The early 1990s marked a significant shift in the world of ten-pin bowling. For the previous century, bowling had been a niche sport, that attracted some of the world’s most competitive athletes. Bowling reached its pinnacle in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Top American bowling pros like Harry Smith and Don Carter, earned millions in prize money and endorsements. This rivalled the earnings of footballers at the time.
However, two decades later the sport was on the decline. Interest in professional bowling was on the wane in Europe and America. Bowling alleys realised that they needed to pivot towards an entertainment-focused model. Bowling would have to change in order to survive. Quite soon bowling alleys became well-known for hosting raucous birthday parties, tipsy work functions, and awkward first dates. Electronic displays on mounted monitors showed pins exploding when hit by a bowling-ball shaped grenade. Alternatively, you saw the last pin scythed in two by a bowling-ball scimitar. As a result, bowling was now for everyone. This was the gamification of the bowling alley.
The world of gamification has come a long way from a still image on a screen that suggests where you should aim your next roll to ensure a spare. Britain’s foremost football competition, the Premier League, has an exceptionally popular app that uses what happens on the pitch to create a game for fans. The Fantasy Premier League boasts millions of active users every month. An app called Fitocracy has gamified the gym by rewarding users for achieving their fitness and nutrition goals. Similarly, the Nike Run Club offers athletes of every ability the ability to listen to a professional coach you with their “Guided Run” feature. You can also set goals, run with others, and share your progress using their app. If used well, gamification can revolutionise company culture.
The Gamification Revolution
Gamification is not limited to mobile apps. Revolutionary companies like Inrange have taken the idea of creating a game within a game, and run with it. The company was founded in 2017, with the goal of changing the driving range experience to empower golfers by offering them useful (and immediate) feedback on their drives. This was the gamification of the driving range. Inrange software re-purposes radar technology, formally used in developing the world’s most powerful radio telescopes, and applies it in a golfing context.
Inrange uses mounted displays to track a golfers’ shots in real-time. Co-founder Nick Longley reflects on how their mission is to “make the driving range experience more elegant and memorable.” They superimpose information from a players’ shot onto a virtual environment. monitors in each bay of the range display their shot information. This creates a seamless and exhilarating experience for players. Inrange also has a mobile application.
“Our technology makes your experience at the driving range more memorable.”– Nick Longley, Inrange co-founder
One of the company goals is to combine enjoyment and improvement – accurate ball-tracking technology that gives you information about the shot you’ve just played and makes “practice fun again”. More importantly, Inrange has a mission to make golf available to everyone. Longley says they have “used radar technology and gamification to “welcome golfers of every skill level to play” a variety of immersive games.
How Does it Work?
At first, Inrange was not intended to be an application for the gamification of the driving range. The goal was to give golfers more information about their shots. What is now “Practice mode” uses radar tracking technology to track the angle and distance of your ball, as well as other useful feedback, in real-time. All of the information of your shot is displayed on two monitors within one of many “Inrange Powered Bays”. Shot information is also available on mobile and tablets.
Quite soon after the genesis of the business, much like in the case of ten-pin bowling, Longley and co. realised that if they were only going to try to attract a wide range of golfers to their ranges, their product wouldn’t be sufficiently unique for them to differentiate themselves.
He describes the Inrange project as a first in the history of the sport of golf: “I think of us as one of the biggest disruptors in the game of golf. Our ranges are accessible to a wide range of people”. Longley wasn’t and continues not to be a great golfer – but he loves to play at Inrange.
“I’m not a golfer myself – and Inrange helps people like me to not feel excluded.”– Nick Longley
Inrange currently has 4 games with a fifth on the way. Shrinking Target, Bullseye, and Twenty One test players’ accuracy and guile in various creative ways, whereas The Longest Drive is a head-to-head test of power and timing. You can also play on virtual courses from all across the world.
Where can you Find Inrange?
Since its inception, the company has grown rapidly. They have bays at ranges across the world. Their operation is set up at 7 ranges in Britain, 5 in the US, 3 in South Africa, as well as a range in the UAE at the Abu Dhabi City Golf Club. There are expansion plans to move into Europe, China, and Australia. The Inrange site gives players’ detailed information about where to find their ranges.
A huge variation of experiences are becoming available to consumers because of the gamification revolution that has taken place over the last two decades. Something like Inrange allow non-golfers to experience and enjoy what has long been considered an elitist game. In other words, gamification of the driving range has broadened the sport’s audience. Simultaneously, it uses exceptional engineering that gives golfers accurate and real-time information about the shot they have just played. This makes it a brilliant tool for practice. By repurposing this technology in a creative way, Inrange has created a game within a game – they have gamified the driving range.
“We believe we have the best golf training experience out there. We’d also argue that we are the best (and only) golf entertainment experience”– Nick Longley
Immersive technology has the power to disrupt the status quo. The gamification of the driving range is a clear example of the power this technology has. “Sozo Labs has been a crucial part of the Inrange development team for over 4 years now.” Longley sees Sozo as “a crucial part of the team”, rather than an external partner. Together, we’ve been able to revolutionise the driving range, for everyone from first-timers to scratch golfers. With the power to track over a million golf balls a week, Inrange combines immersive technology and gamification. It’s like the bowling alley of the future.