Nintendo recently announced their going to focus on health applications using non-wearable devices in the near future. Sadly this is all they were willing to say at this point in time and so it’s pretty much anyone’s guess what their actually working on. While Nintendo has developed successful exergames with the likes of the Wii-Fit their entry into more physiologically driven gaming for health applications never really got off the drawing board. As such I’d hazard a guess that their working on a camera based heart monitor similar to the one supported by the new Xbox Kinect for use in the Wii-Fit U.
Following on from my earlier adventure with the stress tester, sat right next door was a love tester, presumably developed by the same company given it was using the same chassis as the stress tester*. The love tester is probably one of the most familiar, and oldest, commercial biofeedback games around. Its function is to assess the sexual magnetism of the player using a comically named rating scale e.g. “Cold and Clammy” for no magnetism, “Out of Control” for lots. A love tester is basically a gag device which uses physiological input to provide some authenticity to the assessment. Their a common prop in media where making fun of the sexual prowess of a character is needed (e.g. The Simpsons); you can often find a love tester in a bar or the funfair if you want to try one out,
It appears Ubisoft’s entry into biofeedback training isn’t quite over as I earlier suspected. The product has been rebranded as Ozen and is now being marketed more appropriately to the well-being community rather than the gamer community. Its scheduled for a 2014 release; hopefully we’ll get a chance to play with it soon.
Dark Escape 4D at Mr T’s, Blackpool
Holidays and arcades are one of my traditions. Come every holiday I hole up in the nearest arcade and play games until my fingers go numb, usually from the re-coil of the light-gun games. Sadly, in my experience, arcade culture in the UK has diminished significantly as the novelty and variety of yesteryear is simply not there any more. Most arcades tend to host a mixture of dated racing and light-gun games (I’m looking at you Time Crisis), which, while were fun at the time have lost their charm. During my recent holiday, much to my surprise, I came across a brand new arcade game which really piqued my interest: Dark Escape 4D by Namco.
And why did this game catch my attention so, well because it was a biofeedback game, a biofeedback game at the ARCADE!
Following on from yesterday’s post, I quickly checked up on Innergy, Ubisoft’s entry into the biofeedback market. Announced a year after the Vitality in 2010, the game seems to of quietly disappeared off Ubisoft’s website. The most recent news report in 2012 indicated work was still on-going on the project, but no release schedule had been announced. Given the lack of PR noise this late in the year and the missing listings on Ubisoft’s webpage I don’t expect we’ll see a 2013 release or one in the future. This would be rather disappointing, although the revealed gameplay was very traditional for a a biofeedback regime, the production values where first rate e.g. art work by Rolito (see Patapon on the Sony PSP) of and which is sorely lacking in many biofeedback programs.
It looks like Nintendo have put the Vitality sensor on an indefinite hold. In answer to a question at a recent shareholder meeting, Nintendo explained that while player physiology opened interesting avenues for play the mechanics they tried didn’t work for everybody, that being 10% of the players they tested. As I posted back in 2011, when Nintendo first raised this issue, the bar Nintendo had set for the percentage of players who could successfully control their physiology was simply too high at 99%.
The biocybernetic loop is the underlying mechanic behind physiological interactive systems. It describes how physiological information is to be collected from a user, analysed and subsequently translated into a response at the system interface. The most common manifestation of the biocybernetic loop can be seen in traditional biofeedback therapies, whereby the physiological signal is represented as a reflective numeric or graphic (i.e. representation changes in real-time to the signal).
In the 90’s a team at NASA published a paper that introduced a new take on the traditional biocybernetic loop format, that of biocybernetic adaptation, whereby physiological information is used to adapt the system the user is interacting with and not merely reflect it. In this instance the team had implemented a pilot simulator that used measures of EEG to control the auto-pilot status with the intent to regulate pilot attentiveness.
Concept art for biocybernetic adaptive plane
Dr. Alan Pope was the lead author on this paper, and has worked extensively in the field of biocybernetic systems for several decades; outside the academic community he’s probably best known for his work on biofeedback gaming therapies. To our good fortune we met Alan at a workshop we ran last year at CHI (a video of his talk can be found here) and he kindly allowed us the opportunity to delve further into his work with an interview.
So follow us across the threshold if you will and prepare to learn more about the origins of the biocybernetic loop and its use at NASA along with its future in research and industry.
Way back in 2008, I was due to go to Florence to present at a workshop on affective BCI as part of CHI. In the event, I was ill that morning and missed the trip and the workshop. As I’d prepared the presentation, I made a podcast for sharing with the workshop attendees. I dug it out of the vaults for this post because gaming and physiological computing is such an interesting topic.
The work is dated now, but basically I’m drawing a distinction between my understanding of BCI and biocybernetic adaptation. The former is an alternative means of input control within the HCI, the latter can be used to adapt the nature of the HCI. I also argue that BCI is ideally suited certain types of game mechanics because it will not work 100% of the time. I used the TV series “Heroes” to illustrate these kinds of mechanics, which I regret in hindsight, because I totally lost all enthusiasm for that show after series 1.
The original CHI paper for this presentation is available here.
Admin: Please welcome to the site our new Physiological Computing bloggger, Dr. Lennart Nacke.
Hi, I am Lennart Nacke and will merge my affectivegaming.info blogging efforts from now on into the Physiological Computing blog (sometimes you can also catch my blogging at Gamasutra and on my own homepage). And I have been promising Kiel and Steve to post here for almost a year now (we have organized a workshop together in the meantime), so I was overdue with this post.
In the above video, you can see my talk about the current directions in physiological game interaction and psychophysiological game evaluation. I have been deeply interested in those topics for at least the past five years, spanning my PhD and postdoc time, several presentations for research institutions and game companies, a growing list of publications, and other articles. In the meantime, physiological sensors have become much cheaper and today we are seeing companies like Neurosky and Emotiv with low-cost physiological sensor products reaching a large amount of customers. My colleague Mike Ambinder at Valve is now even looking into applications of biofeedback input for commercial game titles (PDF) some of this was demonstrated at GDC 2011). So, this is definitely an exciting field to work in. For the rest of this article (which reproduces parts of my workshop paper), I will recapture my CHI workshop talk and discuss some of the applications for game interaction and game evaluation from a Physiological Computing side.
At a recent investor conference, Nintendo was rumoured to of stated that the reason the Wii Vitality has not been released was because it only works for 80% of players and before they release it they want it to work for 99%. If this issue concerns the physiological game mechanic (i.e. only 80% of players can control their physiology according to the requirements of the game mechanic), then the product will be on hold for a very long time.
Note: For the purposes of this post I’m going to assume Nintendo are experimenting with a heartbeat (HR) rate based biofeedback relaxation game which they’ve alluded to previously at E3 2009. However what I’m going to say applies equally to all physiological game mechanics I know of and should be borne in mind when developing your own physiological game.