December 6, 2013 – by Peter B. Counter
Biometrics have been in the media for a very long time, and as a result they have not only become familiar to anyone who has seen a James Bond or Mission: Impossible movie, but they have become a cultural staple regarded with a nifty coolness now that the technology is finding its way into the hands of the world’s smartphone users. Yes, biometrics are driving us forward into a password-less future, protecting airports and borders, even making healthcare more accessible – all very serious stuff – but let’s not forget that this once futuristic technology has been in entertainment for almost a century.
Thanks to the new Xbox One and PS4 gaming consoles that feature full body motion control, voice commands and facial recognition, the average gamer is aware of the possibilities of biometric applications in videogames more than ever before. Building things up on the mobile side of fun is Extreme Reality: a company that provides developers an SDK for 3D human body motion control via a standard camera called Extreme Motion.
Already used in SEGA’s mobile game GO DANCE, Extreme Motion was the subject of an indie game development contest hosted by Extreme Reality. Dubbed the “Extreme iPad Challenge 2013,” the contest asked game devs to create or modify existing games for the iPad that could leverage the Extreme Motion SDK in ways that could be compared to the new generation of camera controlled home console games.
Sixty games were submitted and winnowed down to a finalist lineup of five. Judged on more than just the integration of 3D body motion controls, the judges were looking for a viable game – probably aware that a control gimmick alone can’t sell a game to an audience constantly growing in sophistication – and evaluated the submissions in all areas of design including graphics, audition, gameplay experience and appeal.
The winner was KoKonut Studio, who created Sky Hero for the competition. The winning game has users cast as a hero in free fall and they must control the little guy’s decent with their own body, swerving and swaying to collect coins and avoid enemies and projectiles. KoKonut will be receiving $10,000 as an award and gets to consult with Electronic Arts (EA) founder Trip Hawkins.
The basic fact that a normal iPad camera is being used to control a videogame with 3D motion analysis is impressive, and if anyone is going to help Sky Hero find an audience it will be EA (a big player in the mobile games market), but the demonstration video raises a point of skepticism. A major appeal of mobile gaming is in its play anywhere, any time nature, but when a player needs to stand up in front of her iPad and literally move around to play a game, the option of playing on a subway ride, in the back seat of a car or in a waiting room evaporate.
These obstacles don’t diminish the technology’s impressive nature, but they limit a game’s ability to compete in the arena currently dominated by premium puzzle games dominated by touch-screen offerings like Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga, or even EA’s own The Simpsons: Tapped Out (which is currently listed as having over 5 million downloads in the Google Play store alone).
That said, the contest make it clear that Extreme Reality’s 3D body motion control is versatile and accessible. Appealing to indie game developers through an accessible platform such as the iPad is an excellent way to spread the word that biometric gaming doesn’t have to be confined to the next gen consoles, or even next gen mobile hardware. When it comes to biometric gaming, everyone can have fun.