Advances in gaming technology

Introduction

This report reviews new devices and technologies that might change the gaming in the future. The first part of this paper focuses on the new technologies, how they work, and how they can be applied to games. In the second part there is a discussion on whether these technologies could be applied into games, and how games might change because of these devices.

Traditionally gaming has revolved around few input and output devices, for input: keyboard and mouse, and for output: monitor and speakers/headphones. The exception to this has been controllers for gaming consoles, which take many different forms. Nevertheless, all these traditional controllers are bound to our hands. The same applies to the output devices, monitors and speakers are basically the only way to get output from games. However, the situation is changing rapidly. New advances in VR/AR technologies have brought with them, a multitude of new input and output devices, that each have their own special way of gathering input from the player and broadcasting output to them. End goal being, that the player can use all the five senses while playing and immerse into the game completely.

Teslasuit

Teslasuit by the company Teslasuit utilizes cutting-edge haptic technology. Haptic technology refers to devices and technologies using touch to manipulate and feel objects in remote locations or in virtual reality (Kenneth Salisbury, 2004). Unlike traditional audio-visual interfaces, haptic interfaces work by using mechanical signals. In haptic devices energy can be exchanged bidirectionally, to and from the operator of the device. This means that haptic interface devices can emit and detect mechanical energy, and map the mechanical energy into virtual reality (Figure 1). (Vincent Hayward, 2004)

Figure 1. Haptic feedback loop. Operator can touch and feel objects from virtual reality or from remote location.

The suit is a full body suit that covers everything except head, hands, and feet (Figure 2). Teslasuit does sell specially made haptic gloves, but those are not included with the suit. The suit uses electrotactile feedback, with two electrostimulation systems to give haptic feedback to the user: transcutaneous electrical neural stimulation (TENS) and electrical muscle stimulation (EMS). These systems work by stimulating nerve ending in user’s body. EMS can even cause muscle contractions, TENS in the other hand does so rarely, because it uses weaker electric impulses. A model of the user can be created virtually to match the suit, when the model hits a virtual object the collision can be simulated via the electrical impulses.

There are 68 haptic points in the suit (Figure 2), each of the haptic points can simulate collisions and sensations to the user. (Dimitri, 2017) Because of the haptics the user of the suit can feel hundreds of different sensations enabled by the electrotactile haptics. Additionally, the Teslasuit has biometric sensor and motion capture. Biometrics sensors are used to measure user’s health indicators and the motion capture sensors to map the suit into virtual reality. Because of these features the suit has many use cases, it can be used to train people into various different tasks or it can be used to measure athletes performance. (Teslasuit, 2020)

Figure 2. Teslasuit, haptic points around the suit (Dimitri, 2017).

Teslasuit Gloves

The Teslasuit gloves will be released some time at the end of 2020. According to Teslasuit the gloves will have motion capture, electrotactile feedback, biometry sensors and force feedback. The gloves support everything that the suit supports, with the addition the force feedback. Force feedback is used to create the effect of mechanical resistance to the hands (Figure 3)(Mikhalchuk, 2019)

Figure 3. Teslasuit gloves, utilizing haptic force feedback (Mikhalchuk, 2019).

Tacx Neo 2 Smart trainer

Neo 2 by Tacx is a virtual bicycling device. It can be connected to user’s own bicycle; it replaces the back wheel with its own gears (Figure 4). The Neo 2 can gather information from the user, such as power usage and speed. This information can then be relayed wirelessly to a game-like virtual reality, where the user can see themselves bicycling. The Neo 2 can use the electric gearing on it to increase and decrease resistance to give the rider illusion of inclining, and declining. The Neo 2 can turn the energy that the rider is generating while pedaling into electricity, so it is completely self-powered. (Tacx, 2019)

Figure 4. Tacx Neo 2 smart wheel (Tacx, 2019).

The Neo 2 has many different sensors that monitor the rider’s speed, power, and other workout data. This data allows generating virtual models of the rider into virtual reality games. In the games, riders can race against each other to see who is the fastest or can enjoy a more immersive training session on mountain roads (Figure 5). (Tacx, 2019)

Figure 5 The bike can be connected to virtual reality.

