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Game Controllers Will Soon ‘Read Your Mind’

on Tuesday, Apr. 8th

At the bleeding edge of the video game industry researchers are finding news ways to make games more immersive. We’ve heard plenty about the efforts to bring virtual reality displays to fruition, but not as much about the ways that designers and developers are working to give games a greater understanding of the state of mind of players as they interact with the games.

Right now the dominant form of feedback that games get from players is in the form of active control input. That could be through a gamepad, like you’d find on an Xbox or Playstation console, or a phone’s touchpad. Reaction time with these devices is part of the skill set that separates “good” players from “bad” ones.

Yet no matter the skill level of a player the feedback that is returned to the console is largely driven by the gamer’s conscious mind.

Long time readers of Turnstyle will recall NeverMind, the horror game project that requires a player to stay calm in order to advance. That game used a Garmin chest strap to measure the variability of heart rate. It is an entirely unique experience to be playing a game using a different category of “controller.”

Now Stanford grad student Corey McCall has modded a gamepad so that it can “read” a player’s emotional state through the autonomic clues–heart rate, respiration–that the body gives off. Max Cherney at Vice’s Motherboard has the details:

The Stanford doctoral candidate managed to transform a regular Xbox 360 controller into an emotion-reading device by ripping the back panel off and attaching a box full of sensors. He also added some metal pads that measure heart rate, blood flow, breathing rate, and how deep each breath is. On top of that, he stuck several accelerometers inside to measure how frenzied people get while button mashing.

The idea here is to ultimately create software that will shape games  based on the player’s mood: raising or lowering the intensity of an experience as the biometric feedback dictates. Think of it as the difference between a recorded and a live performance. In a live setting musicians and actors get a “feel” for the audience, this line of research could do the same for electronic entertainment.

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