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Come on! It’s just a game…

Ever felt over-excited playing a video game? I no longer play "exciting" video games, although a still play from time to time, but mostly in a detached way to test what’s new or a relaxing solitaire… but I still remember many, too many, years ago the Pong, Pacman and Loadrunner that sometimes made my hands sweat.
Now a researcher at Stanford has invented a system to monitor your emotion as you are playing.
Our "mood" is reflected by a combination of physiological signs, like heartbeat, respiration, sweating, tremor, eye movements. All these signs can be detected and interpreted with a sort of reverse engineering leading to the characterisation of the emotion we are feeling.
This is what had Corey McCall, a doctoral student at Stanford working in the lab of Gregory Kovacs, started to create a system that can tell a computer game how the player is reacting. This could make the game to adjust to the emotions created, either speeding up the game (if more excitement is the goal) or tuning it down a bit if the player starts to get angry and fed up of trying…
At the lab the focus is on studying physiological tell tale signs that can indicate the functioning of bodily systems for medical purposes. As an example, one of the research is about deriving information on the probability of the onset of an epileptic seizure monitoring skin temperature.
Corey decided to try using this information to adapt a game to the player. An interesting twist.
To do this Corey added a variety of sensors to an Xbox 360 controller. Metal pads on the controller surface can measure the user’s heart rate, blood flow, the breathing rate and the depth of breathing. An accelerometer measure the subtle movement of the controller (these are disregard by the Xbox that actually integrates the tremors and shaking to get a solid signal indicating the command form the player) and a light operated sensors provides refined measurement on the hearth rate.
Corey measures also the intensity of the game and compare this with the physiological signals detected by the sensors to get the general status of the player’s level of mental engagement. Based on this and on the preferences expressed by the player he can adapt the pace of the game.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.