Do You Wear Your Emotions On Your Sleeve?

Thanks to Affectiva’s new technology, your video game will soon be able to detect exactly how you’re feeling. As a kid, you spent hours playing on a Pac Man arcade machine, but the classic game didn’t adjust to your emotions. It couldn’t tell if you were nervous, excited, sad or happy. Since then, video games have come quite a long way. And many industry experts claim that these advances are going to significantly enhance your gaming experience.

Affectiva’s “Affdex” Plugin

Affectiva is a spinoff of MIT Media Lab and has created a plugin for web development platform Unity called “Affdex.” Affdex uses a webcam and maps out gamers’ facial reactions as they play a game by charting facial landmarks and making emotional inferences based on millions of past scans. As of this writing, Affdex had analyzed over 3.8 million faces in 75 different countries.

How can game developers use this? First of all, it will now be possible to see how gamers respond emotionally to each phase of a game. Developers will be able to see if a player is bored, frustrated or excited at each step.

Second, game developers can now make games responsive to emotions. The difficulty level can adjust based on how the player is responding to each challenge. In a sense, the game can become more psychological and less machine-like. Gameplay can be tailored to an individual’s unique reaction, making the game more interesting and desirable for continued play.

In the past, game developers have used heart rate sensors to gauge players’ reactions, but a sensor is limited. While it measures the intensity of the emotion, it has no way of measuring the type of emotion, whether positive or negative. In addition, the gamer had to buy the sensor separate from the game. Since Affdex uses only a webcam, a common piece of hardware, it will be much easier to usefully integrate.

Video games are becoming more dynamic every day – a dramatic change from the arcade games you remember playing as a kid. While gaming on the cutting edge of technology is exciting, there is always a place for the straightforward, honestly addictive qualities of classic games like Pac-Man, but think about what could happen if older titles were revamped with new technology? You might never leave your game room.