Engineers Developing Emotion-Based Video Game Controller

Stanford engineers have created the next step in interactive gaming — a video game controller that can sense a player’s emotions. The handheld game controller can monitor a player’s brain activity to decipher when a user is extremely engaged or bored, which could trigger zombies or another element of the game to be thrown at them to catch their attention. Gregory Kovacs, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, created a prototype controller in his lab in collaboration with Texas Instruments.

“The main area of research by grad students in Kovacs’ lab involves developing practical ways of measuring physiological signals to determine how a person’s bodily systems are functioning,” reports Stanford News.

Corey McCall (above), a doctoral candidate in Kovacs’ lab, has been studying the autonomic nervous system, which deals with the part of the brain that controls emotions, and changes when a person feels excited, happy, bored or sad. These emotions are connected to bodily processes including respiration rate, temperature, heart rate and perspiration, which reverse engineering can monitor to figure out what is happening in the brain.

Through measuring these figures, McCall realized he could easily gather most of the data he needed to monitor a person’s mental state straight from the test subject’s hands on a video game controller.

McCall created his first prototype of an emotion sensing controller by replacing the back panel of an Xbox 360 controller with a 3D printed plastic module packed with sensors.

“If a player wants maximum engagement and excitement, we can measure when they are getting bored and, for example, introduce more zombies into the level,” McCall said. “We can also control the game for children. If parents are concerned that their children are getting too wrapped up in the game, we can tone it down or remind them that it’s time for a healthy break.”