Tobii Eye Tracker 4C

Tobii Eye Tracker 4C is a device that can track where a user is looking at. It is a small device that can be fitted on top of a laptop or on a table (Figure 6). It uses cameras, infrared light, and AI to calculate where the user is looking at. The 4C is useful in gaming, it can be used to look around, target enemies, and control character. (Tobii, 2020) Eye tracking is not just for gaming, it is used for other purposes too, such as: advertising, usability testing, psychological studies and even for overcoming disabilities. (Techquickie, 2018)

Figure 6. Toby Eye Tracker 4C (Tobii, 2020).

The first eye tracking methods used a contact lens, with a physical line or a needle sticking out of it, this was used to measure the distance the eye had moved. This was not very practical, nor was it comfortable for the user of the device. (Techquickie, 2018) The technology behind the 4C works by pointing infrared light at user’s eyes and photographing the reflection. The light will travel to user’s eye and light up the pupil, which will create a corneal reflection (CR). The distance between the CR and the pupil can be used to calculate a gaze point. Gaze point is the point that user is looking at (Figure 7). (D’Alessio, 2012) The gaze point information can then be utilized in computers to move mouse on the screen or to do other custom actions.

Figure 7. Tobii eye tracker utilizing infrared lights.

Emotiv Epoc+

Epoc+ is a mobile electroencephalography (EGG) device that is capable of measuring brain wave activity. It is a head band looking device fitted with electrodes, that are used to detect the electrical activity in different parts of the brain (Figure 8). The Epoc+ has many advantages over the traditional medical EGG devices. It is cheap, easier to setup and it can perform at the same level with the traditional EGG devices. Because of these qualities it is widely used for research purposes, and computer interfacing. EGG devices, like Epoc+ can be used to research brain activity related diseases such as: autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia. (D’Alessio, 2012) However, the Epoc+ is not sold as a medical device, its primary use cases are brain to computer interfacing research, and personal use (Emotiv, 2020).

Figure 8. Emotiv Epoc+ has 14 electrodes which can detect brain activity (Emotiv, 2020).

The EGG electrodes on the Epoc+ can detect very small voltage changes between neurons (brain cells). In the human head there are billions of neurons that send electrical signals to each other. Together they form non-linear patterns or brainwaves. EGG devices measure brainwaves from the cerebral cortex, which is the outer part of the brain. EGG devices, in this case the Epoc+ use electrodes to non-invasively record brain activity from the brain (Figure 9). Epoc+ detects the brainwaves, amplifies, and digitalizes them, and then sends them forward to a computer for further processing. EGG devices can record thousands of snapshots of the brainwaves per second. Brainwaves are categorized to four groups based on their frequency: alpha, beta, theta, and delta. Cloud computing can be utilized to quickly analyze the brainwaves and create real time models of the brain’s activity. Brainwaves can be interpreted as commands through brain-computer interface. This means that they can be used to control computer and to play games. Epoc+ can detect over 30 different emotions, actions, and expressions, which can benefit VR and AR games. (Emotiv, 2020)

Figure 9. Emotiv Epoc transferring EGG data wireless.

Discussion

To discuss about the future of eSports gaming devices, we need to answer some questions. What are the biggest eSports games now? What makes eSports game special? What controllers do those games require? Could these games use some of the new controlling devices reviewed in this article?

According to esportsearnings.com the top five most prize money awarding games are in order: Dota 2 (224 million), Counterstrike: Global Offensive (96 million), Fortnite (87 million), League of legends (75 million) and StarCraft 2 (32 million). (esportsearnings, 2020) According to the prize money these games award to players, they are the biggest eSports games in the world.

