First up, congratulations to Pejman who has had both a workshop and a paper accepted for this year’s CHI. He’s had a busy year.

This week we had another guest visiting. Lennart Nacke from UOIT is Pejman’s co-supervisor, so Pejman managed to convince him to come and talk to us while he was on this side of the pond. Pejman is an incredibly persuasive (as well as busy) man! The format was much more of an informal session, with Lennart telling us about his interests and what his lab group (the HCI and Game Science Group) at UOIT are up to and us interrupting/commenting/asking questions. This post gives a very high-level view of that.

Lennart is looking at game experience and particularly how to increase immersion. A corresponding interest is therefore how to quantify and measure these in order to know when they’ve been improved. Games are all about learning, so how do we design a game that continues to be interesting once we’ve mastered the basics?

Lennart likes to play with various sensors to try to measure the experience of the player, but industry links have fed back that shelling out thousands of dollars for expensive sensors is not going to happen. So, with his lab group, he’s been investigating the uses of cheaper “toy” sensors, particularly things like Neurosky and Emotiv to see what information he can get out of them and whether these novel devices can be used successfully for input as supplementary game controllers. Games are a perfect environment for using these less expensive sensors, as minor inaccuracies are not important in the “safe” environment of the game world. He’s managed to get his undergraduates to produce some really interesting work using them, but says we are still very much at the beginning of getting the brainwave data, and still a long way from being able to even reliably describe the same state each time. There’s a case for some interesting work with games designers and cognitive scientists here!

The other area Lennart has been looking at is using games to increase exercise. Although the wii was heralded as doing this, the video above suggests it is only somewhat successful! Lennart had again had undergraduates experiment with Half-Life and a bike input, using the bike pedalling to affect the offensive and defensive capabilities of the player. Apparently this was really effective, although the guy doing the programmin could hardly walk the day after. Our group came up with some interesting ideas on how to safely limit the exercise levels, or maybe move the threshold depending on heart-rate etc. The opportunities for collaborative gameplay with these kinds of games is also really interesting, where maybe one person does the pedalling and another works the more normal controller.

A fun and wide-ranging discussion. We also sorted out what to get Ben for Christmas.

We again managed to avoid the frozen cakes, with a selection of fairy cakes, mince pies (apparently these are really British – who knew?) and Roses chocolates on offer. Anyone would think it was the end of term! However, we do have one more lab session before Christmas: next Tuesday in the Interact lab it is the turn of our other end of term guest, Trevor Nesbit. Looking forward to it!