Monday, September 05, 2011

The Future Of Gaming

The holodeck from
I've recently had the pleasure of having some very fun "what's the future of technology" conversations. I often find the best conversations are with people who are interested in technology, but don't follow it as closely as uber-nerds like myself (I suppose they actually have a life). What this means is that they make many, "wouldn't it be cool if..." statements, but aren't hampered by all the knowledge of current developments.

In this particular case, we were talking about the future of gaming. Ultimately, the question was whether we would ever have Holodeck-types of games. I think the answer is yes. Think about the current technology we have:

Xbox's Kinect is able to track your limbs. You move around and the camera can pick up those movements. Eventually it'll be able to track digits and extremely subtle movements. It also eventually be able to track props used while gaming.

Then there's Oblong with their Minority Report style controller called Mezzanine. Think of it as a spacial collaboration tool. I find the best way to think of it is "Minority Report running on Windows" - not as much clear glass, but still very cool. So, it's similar to the Kinect, and appears to have the fine detail.

One of my favorite "potentially earth-shaking" technologies is Emotiv's neuroheadset. Think of it as a game controller, but it reads your brain waves instead of your finger button pushes or arm swings. It is awesome. Here's a live demonstration of this technology. The action really starts at 10:32:

Siri is a voice activated search assistant. Similar to Google's voice search, but is able to handle complex instructions like "get me a cab", and take it to the next step of contacting a taxi service and letting them know your location. These instructions will slowly get better and better. When playing games, you'll be able to speak to computer characters, shout out instructions, or ask for help to some invisible game god.

3D TV is definitely here. Of course, it's not the best experience, but it will get better with time. Images will be less fuzzy and more immersive - you'll actually feel like your in a city or forest. Also exciting is the prospect of no-glasses-required 3D. Apple recently was granted a patent for such an invention. So companies are definitely trying to figure out how to make it work.


So you see, there are a bunch of different technologies making their way into the gaming world. The real magic will be when they starting combining. Emotiv will be able to read your emotions and adjust challenges accordingly (too easy? add a bigger monster!). Combing Siri with Emotiv will enable you to give instructions AND provide facial expressions (are you intimidating, or being diplomatic?). Combing Kinect/Mezzanine with truly 3D TVs will make it feel like you actually picked up an object.

When a computer can receive instructions from your actions, your voice, and your brain it will start to feel very real. Combine that with the ability to display an environment that is immersive... and wow. Then all we'll need are compelling stories of the John Lasseter caliber (who wrote some of the first stories for Pixar).

It's going to be a fun future for gaming for sure.

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