Biometric headset increases game difficulty for angry players


January 21, 2014

Designer Sam Matson has created a headset that increases the difficulty of a game the more angry a player gets

Designer Sam Matson has created a headset that increases the difficulty of a game the more angry a player gets

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Seattle-based visual designer Sam Matson has created a headset aimed at helping gamers learn to control "gamer rage." The Immersion headset monitors the user's heart rate and increases the difficulty of a game, the less calm they become.

Gizmag spoke to Matson, who created Immersion last year as a personal project. He explained that he was inspired to build the headset during a Christmas vacation visiting his family.

"My brother was playing Call of Duty on Xbox Live and was yelling at the screen in frustration of losing," he explained. "He's normally a great COD player but as he got more frustrated, he started getting beat harder and harder. I was already doing research into biometrics, so I decided to merge that with video games to address this phenomenon of gamer rage."

Matson began by designing a game in the Unity game engine, modifying the Bootcamp template with his own artificial intelligence for the enemies, and adding an OSC (Open Sound Control) reader to interpret pulse sensor data. He initially hacked an Xbox controller to monitor the user's heart rate, but ultimately felt that a headset would be the best way to integrate a heart monitor into the gaming experience.

Multiple iterations of the headset were created, testing factors such as aesthetic and ergonomic quality. The headset uses an optical pulse sensor that monitors minute color changes in the user's ear tissue to determine the approximate heart rate. Data is sent directly to the game via Bluetooth.

Although he has not collected enough data to make any conclusive judgements about the headset's success in treating gamer rage, Matson has seen an affect on users. "I have noticed gamers being very self aware when they play the game," he said. "I think most people are surprised to see their heart rate actually jump up when they enter combat."

The concept of using computer games to teach temper control has been used before. RAGE Control is a 2012 game aimed at teaching children to stay calm. Players are required to shoot at enemy spaceships while sparing friendly ones, losing the ability to shoot if their heart rate becomes too high.

Another biofeedback-based game, Nevermind, was released last year. It's a horror game that requires players to manage their fear. The more scared the player gets, the harder the game becomes.

Matson said that he'd like to take Immersion to market, and he thinks gaming is increasingly open to such devices. He's also enthusiastic about other potential applications.

"I believe mainstream gaming is becoming much more experimental with the introduction of great, open-source platforms like Ouya and Oculus Rift," he explained. "I think there's huge potential in the ability to track stress management. I could see some variation of this tech being used by employers evaluating job candidates or maybe even the Department of Motor vehicles as part of a driver's licensing exam."

Source: Sam Matson

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds. All articles by Stu Robarts

I can see angry players with no self-control ending up with heart attacks or brain spasms using these things ...

The Skud

Sounds rather counter-intuitive: if you're angry at (the difficulty of) the game, surely making it more difficult will only increase your anger..?

I'm probably missing some important point(s) here, but it seems to me the only ones to benefit from such a device will be the console manufacturers and the repairs industry, as gamers start throwing controllers and/or consoles about in rage (to say nothing of the potential damage to what-/whoever they throw it/them at).


A bit of positive feedback so the gamer gets so enraged that they smash the hardware and have to buy a new one. Marketing genius!!

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