’s possible to help people feel more creative by playing a game. You can play a game, and now you feel more creative.”
Over time, as the products get deeper, the company could eventually figure out things like whether you have the skills of a graphic designer or a landscape architect, based on the skills you have and the games you like. Over time, then, Skillprint might be used to show people a career path.
“You can help them understand how their mind works, and what makes them unique, and then ultimately, figure out what your purpose is to apply all the stuff in real life,” Ramachandran said.
The company’s ambition is not to create its own app. Its purpose is to be a kind of router, taking someone who wants to play a game for a certain reason around mental wellness, and then routing that person to a game company that wants that player. It’s a tech that could be embedded in games.
Skillprint has collected panels of people who are playing a game and don’t mind sharing their details about career and whatnot. It helps to establish a baseline of what type of gamer they are and the skills that they possess. Then the company uses machine learning to connect it all together.
If someone else is just like you, then you might do well in the type of career that the other person has pursued. These correlations can be found with sufficient data and Skillprint. It can take some time for the analysis and correlations to become correct and companies don’t like to make mistakes.
“We can make a recommendation. I think it will be really fun as we start to get more public about this and get a bunch of sports stars to do it,” he said. “We could see how you match up against LeBron James or whoever. That’s coming next.”
At this point, the company has a smart personalized platform that helps people find relaxing games to play. And at the moment, the main purpose of the company’s app is to gather the data to train the AI system to rate and plug in other games.
“As such, the games we have are well-known casual game types like match 3 or bubble shooters that allowed us to train the models and start to isolate and show results. As you play more, the Skillprint tab starts to fill with results around mood, personality, and skills,” Ramachandran said. “It just turns out the games are the ultimate testbed for understanding other extremes, like those that make you calm or tense.”
An example of what Skillprint can learn
Ramachandran said that one example is that when someone plays one of these games that have “merge” mechanics, where you merge two elements together, the boost in creativity is off the charts.
“It’s like a magnitude four or five times better than anything you have in psychology,” he said. “Some people may react really well to a timer and get more focused. Some people might feel they don’t want this and it freaks them out.”
To figure this out for each person, the data has to be personalized and Skillprint has to get a layer of data that applies to you. The company plans to measure more complicated games over time and create a better mind map.
” We’re beginning to see bundles, mechanics, and it’s amazing,” he stated. “You have a mix of relaxation and focus in the same game session. Over time, we’ll get more proficient at personalizing. This will allow you to feel more fulfilled every day. If this is going to help you understand your own mind. We’re kind of the ones putting it altogether, and we have more data than most studies.”
There are some games that would be good at capturing personality. Reigns, which is set in the Game of Thrones universe, is an example. The game allows you to make decisions and move left or right. Those choices can help decipher your personality. If you reimagine that game as an actual personality test, it would probably work pretty well and amass a lot of data.
Games are good
If the company expands in the future, it might look at PC games on Steam, as it provides a lot of structured data on game usage.
“Overall, I want to do all of games,” he said.
You could create games that train your brain. But Ramachandran notes that people are already playing games, and the key is to isolate the effects that those games have on the players.
” You can figure out the benefits people get from it, and then give them more of what you want.” he stated.
One interesting finding is that a survey of women from 32 to 55 found that they would love to meditate every day but don’t have the time. They do however have the time to play games and find a special blend of relaxation and focus. He said that people play games to relax, stress relieve, focus or increase creativity. But they don’t think it is as interesting. “And they generally feel a little guilty that they’re doing it. We think we can kind of change that narrative because you know I fundamentally believe that gameplay is good for you.”
Another eventual use might be to create a dating app, particularly for gamers, but ultimately for everybody. The company does not plan on obtaining approval from Food and Drug Administration for any potential therapies made with the data.
” “I believe the player routing is enough to help people understand their mind,” he stated.
One of the most interesting conclusions is already clear for Skillprint.
“It’s clear that games are going to be the future of mental strength and mental wellness,” Ramachandran said.
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