KARACHI: It is not every day that a final year project at a Pakistani public university becomes a successful commercial venture. But that is precisely what happened with Armez – the engineering project of four NED University students – that recently replaced the famous paintball shooting game at Arena recreational facility in Karachi.
Armez is essentially a world famous laser tag game. However, what sets it apart is the fact that it is the final year project of four girls who created everything from scratch. With their meagre pocket money and limited technological resources, the NED students worked day and night building the hardware for the shooting game and breaking gender stereotypes in the process. A successful deal with Arena only goes to show the promise these young graduates and their budding tech start-up holds.
From idea to product
The team comprises four students of NED University's electronics engineering department – Sheena, Nimra Idrees Fazil, Ramla Kaleem Shah and Tahniat Hasan Khan – and their mentor, Dr Muhammad Khurram. A professor at NED's computer and information systems department, Khurram served as the project director while research, electronics and manufacturing work was done by the students.
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With the aim to not have their final year project gather dust in library files, team member Khan says the group decided to build a product that will actually see the light of day. "Our mentor pitched this idea and we knew right away it will have market value both in terms of gaming and defence training," Khan shares.
In a start-up culture dominated by software products, says another member, Shah, making hardware merchandise sets Armez apart from other young enterprises.
Fun and games
As Fazil describes, Armez provides first-person shooting game experience out in the open, enabling Counter Strike enthusiasts to practise and strategise tactics and be proactive and defensive in a physical environment with real people. "We want to change the way people approach gaming activities and promote live action sport," she says.
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In addition to providing socially-involved gaming experience, team member Khan says Armez can also be used to provide military training to citizens on the lines of National Cadet Corps – the civil-defence training imparted to college students in the past by Pakistan Army.
Foray into business world
On the successful deal with Arena, Sheena says the group held a demo session with 10 sets of their equipment to show what the experience entails and that is when they were noticed by Arena. "In the following meetings, we were able to satisfy their demands; we successfully deployed and tested our equipment in their recreational facility and now it is available to the general public," Sheena shares. On the first day, 82 games were played at Arena highlighting the popularity of the made-in-Pakistan game.
With one customer already in their income statement, Sheena says the group plans to provide their products and services to other gaming ventures in Pakistan and eventually abroad.
Their mentor, Khurram, says the response to their product has been very appreciative and it has given them hope that there's a market for quality products and services made in Pakistan. "The commercial deal with Arena is a jump-start. The indicators are positive as we have created a market and our product is commercially viable. There is no stopping us now – we have big plans for the future," he shares.
How it works?
In an Armez game, players are provided with laser guns – instead of paint ones – and jackets embedded with sensors. When the jacket is hit by a laser, the player feels a little vibration and small bulbs indicating 'game lives' on the jacket light up to show 'health level'. The gun stops working when a player's 'health level' reaches its limit. All the hits and their timings are recorded and are displayed on a computer screen to keep track of the game.