British gamers are currently blowing up asteroids with laser beams by looking at them. No big whoop.
Say what you will about non-standard control schemes–“Gimmicks!” “Pointless!” “The ruin of gaming as we know it!”–but take a breath and consider the following: There is currently an arcade game in which the player blasts apart dangerous space rocks with laser weapons by doing nothing more than moving his or her eyeballs. The game in question is EyeAsteroids, a new arcade game by Tobii Technologies, and one of the fifty cabinets in existence is currently available for play at Trocadero in London until February 17th.
The game itself is fairly simple; asteroids are threatening to make life very unpleasant on Earth, and it’s up to you to stop the stony precipitation from flattening the planet into a hole-riddled space pancake. Players assume the role of whom I can only assume is some sort of Zero-G space Cyclops who rains down beams of electromagnetic radiation upon the debris through mighty pupil projectiles.
So how does it work? Well, it couldn’t be simpler, my good man! Basically, the machine calibrates to the user’s eyes by examining two to nine points of unique characteristics. Then, infrared illuminators project onto his or her cornea, creating an invisible reflection pattern. These illuminators are placed close to the optical axis of the imagining sensor that makes the user’s pupil appear to elucidate. The machine can then trace the eyes as they sweep across the active area of the cabinet’s screen, essentially turning the user’s face into a double-barreled NES light gun. And in case I didn’t make the outcome perfectly clear before, users can then blow up space rocks by looking at them.
If you’re anywhere near London, this might be worth a quick daytrip to try out. If not, Tobii Technologies has made fifty EyeAsteroid cabinets and will be selling them for a mere $15,000 a pop, so break out your wallet. I suppose a third option would be to simply wait for a mainstream gaming peripheral like the Kinect to license or duplicate the technology. Even Tobii Technologies seems to be hinting at the idea, outlining some possible uses for their technique on its website:
?Control your character with a joystick, but aim with your eyes
?Aim with a wireless controller and turn around by looking to the side of the display
?Establish genuine eye contact with characters in a game
?Look a bot straight in the eyes and give a command using your keyboard or voice
?Create an emotional intensity that makes characters act as real humans responding to your gaze
?Adapt the game action to your attention and mental state.
Technology like this is a great way to innovate videogames. Unlike something as substantial to the process as a controller, it seems like Tobii Technologies’ eye control could easily be integrated on a variety of levels. And come on, who didn’t read the above list and keep thinking “L.A. Noire 2?”