(Video) Games and Technologies

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Contents

Foreword

In a constantly changing business world, the entertainment sector is no exception to technological changes and impacts. In this page, we examine the impacts of the video game segment as an example of how new technologies are impacting the entertainment industry. Needless to say that we examine what these technologies are, how they generally work, and how they have an application to gaming, or even further uses beyond gaming. For those reasons, it is notable to examine the kind of technologies impacting the gaming industry, since they reflect the current stage of technology and any existing trends at this time. Furthermore, the technologies extend beyond gaming and towards future implications.

The Video Gaming Industry (in Brief)

In the video game industry alone, the market value is worth tens of billions (USD) at least. 2017 alone saw gaming revenue from large global companies combined hit such numbers [1], such as Tencent (100% owner of League of Legends developer Riot Games), which earned $18 billion in revenue. Other developers including Sony, Activision Blizzard, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Nintendo also contribute tens of billions more to the industry's market value.

Esports (electronic sports), which include competitive gaming, is also a factor in this industry. Each year, esports raise millions of dollars in the prize pool, and are contested by professional gamers and teams which see these competitions as part of their careers.

Also note that these companies include their gaming subsidiaries. Sony, for instance, ranks as the second-highest earning gaming company in 2017 behind Tencent (with $10.5 billion). This is plausibly owed to Sony's Sony Interactive Entertainment subsidiary, which further owns fifteen game developers.

'Reality' Technologies

Virtual Reality (VR)

The topic of VR is not new to BUS 466. Three years ago, the BUS 466 research team defines VR as "“a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user's physical presence and environment to allow for user interaction” [2]. This sort of definition of VR is appropriate for our context, as it makes certain key points:

  • There is a simulated user experience in a virtual world
  • The user is 'present' in the virtual environment, such that vision and audio are sensed
  • The environment is allows interaction with the user

History in Brief (with Relevance to Game)

  • 1838: the concept of VR was put forward (stereoscope) by physicist Sir Charles Wheatstone, who showed the brain can interpret 3D with stereoscopic images [3]
English physicist Sir Charles Wheatstone
  • 1929: flight simulator developed for commercial and military use
  • mid-1950s: ‘Sensorama’ movies with stereoscope and other immersive features
  • 1960: first VR head mount
  • 1961: motion tracking developed, for military use

Fast forward

  • 1991: arcade games started using VR goggles
  • 1993: SEGA develops VR glasses for SEGA Genesis, but never got to production
  • 1995: Nintendo releases the Virtual Boy

Nintendo's commercially unsuccessful Virtual Boy

    • A commercial failure: the games had no colour and only red and black could be seen.
    • Production stopped the following year
    • But Nintendo has done very well in Mario sports games since

Esports

In the context of a business application, the world of competitive gaming is an unsurprising example of the use of VR. By investing into this hardware for use in competitions, players are granted a different perspective in gaming that plausibly enhances the experience, if not for viewers. For example, VR League, the world's first and biggest esports league utilising VR [4], has been advocating for interaction and development in this field for the past two years. This includes their efforts at bringing developers, teams, and players together to help this segment of esports thrive. For 2019, VR League administered a competition for VR and esports which included a prize pool of $250,000 (USD).

Reality Check

However and nonetheless, this refutes a prediction made by the BUS 466 research team from three years ago. The research team predicted that the value of VR in esports would hit the range of $30 billion to $150 billion by 2020 (which is not far off at this time). Last year, in 2018, China's esports market hit $16.35 billion [5], but all of that is likely not VR. Given also the global revenue of esports reached $1 billion this year (2019), it is probably that the value of VR in esports is not $150 billion, let alone $30 billion. At best, VR would have helped the market value of esports reach that target.

Mclaren (Formula One)

The Mclaren Formula One Team sees technologies and gaming as a business opportunity to advance their goals. In short, the world of Formula One involves lots of testing and development on part of the car, and this sort of testing is transferable to a racing simulator. Given this aspect, in 2017, Mclaren aimed to transform this to a business opportunity [6] by seeking a certain gamer to be their simulator driver for a year.

To do this, Mclaren designed a 10-player esport competition, of which the winner would receive a one-year contract with the team "to work in an official capacity as a simulator driver", and would furthermore requires to "demonstrate their engineering know-how, ability to work as part of a team, and display the mental and physical strengths required for such a unique position…" So the position is not just for fun, but has actual business implications.

