Electronics

Biometric headset increases game difficulty for angry players

Biometric headset increases ga...
Designer Sam Matson has created a headset that increases the difficulty of a game the more angry a player gets
Designer Sam Matson has created a headset that increases the difficulty of a game the more angry a player gets
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Designer Sam Matson has created a headset that increases the difficulty of a game the more angry a player gets
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Designer Sam Matson has created a headset that increases the difficulty of a game the more angry a player gets
Immersion is aimed at helping gamers learn to control "gamer rage"
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Immersion is aimed at helping gamers learn to control "gamer rage"
The headset is paired with a specially created game
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The headset is paired with a specially created game
The game was created in the Unity gaming engine
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The game was created in the Unity gaming engine
The number of enemies in the games increases as a user's heart-rate gets higher
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The number of enemies in the games increases as a user's heart-rate gets higher
Matson says users are often surprised at how their heart rate jumps when entering combat in a game
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Matson says users are often surprised at how their heart rate jumps when entering combat in a game
An early concept of Immersion used a hacked controller to monitor heart rate
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An early concept of Immersion used a hacked controller to monitor heart rate
A headset was ultimately chosen as the means to monitor heart rate
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A headset was ultimately chosen as the means to monitor heart rate
The headset is designed to fit a variety of head shapes and sizes comfortably
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The headset is designed to fit a variety of head shapes and sizes comfortably
The headset uses an optical pulse sensor to detect minute color changes in ear tissue
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The headset uses an optical pulse sensor to detect minute color changes in ear tissue
Data is sent directly to the game via Bluetooth
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Data is sent directly to the game via Bluetooth
The headset went through a number of iterations, testing factors like aesthetics and ergonomics
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The headset went through a number of iterations, testing factors like aesthetics and ergonomics

Seattle-based visual designer Sam Matson has created a headset aimed at helping gamers learn to control "gamer rage." The Immersion headset monitors the user's heart rate and increases the difficulty of a game, the less calm they become.

Gizmag spoke to Matson, who created Immersion last year as a personal project. He explained that he was inspired to build the headset during a Christmas vacation visiting his family.

"My brother was playing Call of Duty on Xbox Live and was yelling at the screen in frustration of losing," he explained. "He's normally a great COD player but as he got more frustrated, he started getting beat harder and harder. I was already doing research into biometrics, so I decided to merge that with video games to address this phenomenon of gamer rage."

Matson began by designing a game in the Unity game engine, modifying the Bootcamp template with his own artificial intelligence for the enemies, and adding an OSC (Open Sound Control) reader to interpret pulse sensor data. He initially hacked an Xbox controller to monitor the user's heart rate, but ultimately felt that a headset would be the best way to integrate a heart monitor into the gaming experience.

Multiple iterations of the headset were created, testing factors such as aesthetic and ergonomic quality. The headset uses an optical pulse sensor that monitors minute color changes in the user's ear tissue to determine the approximate heart rate. Data is sent directly to the game via Bluetooth.

The headset is paired with a specially created game
The headset is paired with a specially created game

Although he has not collected enough data to make any conclusive judgements about the headset's success in treating gamer rage, Matson has seen an affect on users. "I have noticed gamers being very self aware when they play the game," he said. "I think most people are surprised to see their heart rate actually jump up when they enter combat."

The concept of using computer games to teach temper control has been used before. RAGE Control is a 2012 game aimed at teaching children to stay calm. Players are required to shoot at enemy spaceships while sparing friendly ones, losing the ability to shoot if their heart rate becomes too high.

Another biofeedback-based game, Nevermind, was released last year. It's a horror game that requires players to manage their fear. The more scared the player gets, the harder the game becomes.

Matson said that he'd like to take Immersion to market, and he thinks gaming is increasingly open to such devices. He's also enthusiastic about other potential applications.

"I believe mainstream gaming is becoming much more experimental with the introduction of great, open-source platforms like Ouya and Oculus Rift," he explained. "I think there's huge potential in the ability to track stress management. I could see some variation of this tech being used by employers evaluating job candidates or maybe even the Department of Motor vehicles as part of a driver's licensing exam."

Source: Sam Matson

3 comments
The Skud
I can see angry players with no self-control ending up with heart attacks or brain spasms using these things ...
leafygreen
Sounds rather counter-intuitive: if you're angry at (the difficulty of) the game, surely making it more difficult will only increase your anger..? I'm probably missing some important point(s) here, but it seems to me the only ones to benefit from such a device will be the console manufacturers and the repairs industry, as gamers start throwing controllers and/or consoles about in rage (to say nothing of the potential damage to what-/whoever they throw it/them at).
nutcase
A bit of positive feedback so the gamer gets so enraged that they smash the hardware and have to buy a new one. Marketing genius!!