Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 23rd 2014 Contents Financial planning often involves
lots of spreadsheets, pie charts
and eyes glazing over. Fidelity
Investments aims to change
that equation with an experi-
ment in 3-D technology
designed to make money management seem
more like a mesmerising video game than
mundane number crunching.
Welcome to "StockCity," a virtual-reality
landscape dotted with skyscrapers representing
the stocks in a person s investment portfolio.
A Web version is being released Wednesday
at http://www.fidelitylabs.com, but StockCity
ultimately is meant to be viewed on the Oculus
Rift, a virtual-reality headset that still hasn t
been released on the mass market.
StockCity s architecture changes with the
fluctuations on Wall Street.
The heights of the buildings are determined
by the prices of the stocks in an investment
portfolio, while the widths are based on the
number of outstanding shares. When the mar-
ket is open, it s daytime in StockCity, and
night falls when the market closes. Market
rallies cause the sun to shine, downturns trigger
downpours of rain. For now, stocks can t be
bought and sold within StockCity.
As Fidelity s engineers add more features
to the programme, flocks of birds may hover
over the buildings of stocks frequently men-
tioned on Twitter, and traffic may back up on
the streets in front of skyscrapers that represent
stocks experiencing unusually heavy trading
volume. Other illuminating data about indi-
vidual stocks might be seen by peering through
their buildings windows.
Or StockCity could end up being virtual
reality s version of a ghost town, acknowledges
Sean Belka, senior vice president and director
of Fidelity Labs.
Nevertheless, Fidelity said it wants to try
something different in an effort to connect
with younger generations who grew up spend-
ing far more time playing video games than
studying the wonders of compounded invest-
ments and reinvested dividends.
"If you want to deliver a great customer
experience, you have to be in the same kinds
of environments where they are," says Seth
Brooks, Fidelity Labs director of product man-
Other financial services companies have
tried to use virtual reality and games to court
younger people for more than a decade---
unsuccessfully, says Gartner Inc. analyst Brian
Blau. Some of those attempts, including a
Wells Fargo Bank game called "Stagecoach
Island," have been launched in "Second Life,"
an 11-year-old virtual world that hasn t lived
up to its initial hype despite attracting more
than one million users. A US government
fund for financial education also is helping
to finance a mobile game application that is
trying to help high school students prepare
to cover their college expenses.
"Reaching the gamer audience has been
a challenge for a lot of people," Blau said.
"Just because someone at Fidelity had a cool
project lying around on their desk doesn t
mean it s going to turn into the future of the
financial services industry."
Boston-based Fidelity Investments, one of
the world s largest mutual fund companies
with US$4.9 trillion under management, tries
to adapt to technological upheaval through
its 75-employee Fidelity Labs division. It was
among the first financial services companies
with a home page on the Web and an appli-
cation for the iPhone.
Fidelity also has apps for Google Glass and
the Pebble smartwatch, two wearable com-
puters that have yet to become big hits.
StockCity s fate will be tied to Oculus Rift,
part of a company that online social net-
working leader Facebook Inc. bought for about
US$2 billion earlier this year. Facebook CEO
Mark Zuckerberg prized Oculus because he
believes virtual-reality technology is poised
to reshape society. For now, the Oculus Rift
is only being sold to application developers
for US$350 per headset.
More than 100,000 units have been sold
so far, according to Oculus CEO Brendan
Iribe. Neither Iribe nor Zuckerberg have spec-
ified when Oculus Rift will be sold to con-
"This isn t something that we expect to
be in stores in time for the holiday season,
but we think it s important to start working
with emerging technologies to help people
get a better understanding of their financial
future," Belka said.
This undated screen
shot shows a view of
StockCity from Fidelity
Labs, a 3-D virtual
reality programme for
In this November 17, 2014 photo, Sean Belka, senior vice president and director of Fidelity
Labs, left, and Seth Brooks, director of product management for Fidelity Labs, talk about
StockCity from Fidelity Labs, a 3-D virtual reality programme for tracking stocks, at the Fidelity
office in San Francisco. (AP)
On the money: StockCity
Financial planning gets a dose of virtual reality
Fidelity said it wants to try something different in an effort to connect with younger generations
who grew up spending far more time playing video games than studying the wonders of
compounded investments and reinvested dividends
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt NOVEMBER 23 • 2014
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