Mclaren themselves have not disclosed the details of how the job is actually performed. Whether it is using a game-like simulator or a VR headset, this still shows the potential of a VR application to become a career.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality is an overlay of content on the real world, but that content is not anchored to or part of it. The real-world content and the CG (computer-generated) content are not able to respond to each other. As the BUS 466 research team describes it, it is the "superimposition of graphics, audio, or other sensory factors into the real world [in real time]" [7].

Home Design

Swedish firm Ikea designed an AR application where it becomes more convenient for customers to design their space and furniture placement without actually measuring home dimensions. Simply bring Ikea back to your home then order online, and Ikea will deliver.

As an aside, this is relevant to the field of VR as well [8]. A computer is used to design the space and the user can immerse themselves into that environment, with the help of a green screen. Nevertheless, this is a more costly alternative to AR, and AR is more convenient in a way.

Application: Pokémon GO v. Angry Birds

Pokémon Go (stylized as Pokémon GO) is an augmented reality (AR) mobile game developed and published by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. A part of the Pokémon franchise, it was first released in certain countries in July 2016, and in other regions over the next few months. The game is the result of a collaboration between Niantic, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company. It uses the mobile device GPS to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, which appear as if they are in the player's real-world location. The game is free to play; it uses a 'freemium' business model and supports in-app purchases for additional in-game items. The game launched with around 150 species of Pokémon, which had increased to over 480 by 2019.[9] Essentially, the idea is to capture Pokémon in a physical location.

Angry Birds has already made the leap from smartphones to augmented reality and VR. But now, Rovio is bringing some of those lessons back to the iPhone. With Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs, the latest game in the blockbuster franchise, you'll be able to take down evil swine in your living room -- or anywhere else you can find a flat surface. It uses Apple's ARKit to construct virtual stages atop the real world, while you use your phone as a slingshot to topple them with irate birds. Isle of Pigs is available for pre-order today on iOS devices, and it'll officially launch as a free app later this spring (you can bet there will be a plethora of micro-transactions). [10]

The execution of these two games, however, are quite different. In the case of Pokémon GO, the actual gameplay is not like as advertised in its commercial. Meanwhile, Angry Birds AR works in such a way that the game itself interacts with the environment to produce an AR experience that is not like Pokémon GO. For example, if the user wants to use a slingshot to knock down a tower of blocks and squash pigs, the user would interact in a way as if a slingshot was actually fired (including actual stretching on the user's part). This is a case of 2D and 3D graphics interacting with each other where quality matters, so it is not simply the video content and camera working near-independently.

Mixed Reality (MR)

For our definition of MR, MR combines the elements of both AR and VR, real-world and digital objects interacting with each other. Mixed reality technology is just now starting to take off with Microsoft’s HoloLens one of the most notable early mixed reality apparatuses.

Hololens 2

The Hololens 2 in demonstration

Microsoft HoloLens 2 is a pair of mixed reality 'smartglasses' developed and manufactured by Microsoft. It is the successor to the pioneering Microsoft HoloLens. On February 24, 2019, the Hololens 2 enterprise edition debuted as the first variant of the device, followed by a developer edition that was announced on May 2, 2019. [11]

The HoloLens is a head-mounted display unit connected to an adjustable, cushioned inner headband, which can tilt HoloLens up and down, as well as forward and backward. To wear the unit, the user fits the HoloLens on their head, using an adjustment wheel at the back of the headband to secure it around the crown, supporting and distributing the weight of the unit equally for comfort, before tilting the visor towards the front of the eyes.

Magic Leap One

A Magic Leap One headset

Magic Leap One, developed by American startup Magic Leap Inc, is a head-mounted virtual retinal display which superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery over real world objects. This is done by "projecting a digital light field into the user's eye", involving technologies potentially suited to applications in augmented reality and computer vision. It is attempting to construct a light-field chip using silicon photonics. [12]

Magic Leap was founded by Rony Abovitz in 2010 and has raised $1.4 billion from a list of investors including Google and Alibaba Group. In December 2016 Forbes estimated that Magic Leap was worth $4.5 billion. On July 11, 2018, AT&T invested in the company and became its exclusive partner. On August 8th, 2018, the Magic Leap One was made available in the United States through AT&T. This technology is especially relevant in gaming as it was the hardware used in the the promotion of the Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs game.

