New game controller gets emotional


April 10, 2014

Stanford's prototype game controller senses player engagement and can alter games to suit them

Stanford's prototype game controller senses player engagement and can alter games to suit them

When it comes to entertainment, there are few other media that feature the level of user interaction of video games. Now, researchers at Stanford University are looking to make games more interactive. They've developed a prototype controller that monitors the player's physiological responses, then changes the gameplay to make it more engaging based on the player's feelings.

While video games are fun, sometimes they just don't grab a player's attention for one reason or another. Maybe he or she is really good at the game, and there just aren't enough enemies on the screen to keep them interested. The controller from Stanford would see that the player is getting bored, and respond by adding more enemies to the screen to provide them with the extra challenge that will get them excited again.

The prototype is based around an existing Xbox controller, and is the result of research in the lab of Gregory Kovacs, a professor of electrical engineering. This lab's main focus is finding practical ways of measuring physiological signals.

Because the technology monitors the player's autonomic nervous system – which can be checked using heart rate, skin temperature, and breathing rate – a video game controller is well suited, as these can be measured through the user's hands. The controller uses small metal pads on the side of a 3D-printed plastic module, that the team placed on the back of the controller to measure heart rate and respiration rate. It also has a secondary optical sensor for additional heart rate data, and accelerometers that measure how much the player is moving the controller around while playing.

For the time being, the controller communicates with special software developed by the team, allowing them to see all of the data. As it's still a prototype, it cannot communicate with game consoles or the games themselves to actually alter gameplay outside of the software developed by the researchers, but that is the next logical step for this technology.

No further plans have been announced for this prototype device, so for now, it just remains something interesting to think about. Hopefully Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo take a look at technology like this, because more engaging video games are a good thing for gamers.

The video below shows the controller in use and explains how the software works.

Source: Stanford University

About the Author
Dave LeClair Dave is an avid follower of all things mobile, gaming, and any kind of new technology he can get his hands on. Ever since he first played an NES as a child, he's been an absolute tech and gaming junkie. All articles by Dave LeClair
1 Comment

Interesting Idea. If they can pull this off it can be a game changer.

James Chai
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