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Feature Article:
The Future of Gaming?

Those clever folks in Silicon Valley have come a long way since fiddling with their bats and balls in the seventies, and while gamers may salivate at the prospect of the imaginatively named Playstation 4 and X-box 720, a quick look over the horizon reveals even more to be excited about.

At the Games Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this year, Ray Kurzweil, inventor of text to speech synthesis and general brain-box, predicted that “There will be a 100,000-fold shrinking of computer technology over the next 25 years... (we will see) blood cell-size devices capable of producing full immersion Virtual Reality from inside the nervous system.”

While this concept of Virtual Reality indistinguishable from the real thing, akin to Star Trek’s holo-decks or the artificial world of The Matrix, is still very much in the realms of science fiction, other technologies are already in development which will take gaming to the next level within the next few years.

US firm Emotiv have developed a PC headset known as Epoc which allows users to control games and other software using only their mind. By interpreting electrical signals from the brain, the technology has the potential to revolutionise gaming , and if developers get behind this new interface we can expect to see a new wave of games in which characters are controlled in the virtual world by a player’s thoughts. The device, expected to cost around £160, is expected by early 2009.

Those old enough to remember the early nineties may recall images of be-gloved gamers sporting chunky headsets, in those heady days when it seemed Virtual Reality in every home was just round the corner. Alas it was not to be, but those Head Mounted Display units and body tracking equipment are in fact still around today, and have grown incredibly sophisticated. However, with an average set-up costing around £20,000, the use of this kind of technology has been somewhat limited to military types, trainee doctors and perhaps overpaid footballers.

Cheaper home-user HMD’s are available for the relatively low price of a couple hundred spondooli, but user opinion has so far scoffed at the manufacturer’s claims of it being ‘like looking at a 50 inch screen at a distance of 10 inches,’ as more like looking at a five inch screen at a distance of one inch, through vaseline.

For the moment it seems the technology for mindblowing VR , as promised by films such as The Lawnmower Man, Total Recall and Tron, is still out of reach for us mere peasants, but as the gaming industry continues to grow exponentially and costs drop accordingly, it could be that such a dream could become reality, perhaps in time for X-box 5760 or Playstation 14.

Or, in the words of Ray Kurzweil, “In twenty years, games will have taken over the world and everything will be virtual reality.” And this is coming from a man with fifteen honorary doctorates.

 

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