Wearables are changing the way technology interacts with our bodies, and this tech trend is making its way into games. Immersing players in a game is every developer’s goal, and the latest technologies have the potential to create a seismic shift in the way people engage with their games. By using different types of biofeedback, games of the future could adapt to how players feel to provide a more personalized experience.
Stepping into the future of gaming may mean reaching out to tech companies in ways that may not make everyone comfortable. Regardless of the benefits, some gamers won’t want to send photos of their inner ear to Sony or put their memories on a chip owned by Elon Musk. As gaming technology becomes more involved with the human body, the best and worst possibilities of sci-fi movies like “Ready Player One” could become realities. Looking to the future, here are all the body parts that video games plan to access.
Sony wants to scan your ear canals
In March 2020, Sony was showing off some of the features that would come with the then-upcoming PlayStation 5, and the console’s lead architect Mark Cerny made a shocking comment about its high-tech audio capabilities (via Inverse). Cerny explained that the PS5’s Tempest 3D AudioTech was a huge leap forward for game audio because it could create custom audio profiles by mapping a user’s skull to something called a transfer function linked to the head, or HRTF. Cerny said it may eventually be possible for users to submit photos and videos of their ears so that Sony can “choose a neural network to choose the closest HRTF in our library.”
The idea may have seemed odd to some gamers, but it wasn’t actually the first time Sony had asked users to submit ear shots. In 2019, Sony announced 360 Reality Audio, a technology that uses 24 channels of audio to create a fully immersive listening experience by using ear canal imaging to map its sound. See the article : Video games don’t always need live-action adaptations. Although the technology is truly impressive, Sony should have expected a sarcastic reception from gamers. Some have started uploading photos of their ears to social media, tagging Sony, PlayStation and even Cerny himself in posts.
PlayStation also wants your sweat
In the future, game controllers will likely be very aware of how your body reacts to the games you play. Sony gave the world a glimpse of how controllers can bring together and incorporate “biofeedback” when it filed a patent for a new controller in February 2020, just before the PS5 was released (via Respawn First). The patent revealed that Sony had plans for a controller that could monitor a gamer’s heart rate and analyze how much their hands sweat while playing. On the same subject : Atari turns 50 and the godfather of video games tells how we can change the world. In theory, the controller would collect this data and allow games to actively react to how players feel.
The PS5’s DualSense controller is packed with advanced features, but sweat detection isn’t one of them. It’s not so surprising that Sony finally picked up on the idea. As cool as the technology might be, its usefulness would be entirely up to game developers, and some have complained that current games aren’t yet doing enough to make use of the features that come with DualSense. Don’t expect Sony to give up the fight to get into your sweat glands. Sony console architect Mark Cerny told The Verge that the idea actually dates back to the planning stages of the DualShock 4 controller.
Games will reach your heart
As wearable technology becomes more prevalent, it’s inevitable that some games will find imaginative ways to incorporate biofeedback into their gameplay. Some developers are already ahead of the curve. This may interest you : Everything We Know About The New BTS Video Game ‘BTS Island: In the SEOM’. At Boston Children’s Hospital, researchers have created a game that monitors a player’s heart rate to help children learn to better regulate feelings of anger, stress, and anxiety (via Neuroscience News). The game is called RAGE (Regular and Gain Emotional) Control, and players shoot asteroids from a small spaceship, and their performance is tied to how calm they are while navigating through obstacles. By gamifying the biological response to stress, RAGE Control helps kids practice calm in a way that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Gamers won’t wait for other developers to catch up with biofeedback technology. Some are already finding ways to incorporate biofeedback like heart monitors into their games, and they’re discovering that the technology can appeal to more than gamers. Twitch streamers have started posting their heart rates while playing to provide audiences with a more connected experience. The trend is more common for streamers who play thrilling horror games (via Reddit). There’s even a website entirely dedicated to ranking horror games based on the average heart rate of their players. Eventually, biofeedback will be a much more common part of gaming culture at all levels.
Gesture controls are going to change
Millions of gamers have had their first motion control experience with the Nintendo Wii. Although revolutionary at the time, the Wii required awkward movements and even then had problems accurately translating many gestures. Today’s motion controllers are much more sensitive and precise, and they’re about to undergo a massive transformation. Myo, a company acquired by Google in June 2020, has pushed the boundaries of motion controls by developing an armband that can accurately detect hand gestures. The armband uses Bluetooth to communicate with a set of electrodes to analyze the gestures users make, and it’s so precise it could have a future as part of prosthetic limbs (via ResearchGate).
