Most of us have enjoyed playing computer games at some point, be it as part of the Pokémon fad that swept over the late 90s, jumping around with some sort of motion controlled sports sim, or frantically flicking angry birds across your smart phone.
The days of cramming all your friends into the living room and trying not to spill drinks all over the control pads as you take turns exhausting your thumbs might truly be about to become as much of a distant retro memory as Tetris thanks to some ground-breaking technologies currently being tested. At the beginning of this month the 2013 NeuroGaming conference and expo showcased what may be the future of gaming: a platform at which some of our most cutting edge technologies meet to generate a full virtual reality experience.
By measuring the heart rate, facial expressions, pupil dilation and other such unique elements which comprise our emotional profile, games may soon be able to track, monitor and respond to our emotions. Indeed, on a basic level they could read and respond to our mental output. This promises to deliver a unique user tailored experience that creates a fully immersive virtual reality that allows the gamer to truly suspend any disbelief.
As we’ve seen recently with other technologies such as Google Glass, augmented and virtual reality technologies are receiving increased development and implementation in everyday life products. With a surging growth in powerful, cheaper and smaller computer processing tech, we are finally becoming able to refine virtual reality technology With scenes such as this perhaps to become a norm in computer gaming in the not too distant future, the experience will over time becoming refined into one of perhaps almost completely believable proportions.
Imagine experiencing games in full first person mode, literally having data fed directly to your eyes so you could look around you and only see the gaming world. You would be submerged. It would be an absolutely mind blowing experience, as far a step forward in gaming as the motion controlled play of recent years is from the clutter of chunky wired game pads a decade ago. As stated by Walter Greenleaf, a virtual reality expert at the NeuroGaming conference, “Virtual Reality could finally be at a turning point. It’s available at an accessible price point, with unparalleled levels of connectivity, visual and auditory immersion, and the latency to enable more natural body movement.”
Amazing technology like this naturally has a spectrum of wider implementations beyond just the world of gaming consoles. Games and gaming in their many forms have been used to help and train humans for centuries, and this still holds true now. Over in America, Kansas Athletics has as a club partnered with company EON Reality, one of the largest 3D and interactive software providers, to generate a virtual reality football simulator so that students will be able to train in simulations of actual games and various match conditions to enable them to be better prepared for real match situations. Equally, technology like this could enable the creation of a football game from the likes of FIFA that truly tested the actual footballing skills of gamers, although something tells me that this idea might not catch on with the armchair gamers around the globe.
However, with tech like this there are of course moral considerations, sparking lots of hot debate about the simulation of extreme violence, horror and even sexual acts in games. The inclusion of this kind of technology in the home may be delayed by much moral debate.
Despite this, it is worth a bit more consideration as to whether experiencing games like Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil in a fully immersive virtual reality can ever be truly healthy for society. I however am far more worried about my social life taking a hit from how addictive this kind of world could be. After all, we all know that one person who became completely impossible to interact with for large portions of the day while they became completely absorbed with Angry Birds or Temple Run apps. Hardly ideal.