Future of gaming: The controller that can change the game if you get bored

If you’ve ever exhausted all the difficulty levels of a video game then you’ll know the familiar feeling of boredom – but this could end with the development of a new controller.

Engineers have created a controller that measures what you’re feeling while playing and could change the game to make it harder.

The controller gauges your brain activity and can add more enemies to a game if the gamer gets bored.

The technology could be used by developers to improve the quality of the games they make.

For example, when testing games prior to sale, sections that do not score highly with those playing could be changed to be more stimulating. Or games could be made harder if the controller detects that you’re feeling bored.

The prototype is made using an adapted Xbox 360 controller that has small metal pads attached.

These measure the user’s heart rate, blood flow, and both the rate of breath and how deeply the user is breathing.

Combined with another light-operated sensor that measures heart rate and an accelerometer that measures the movements of the controller, a clear picture of how the gamer is feeling is presented to the researchers.

A custom-built game has been created to work with the controller that sees users playing a racing game where they must drive over coloured tiles in a particular order.

Corey McCall, who was the leader on the game controller project undertaken by Stanford University, said: “If a player wants maximum engagement and excitement, we can measure when they are getting bored and, for example, introduce more zombies into the level.

“We can also control the game for children. If parents are concerned that their children are getting too wrapped up in the game, we can tone it down or remind them that it’s time for a healthy break.”

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It works by measuring changes in the autonomic nervous system – which deals with he brain’s emotions.

Brain activity influences the heart rate, respiration rate, temperature and other bodily processes. When these signs are measured it’s possible to tell what is going on in the brain.

Measuring the activity can be conducted in an non-invasive way and other work by the group involves monitoring the skin temperature of epilepsy patients in an attempt to predict when a seizure will occur.

“You can see the expression of a person’s autonomic nervous system in their heart rate and skin temperature and respiration rate, and by measuring those outputs, we can understand what’s happening in the brain almost instantaneously,” said McCall.


Video and images courtesy of Stanford University 


Virtual rivals: the battle of the VR headsets heats up

It’s been a busy week for virtual reality. Sony’s long-awaited headset for the PS4, Project Morpheus, was unveiled on Tuesday, and Oculus Rift’s Development Kit 2 was announced on Wednesday.

But these were not the only VR headsets making waves this week. Over at London’s Wearable Technology Conference vrAse was wowing developers and tech press hounds alike, while 3D printed Altergaze hit a quarter of its Kickstarter campaign target with over a month to go.

Both products differ from Sony and Oculus’ offerings in that they are designed to work with your smartphone: by slotting your phone into either headset it becomes an effective VR device for gaming and 3D video.

Kickstarter has played a powerful role in getting VR headsets off the ground. Both vrAse and Oculus were also Kickstarter-funded, and there is clearly an appetite among would-be backers for this kind of tech.

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vrAse is pitching to a different market to Oculus in that its expected to be quite a bit cheaper, at less than £100. It’s also going for a slightly different approach by showing off its headset as an on-the-go device for use on planes, trains and out and about.

The headset is designed to work with a wide variety of smartphones. vrAse has created a ‘perfect fit’ model for leading handsets, including the iPhone 5, HTC One and Galaxy Note 2, as well as a standard model that works with phones sized between 3.5” to 6.3”, although the company recommends using smartphones sized between 5” and 6”.

vrAse can be used to watch 3D videos, play games in 3D with a bluetooth controller and as an AR device.

We had the pleasure of trying out vrAse at this week’s Wearable Technology Conference and were pretty impressed with the results. The game we tried, a rollercoaster simulator, was incredibly immersive and the 3D video felt very realistic.

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However, a would-be contender to vrAse has popped up on Kickstarter in the form of Altergaze. The Altergaze headset functions very similarly to vrAse in that you put your smartphone into it to get a VR headset you can play games and watch videos on.

The key difference with Altergaze is that its 3D printed. This means that the cost is very low, and enables a very wide range of customisation – an appealing option for a technology that runs the risk of making you look a little silly if worn in public.

Altergaze is also using this manufacturing method to boost worldwide distribution by encouraging 3D print shops to become manufacturers.

The 3D printed, slotted together style of Altergaze also makes it resemble old fashioned goggles, giving it potential appeal with the steampunk crowd.

All in all, though, the key question will be whether these cheaper, smartphone-based VR headsets will appeal to users enough to let them contend with the big boys. In the long run their price and versatility might even give them an advantage.


Images courtesy of vrAse and Altergaze.