In the field of virtual reality, companies are working on the development of gesture controls that do not require any additional portable accessories. The Quest 2 has a hand tracking feature which, when working, allows players to interact with objects in VR without any controllers (via UploadVR). The feature uses the Quest’s onboard cameras with what the developers call “deep learning” to both track the movement of a player’s hands and predict what they’re likely to do when the cameras don’t. not a good view of them. Hand tracking works well enough that playing air guitar is a real possibility, and it will only get better from here.
You could be smelling your next game
For the most part, video games involve three different senses: sight, hearing, and, to varying degrees, touch. Most game companies are working hard to find ways to make improvements in these three areas with better graphics, better audio quality, and better haptic feedback. However, that doesn’t mean companies aren’t looking to engage their senses more. Sony recently filed a patent for technology that could create synthetic scents based on what’s happening in a particular game (via GameRant). It’s unclear how or when Sony hopes to incorporate the technology into new games, but one day, walking around an open-world game like “Elden Ring,” you might literally be able to stop and smell the flowers.
Luckily for anyone looking for that next level of immersion, there’s already a way to play games with scents. Feelreal has created a mask capable of creating hundreds of scents to match various gaming situations. It’s designed to be integrated into VR experiences, and there are models already designed for a handful of the most popular VR headsets. Feelreal currently only works with a limited selection of games, but the device proves that scent technology isn’t just a hypothetical idea for the future.
Your brain could be your next controller
Because they can only roughly simulate actions like running or shooting, most game controllers are only a small impediment to immersion. There are, of course, specialty controllers that can help players become more immersed in what they’re doing. HOTAS controllers more accurately simulate the experience of flight, for example. Some VR games use hand tracking for controls, and most others use a type of motion controller that’s much more natural than, say, the Wiimote. In the not-too-distant future, it might be possible to forgo controllers entirely and literally stick your head in the game.
Neurable is a developer who has already created a game that is completely controlled by a player’s mind (via OpenMind). In “Awakening”, players take control of a telekinetic boy who must use his powers to escape from a science lab. Players use their brains to control every action in the game, from walking to telekinetically throwing objects. The game uses a combination of six electrodes and Neurable’s advanced algorithm to translate thoughts into digital actions. The technology is currently far too expensive to put on store shelves, but now that the technology has proven itself, it is only a matter of time until the costs are reduced enough for consumers in general.
Elon Musk wants your memories
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
Leave it to Elon Musk to try to push the technology to the extreme. While Neurable paves the way for your mind to control a digital environment, Musk’s latest side project attempts to transform your mind into a digital environment. According to TheGamer, Musk recently launched a company called Neuralink in 2022, which is working on exactly what you think it is. “In the future, you’ll be able to save and replay memories,” Musk said, adding, “You could potentially upload them to a new body or a robot body.”
For decades, science fiction has imagined a future in which people combine their minds with computers. Neuralink could potentially bring that future into the present. Musk says the company’s brain chip “works well in monkeys,” and it may not be long before Neuralink conducts human trials of its technology. Being able to perfectly preserve and even share memories sounds like an incredible prospect, but anyone who’s ever had a corrupted hard drive might be a little hesitant to store their memories on silicon. Time will tell if Neuralink is the future of digital technology or a step into the dystopian world of “Cyberpunk 2077” (or both).
Haptic feedback will cover your whole body
The Oculus Quest 2 may have its shady elements, but it also helped bring VR into the mainstream by giving people an affordable all-in-one VR platform. Now that more and more people are experiencing the incredible immersion that virtual reality offers, they are asking for more. Playing in VR can feel so real, but some companies are developing new peripherals that will let gamers feel things for real. Haptic gloves and vests are commercially available for gamers who want to immerse themselves as much as possible in their VR games. But as amazing as these peripherals are, they pale in comparison to what’s just around the corner.
Full-body haptic suits, like the one developed by Teslasuit, can simulate an amazing range of physical sensations (via ABC News). These suits can simulate everything from the feeling of raindrops to a punch in the gut. For now, these combinations are prohibitively expensive and exist mostly in labs, but that may not remain the case for long.
“Teslasuit technology can be incorporated into everyday clothing,” said Dr Ross Smith, director of the Wearable Computer Laboratory at the University of South Australia. Haptic feedback suits will not only revolutionize the game, they will also be useful as training tools for a wide range of professions, which should help reduce costs faster. Before you know it, you might really be entering your favorite gaming world.