'Neuro Reality' (NR)

Neuroreality refers to a reality that is driven by technologies that interface directly with the human brain. While traditional VR depends on a user physically reacting to external stimuli (for example, swinging a controller to wield a virtual sword on a screen) a neuroreality system interfaces directly with the user’s biology through a brain-computer interface (BCI). [13]

BCIs are a means of connecting our brains to machines, and they can be either invasive (requiring an implant of some sort) or non-invasive (relying on electrodes or other external tech to detect and direct brain signals). Experts have predicted that advances in BCIs will lead to a new era in human evolution, as these devices have the potential to revolutionize how we treat diseases, learn, and communicat. In short, they are set to utterly transform how we see and interact with the world around us.

Neuralink

Neuralink Corporation is an American neurotechnology company founded by Elon Musk and others, developing implantable brain–machine interfaces (BMIs). Elon Musk said startup Neuralink, which aims to build a scalable implant to connect human brains with computers, has already implanted chips in rats and plans to test its brain-machine interface in humans within two years, with a long-term goal of people “merging with AI.”

Neuralink, says Musk, is going to go the invasive route. It’s developed a chip containing an array of up to 96 small, polymer threads, each with up to 32 electrodes that can be implanted into the brain via robot and a 2 millimeter incision. The threads are small — less than 6 micrometers — because, as Musk noted in remarks delivered Tuesday night and webcast, “If you stick something in your brain, don’t want it to be giant, you want it to be tiny.” [14]

Neurable

A Neurable headset with some specifications

Neurable is founded in 2016. They are developer of a virtual reality software designed to create brain-enabled control directed towards virtual and augmented reality. The company's software is a brain-controlled computer interface that incorporates elements of neuroscience, biology, statistics, machine learning and design, enabling clients to control software and devices using their brain activity only. [15]

Software

Neurable’s software uses machine learning to measure and classify EEG signals in real time. By combining proprietary algorithms with deep neuroscience knowledge, Neurable achieves levels of performance that far exceed the current state-of-the-art for detecting brain activity. The software is also compatible with any Wearable Sensing device (or any EEG system that streams data using LSL), and its software tools enable easy integration with Unity, C++, and C# environments. They also offer data export capabilities and a web portal for 3D data visualization and post-session analysis.

NeuroInsight APIs deliver raw data and cognitive insights, which can be used to build apps to make work environments safer, conduct objective user research, and tailor experiences to a user’s brain state. Neurable also offer front-end tools to plot brain insights in easy-to-use interfaces, so anyone - not just a neuroscientist - can collect and interpret data.

Hardware

NeuroSelect SDK enables natural and intuitive user interactions in VR/AR/XR environments by translating control signals from the brain into human intent. Neurable’s devices are non-invasive, quick to set up, and easy to use. DK1 is a VR-compatible brain-sensing device with 6 dry EEG sensors. It has >90% correlation with wet EEG systems and includes continuous impedance and signal quality monitoring.[16]

Other Technologies

Cloud Gaming

This prediction builds off the increasing importance of cloud computing technology as internet connections become faster and more reliable. With future technology, a game can be played from any device with internet connection, just as like streaming music and video. This future gaming technology will also entail making downloading updates obsolete, as the updated game is accessible through the internet, and will also probably make video games cheaper and more accessible to those who don’t have access to PCs or consoles. [17]

As such, the extension of cloud gaming applies to business opportunities. Even Google's Stadia game console follows this trend, but tech firm Nvidia has been at work as well, having developed Nvidia GeForce Now. GeForce Now is a brand used by three cloud gaming services offered by Nvidia. The Nvidia Shield version of GeForce Now, formerly known as Nvidia GRID, launched in beta in 2013, with Nvidia officially unveiling its name on September 30, 2015. The service is a subscription-based providing users with unlimited access to a library of games hosted on Nvidia servers for the life of the subscription, delivered to subscribers through streaming video. Certain titles are also available via a "Buy & Play" model. The service is available on the PC, Shield Portable, Shield Tablet, and Shield Console devices. [18]

In January 2017, Nvidia unveiled a separate cloud gaming service for PC and Macintosh computers also branded as GeForce Now. It is a remote desktop provider in which users can rent access to a virtual computer, where they can install their existing PC games from existing digital distribution platforms, and play them remotely. As with the Shield version, the virtual desktop is streamed from Nvidia servers.