What separates these games from other games, why are they so popular and able to run multiple tournaments awarding millions of dollars? Except for Fortnite, all the games are 20 years old or older. They have been around a long time, and players have gotten used to the mechanics, game modes and tactics of these games. We can extract what makes a good eSports game from these games. eSports games must be simple, and they cannot change much. This means that they are easy to learn and easy to come back to, much like normal sports. Yes, there needs to be constant updates: new characters, weapons, and bug fixes. But no changes that would affect the game too much. eSports games are easily accessible to the masses of players, they do not require consoles, they run on low tier PCs, and are played with mouse and keyboard. Fortnite can even be played with a mobile phone. eSports games do not cost a lot, most of them are free and there are no new versions of these games, so the players do not need to worry about buying a new game. Lastly, a good eSports game needs to be easy and entertaining to watch, this applies to the most popular sports too. Soccer is very easy to follow, players pass ball around until somebody scores. The same happens in good eSports games, players fight each other until one team loses.

The devices that were reviewed in this article do not fit well with the current eSports games. The devices are expensive, they require a lot setup, and most of the games cannot support the features that the new devices offer. eSports games do not lean on the immersion or experience of the player, they are simple, accessible, and fun, and that is why they are so popular. The new devices that are introduced in this article are designed more toward the future, where VR and AR are the norm. There has yet to be an eSports game that utilizes VR or AR. That is not to say that there never could be an eSports game that was entirely based on VR. From reviewing the technology, these technologies have come a long way and are very capable. One day they will be so cheap, accessible, and simple that they can be used in an eSports game.

In the future we can see players wearing haptic suits that will let them feel their surroundings: air, water, wind, and even heat and cold. They can feel collisions through their suit and pick up virtual object with haptic gloves utilizing force feedback. The suit can relay player’s heart rate, energy level and other vital statistics to the audience that is watching the game. An eye tracker can show the audience where the player is looking at, and give first person view of the game, as well as let the player control objects in the game with their eyes. Better yet, the player can use mind control to control other players in the game, utilizing EGG device in his head. The possibilities with these devices are endless, and we are closer than ever to experiencing them ourselves.

1. References

D’Alessio, M. G. (2012, 11 16). A free geometry model-independent neural eye-gaze tracking system. doi:10.1186/1743–0003–9–82

Dimitri, M. (2017, 5 4). TESLASUIT Haptic Feedback System. Retrieved from https://teslasuit.io/blog/teslasuit-haptic-feedback-system/

Dybsky, D. (2017, 3 30). History of Haptic Technology in Video Game Industry. Retrieved from https://teslasuit.io/blog/history-haptic-technology/

Emotiv. (2020). EMOTIV EPOC+ 14 Channel Mobile Brainwear. Retrieved from https://www.emotiv.com/product/emotiv-epoc-14-channel-mobile-eeg/

Emotiv. (2020). What is an EGG? Retrieved from https://www.emotiv.com/eeg-guide/

esportsearnings. (2020). Top Games Awarding Prize Money. Retrieved from https://www.esportsearnings.com/games

Kenneth Salisbury, F. C. (2004, 3 22). Haptic Rendering Introductory Concepts. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications. doi:https://doi.org/10.1109/MCG.2004.1274058

Mikhalchuk, D. (2017, 3 28). What is Haptic Feedback (Haptics)? Retrieved from https://teslasuit.io/blog/haptic_feedback/

Mikhalchuk, D. (2019, 12 27). TESLASUIT Introduces its Brand-New VR-Gloves. Retrieved from https://teslasuit.io/blog/teslasuit-introduces-its-brand-new-vr-gloves/

Nicholas A Badcock​ Petroula Mousikou Yatin Mahajan Peter de Lissa, J. T. (2013, 2 19). Validation of the Emotiv EPOC® EEG gaming system for measuring research quality auditory ERPs. doi:10.7717/peerj.38

Tacx. (2019). Tacx Neo 2. Retrieved from https://tacx.com/product/neo-2t-smart/

Techquickie. (2018, 3 20). How Does Eye Tracking Work? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JbAyHnYuhI

Teslasuit. (2020). Teslasuit. Retrieved from https://teslasuit.io/the-suit/

Tobii. (2020). Tobii Eye Tracker 4C. Retrieved from https://gaming.tobii.com/tobii-eye-tracker-4c/

Vincent Hayward, O. R.‐H.‐D.‐L.‐T. (2004, 3 1). Haptic interfaces and devices. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. doi:https://doi.org/10.1108/02602280410515770

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