How Gaming Advancements Are Pushing Tech in Other Fields
The gaming industry is among the most successful sectors worldwide — in 2018 the market generated revenue of more than $131 billion. As a popular form of recreation, it surpasses that of cinema attendance and has earned its place as one of our primary forms of fun and de-stressing. Even small groups of developers — such as House House, the four-person team behind the breakout 2019 hit, Untitled Goose Game — are able to shake up marketplace expectations.
The gaming community is not only making waves in its own backyard; the hardware and software that provide innovative gaming experiences can offer possibilities outside of their intended recreational sphere. There are practical uses for gadgets that developers created for immersive gaming experiences.
This innovative approach celebrates the cross-pollination of ideas that advance the greater good. From helping to provide accessibility for the disabled to enhancing vehicle safety, gaming tech has enriched our lives. The more we approach technology with an open mind, the more possibilities we uncover.
Simulations and Virtual Reality
There have been several attempts in the past to develop functional virtual reality (VR) technology. It is only recently that have we been able to genuinely consider these experiences as practically accessible to the masses. Simulators have also been a feature of theme parks and traveling funfairs for decades, offering the opportunity to board futuristic rides or tour distant worlds. Games like Rollercoaster Tycoon have allowed us to create fictional businesses — a practice that now reflects company disaster management planning. Greater access to advanced technology has revealed a variety of uses for these recreational tools.
A great leap that has allowed VR to have a significant impact on our world today is the ability to bring it into our daily lives. Not just through advanced gaming platforms such as Oculus Rift and the PlayStation VR, but also by utilizing our smartphones. This increased affordability of technology has given rise to the creation of applications in healthcare industries. One of the most surprising of these is for the treatment of PTSD and anxiety. Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) places patients in safe recreations of environments which induce symptoms of their illness. Developers are creating virtual scenarios that use traditional VR headsets, and room-sized projections.
These advances are also pushing R&D for simulation applications in a wide range of arenas. The ability to accurately recreate hazardous situations is valuable for emergency services training. Developers of the FLAIM firefighting simulator have combined the HTC Vive headset with vest monitoring and haptics system, allowing trainers to assess newbie firefighters without exposing them to unnecessary danger. Simulator technology can also be utilized to increase truck drivers’ skill levels and to reinforce the importance of the legal compliance aspects of their job.
One of the more unexpected success stories is the emergence of augmented reality (AR). The ability to place elements of fantasy gaming among our mundane reality has resulted in games developers — particularly in mobile gaming — creating immersive experiences for audiences to use in their own neighborhoods. The continued popularity of Pokemon Go — and the reports upon its release in 2016 of users putting themselves in unnecessary danger — is a testament to how we long to make tangible connections with our favorite fantasy worlds.
But the rise of AR is also prompting innovation for our children’s educational experiences. A range of tools are now available for teachers and students to gain a greater understanding of their subject matters. These methods are particularly appealing as they allow students to use technology they are already familiar with, such as smartphones and tablets. Some, like the spelling AR app Catchy Words AR, are simple, gamified tools. Others, such as NASA’s Spacecraft 3D, connect complex STEM concepts with real-life environments.
Academics are exploring the possibilities of creating detailed historical reconstructions utilizing AR technology. A team at the University of Denver has combined traditional research and 3D drone mapping with AR applications. As a result, visitors to Amache — the site of the WWII Japanese-American internment camp — can use smart devices to explore the area at the time the camp was in operation. This, and similar projects across the globe, provides exciting possibilities for historical preservation.
Motion and Gesture Control
In November 2006, there was a lot of hype surrounding the release of the Nintendo Wii. Most of this was focused on the system’s MotionPlus technology; a controller that captured complex motions. Microsoft later introduced Kinect, which used sensors to allow gesture recognition in controlling gameplay. Developers have since found new opportunities for users to physically connect with their gaming experiences. This often includes utilizing gyroscopic input captured by our mobile phones and other devices.
Just as the gaming world has been creative about using this technology, other industries have followed suit. In Italy, Limix has produced a wearable device that uses gesture control to record hand movements of sign language communicators. It then translates these movements into words, which are played back using a voice synthesizer on the user’s smartphone.
Gesture technology is also helping in the push for equal accessibility for those with disabilities. Autonomous driving will be a significant advantage for those unable to operate a vehicle. As such, creating safety technology is of paramount importance. Earlier this year, the self-driving vehicle service Waymo introduced technology that allows their vehicles to accurately recognize the hand gestures of traffic police, and respond accordingly.
We often see negative commentary about how video games may be affecting our society — a majority of these examples entirely erroneous. The pioneering work ethic of the gaming industry has inspired technological advancements that we utilize in many facets of our lives. The more we explore methods to bring gaming closer to real life, the more we can discover ways to enrich our physical world.