Gaming like it's 2099

Gaming like it's 2099


Gaming technology is about to take a leap. Both Microsoft and Sony are looking to push motion technology further, but that is only a tip of the iceberg. We take a look at some of the technologies that will be available to games in the near future.

An open door
Flash Forward ten years into the future. Perhaps you are playing Call of Duty 8 or Fallout 7 and using technologies currently only considered to be worthy of a place in Sci-Fi movie. Sound likely? It may be kicking at an open door to state that ten years from now, gaming will look completely different than it does today. The technologies discussed here can seem a bit futuristic but you may be surprised to learn that some are just around the corner from widespread availability. I firmly believe that all of the technology discussed in this feature will be commonplace within the next 5 to 10 years, in one form or another.

It all started with a little Wii...
Gaming like it's 2099
The race to deliver new gameplay experiences has definitely intensified in recent years… Spurred on by Nintendo's innovative motion-sensing controls, both Sony and Microsoft are looking to break new ground with even more sophisticated input devices. Microsoft's E3 demo of Project Natal not only showed off their technology but, more importantly, revealed a glimpse of what our gaming future will be like. It won't be long before computers will be able to detect your mood and cheer you up when you have just been dumped by your girlfriend after having witnessed a 2 hour fight with its digital eye. While this sounds like something out of the latest Star Trek, consider that many of the devices in the original Star Trek series are real today.

Gaming like it's 2099
The various pieces of the technology puzzle that make this new level of interaction with computers possible will inevitably be implemented into games. To be honest, most of the technology that the three console makers showed at the E3 has been around for some time. Facial recognition applications, for example, have been in use by the London police for years. Unsuspecting citizens are being tracked, recognized and their visages filed away by thousands of cameras every day. With painfully accurate precision, the system recognizes the faces of sought after criminals and terrorists in crowded streets. John Cleese once attempted to defeat the system (and we all know how elastic his face is) and couldn't until he wore a beard and glasses. As far as I was concerned, it was really only a matter of time before this kind of technology found its way into consumer homes.

When it comes right down to it, it is often not the technology itself that is most interesting for game developers, but how it can be implemented. Australian student Torben Sko has a superb example of how (relatively) common technology can be used in unexpected ways. Let me ask you a question: have you ever caught yourself moving your head sideways to see if you could peek around the corner of a wall in a game? I have... and it's mildly embarrassing having to admit to it. In the future however, this will be perfectly acceptable behavior. Torben's software can actually make the screen respond. He uses a camera and software to track the position of a player's head, feeding the positional data back into the game.

I'll bet you never considered using your head as an input device for your game, but it can get a lot whackier than that. In the last few years, scientists have made a lot of headway (no pun intended) to enable people to control computers with their brain. There is a good chance you have already seen images of people with wires sticking out of their heads, endlessly staring at computer screens in an attempt to move the mouse. Technologies such as the BrainGate allow disabled people to interact with computers, thus greatly expanding their world.

Obviously, I don't believe we will all be plugging our heads into our Playstation 3 any time soon, but mind-controlled gaming is closer than you'd think. One wireless alternative comes from US tech company NeuroSky. They have created a headset that can roughly do the same as the BrainGate, without requiring any wires. If you think this is futuristic and more than a decade away, you're wrong. You can purchase this headset in their online shop today. It includes some simple games that anyone can play without any special training whatsoever.

Another US company, called Emotiv, is taking things a step further. Their headset goes beyond merely controlling the 'physical' computer environment; this baby can also detect your emotions. In fact, it can distinguish between 30 different emotions (I didn't even know there were that many!) and can feed these back to your game so that it can respond to your moods (note to self: playing future versions of Tomb Raider could be very embarrassing).

This example is a perfect illustration of how the industry intends to deliver gamers a full sensory experience. Most of you will probably be familiar with the term “force feedback” in controllers and steering wheels, but how about force feedback delivered to your chest? In late 2007, TN Games launched their "3RD SPACE" gaming vest. This lethal-looking apparel looks more like personal body armor, but nothing could be farther from the truth. This vest will actually apply pressure whenever your in-game character takes a hit from a punch, bullet or incoming object. TN Games explanation of the capabilities is clear, concise and to the point. "The vest communicates with compatible games to give precise, three dimensionally accurate impacts where it happens, as it happens". Right now, the vest is most suitable for Fighting games and First-Person Shooters but the next step could be to mimic the g-forces incurred when driving or flying. The company is currently readying a second product, complementary to their vest. The HTX Helmet will do the same for the head as the vest does for the body: deliver feedback of impacts to the head. It will even let you feel bullets whizzing by your helmet. Freaky!