Future games consoles could measure players' emotions

Video games in which characters react to the player’s changing emotions are just one application being mooted for a wireless body monitor developed in the Netherlands.

The ‘arousal monitor’ has been created by engineers from nanotechnology research specialist IMEC working at the Holst R&D Centre in Eindhoven. Developed as part of IMEC’s Human++ programme, it assesses the wearer’s emotions based on four physical parameters.

Communications are handled by two small wireless sensor nodes linked to a base station PC. One is integrated in a chest belt and measures respiration and heart activity. The other is incorporated in a wristband and consists of a commercial sensor for skin temperature and a dedicated circuit board measuring the galvanic skin conductance between two fingers. Physiological measurements are combined and interpreted by software running on the base station.

The entire system is claimed to consume twenty times less power than a comparable Bluetooth device, allowing several days of autonomy on a commercial prismatic Li-Ion battery. Future research will focus on making it fully autonomous. Energy harvesters that produce electricity from body-heat could be used, and the amount of computing carried out with the sensor nodes increased.

The prototype will serve as a research demonstrator that IMEC hopes it will attract partners interested in commercialising the technology. It believes the compact form factor and the long battery lifetime will make it particularly suitable for applications such as mobile gaming and clinical trials.

“Online avatars can automatically adapt to a player’s state of mind without him having to actively indicate it in a game menu,” the centre says. “Or, in drugs screening, being able to objectively quantify parameters such as stress can complement the more subjective indication and gradation of traditional tests.”

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