Guest blogger Lance Seidman writes:
It should be no surprise that the gaming industry is growing every day as it attracts new types of gamers and programmers from every walk of life and mainstream media coverage upon the release of hotly anticipated games becomes more commonplace.
Even Mom and Dad aren’t left out when there are old standby games like Ms. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong with easy-to-use controls that rival today’s in their simplicity. These and their contemporarily classic counterparts always seem to get rebooted, no matter the platform, and appeal to generations that grew up with them as well as those that are seeing them for the first time — they’re timeless. But if Mom and Dad were asked what modern gaming console they might prefer, it’s possible they’d react with blank stares. Depending on your age, maybe Mom and Dad were arcade wizards in their heyday and they miss the big boxes that ate quarters (or arcade-issued tokens) like candy and displayed their names and high scores for all to see.
But as they grew up, maybe they settled down to be content with more passive pastimes, like turning on the tube or light reading before a 10:00 p.m. bedtime. As arcades and pinball parlors have mostly diminished or morphed into something else entirely, the strains of adult life take precedence for many, and free time becomes all the more valuable — too valuable to worry about the pedantics of game console X vs. game console Y vs. game console Z. And cash that was once spent on frivolous pursuits (like gaming) gets allocated to more practical uses (like a new George Foreman Grill, for example).
So even if Mom and Dad are mostly down for the count when it comes to new and exciting releases, the gaming industry still has something to offer them as long as they can just sit back and enjoy without putting too much thought into the hows and whys of what makes it all work.
As a programmer for Web, mobile, and desktop platforms, I have done my fair share of building video games. With the experience of developing for different platforms, I have also been given my fair share of sneak peeks into what the future may hold. It’s looking more and more like games that require physical interaction are the way to go, and this is a logical development. Surely this will allow almost anyone alive and well to take part in playing games, no matter their age — perhaps enticing the aforementioned “adults” to take part in gaming a little more as, without having to learn fancy combo moves and multiple buttons, they become the controllers.
Sure, Nintendo Wii introduced the first wave of motion-sensitive controls to the household with use of a TV-topping sensor and a handheld controller that has to be strapped to the wrist for fear of flying across the room during heated gameplay, but Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox has taken it up a notch with a system that doesn’t require the gamer to hold anything at all. Body motion, gestures, and voice control get the job done. Sure, it’s not 100% perfect, but it’s a dramatic leap in the right direction — and Microsoft, well aware of the limitations, is working to overcome them.
The evolution looks to be Microsoft Research’s newly released development, known currently as Humantenna. Sure, it sounds like a bad Syfy network action movie, but as Microsoft says:
“Humantenna senses whole-body gestures without any instrumentation to the environment and only minimal instrumentation to the user. Leveraging the existing electromagnetic noise coming from appliances and power lines, the human body acts as an antenna and receives this noise, which this project uses as its signal. By measuring the voltage over time over one surface of the body, we are able to classify which gesture the user is performing. Humantenna can also identify the location of the user as well as the gestures being performed.”
If you thought for one moment that Microsoft isn’t still a technologically advancing company, you’re obviously very wrong. Over at Microsoft Research, it’s also been dabbling with the Doppler Effect to detect gestures. Best of all, it’s adapting to the fact that people play games together and wants to do away with split screens in favor of a concurrent dual view that would make one screen act like two based on the perspective of the players.
I am not a gamer, but I may even take part in this as it just continues to get more and more exciting.