Teslasuit

The Teslasuit

Teslasuit is the world's first full-body haptic suit with haptic feedback, motion capture, climate control and biometric systems. Teslasuit is a combination of the following key features: Full body haptic feedback system provides users with a sense of touch and presence in a digital world, based on electrostimulation. [19]

Teslasuit is a full body haptic suit that let you touch and feel virtual reality, has full body motion capture, climate control and biometry systems. Teslasuit is currently intended for integration into diverse enterprise applications and training solutions. By 2023, Teslasuit will find wider use in games and entertainment, fitness and sports, wellness and health care.

VR v. AR v. MR

The difference between these technologies can be surmised as follows:

  • Augmented reality (AR) adds digital elements to a live view often by using the camera on a smartphone. Examples of augmented reality experiences include Snapchat lenses and the game Pokemon Go.
  • Virtual reality (VR) implies a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world. Using VR devices such as HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard, users can be transported into a number of real-world and imagined environments such as the middle of a squawking penguin colony or even the back of a dragon.
  • In a mixed reality (MR) experience, which combines elements of both AR and VR, real-world and digital objects interact. Mixed reality technology is just now starting to take off with Microsoft’s HoloLens one of the most notable early mixed reality apparatuses.

Ethics

In spite of how new technologies are relevant to current trends, the technologies discussed herein still raise ethical concerns. Certain instances of gaming such as shooter games (that is, a game that simulates firing gunshots) would be one issue if they were linked to encouraging violent behaviour. What if the shooting environment was not that of the game, but replicated someplace in reality? In March 2013 a number of former Port Moody Secondary School students who used their school as an in-game backdrop for the game Counter-Strike [20]. The controversy arose after it was posted online. Port Moody police interviewed the developer of the backdrop, but found such activity was not indictable of an offence.

However, the ethical issue remains. What if the gameplay of such a backdrop was done in a VR setting? It is conceivable that that could be linked to increasing violent behaviour. Could VR be used in such a manner of increasing violent behaviour in general? In a twist of irony, such activity may not be wrong in the perspective of the law, but is it still wrong on its own right?

As well, it wouldn't be far-fetched to consider the implications of neuroreality. In the case of Neuralink and Neurable, using brain implants, it also has a degree of surrendering control of the brain to a third-party (and plausibly a corporation no less). Would that be worth an experience for neuroreality? Despite the benefit of an unconventional experience, one wonders if that is worth giving up some personal rights or freedoms in exchange for such technology. In some classic context of science fiction, the humans using these technologies would practically be transformed into cyborgs. What if the AI portion in Neuralink gains dominance over the human brain? That would be a problem as well. Legally, perhaps there is no issue, but ethically, there is existing concern.

References

  1. https://www.statista.com/
  2. https://newmediabusinessblog.org/index.php/Virtual_Reality_Summer_2016#cite_note-0
  3. https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/history.html
  4. https://vr.eslgaming.com/about/
  5. https://www.statista.com/
  6. https://www.mclaren.com/racing/2017/worlds-fastest-gamer/
  7. https://www.newmediabusinessblog.org/index.php/Augmented_Reality
  8. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p075y6ky
  9. https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/28/18243332/pokemon-go-sword-shield-franchise-history-niantic-nintendo-switch
  10. https://www.engadget.com/2019/03/19/angry-birds-ar-iphone-ipad/
  11. https://mashable.com/article/microsoft-hololens-2-mwc-2019/
  12. https://variety.com/2017/gaming/news/magic-leap-impressions-interview-1202870280/
  13. https://futurism.com/neuroreality-the-new-reality-is-coming-and-its-a-brain-computer-interface
  14. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2019/07/17/elon-musk-sees-his-neuralink-merging-your-brain-with-ai/#df11fd14b074
  15. https://pitchbook.com/profiles/company/165938-05
  16. http://neurable.com/technology
  17. https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/19/18683382/what-is-cloud-gaming-google-stadia-microsoft-xcloud-faq-explainer
  18. https://www.anandtech.com/show/9673/nvidias-geforce-now-grid-cloud-gaming-service-goes-the-subscription-way
  19. https://interestingengineering.com/teslasuit-brings-virtual-reality-to-a-new-level-not-just-for-gaming
  20. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/metro-vancouver-school-is-backdrop-for-violent-video-game-1.1392887
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